We see the explosive power and delicate nuance of values all the time in relationships. A person may feel betrayed by a failed romance. "He told me he loved me," she says. "What a joke." For one person, love may be a commitment that lasts forever. For another, it may be a brief but intense union. This person may have been a cad, or he may just have been a person with a different complex equivalence of what love is.
Having a "relationship," of course, is not the same as being together. Just as an attitude toward labor only hardened into an ideology called Marxism when the worker got cut off form the product of his labor, so erotic bonds only hardened into Relationshipism when people started, for a million familiar reasons, getting cut off from each other. A "relationship" is not to be confused with a union. It is an ongoing argument between two stubbornly sovereign selves about the possibility of a union.
The new puritanism brings with it a depersonalization of our whole language. Instead of making love, we "have sex"; in contrast to intercourse, we "screw"; instead of going to bed, we "lay" someone or (heaven help the English language as well as ourselves!) we "are laid." This alienation has become so much the order of the day that in some psychotherapeutic training schools, young psychiatrists and psychologists are taught that it is "therapeutic" to use solely the four-letter words in sessions; the patient is probably masking some repression if he talks about making love; so it becomes our righteous duty – the new puritanism incarnate! – to let him know he only fucks. Everyone seems so intent on sweeping away the last vestiges of Victorian prudishness that we entirely forget that these different words refer to different kinds of human experience. Probably most people have experienced the different forms of sexual relationship described by the different terms and don't have much difficulty distinguishing among them. I am not making a value judgment among these different experiences; they are all appropriate to their own kinds of relationship. Every woman wants at some time to be swept off her feet, carried away, persuaded to have passion when at first she has none, as in the famous scene between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. But if being "laid" is all that ever happens in her sexual life, then her experience of personal alienation and rejection of sex are just around the corner. If the therapist does not appreciate these diverse kinds of experience, he will be presiding at the shrinking and truncating of the patient's consciousness, and will be confirming the narrowing of the patient's bodily awareness as well as his or her capacity for relationship. This is the chief criticism of the new puritanism: it grossly limits feelings, it blocks the infinite variety and richness of the act, and it makes for emotional impoverishment.
...within the Greek Orthodox Church, marriage is regarded not so much as a sacrament, but as a holy martyrdom – the understanding being that successful long-term human partnership requires a certain Death of the Self to those who participate.
Though many social influences come into play here, the combined forces of SHAM [Self-Help and Actualization Movement] indisputably contribute to the mix, taking the spontaneity and magic out of love. SHAM kills romance by making courtship (another word that seems like a vestige of a bygone era) programmatic and premeditated, something to be regarded with cynicism. Romance is the abandonment of self-discipline; romance is reckless, and SHAM preaches, above all, self-control, the conscious triumph of will over impulse. * * * Some of the people who give that answer [that they're taking their marriages one day at a time] will leave a relationship the minute it 'stops working' for them. Yet they know enough to hold a tech stock through the market's cyclic gyrations.
Love that isn't inspired by the possibility of permanence is no sort of love at all. No one dreams of someday 'hooking up.' We aren't riveted by tales of lovers who are indifferent to the question of whether their relationship will last. The real benchmark of love isn't a matter of counting sighs (orgasmic or otherwise) but taking the measure of devotion. To say that someone is 'afraid of commitment' is to say that he isn't, in any significant way, in love at all. When Meg Ryan's character in When Harry Met Sally finds out her old boyfriend is going to marry his secretary, she blubbers to Billy Crystal, 'All this time I've been saying he didn't want to get married.' After another sob and a gasp she gets to the heart of the matter: 'The truth is he didn't want to get married to me. He didn't love me.'
Anthony Robbins. Unlimited Power. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1986. p. 358.
Lee Siegel. Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of the Imagination. New York: Basic Books, 2006. p. 171.
Rollo May, Love and Will, New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1969. p 47-48
Elizabeth Gilbert. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. New York: Viking, 2010. p. 198.
Steve Salerno. Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005. pp. 181, 184.
Eric Felten. Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. p. 144.