Most all of my friend and family members these days are married. I’m sort of the lone wolf in the pack and I have family members asking me, “So when are you going to get married? Are you not interested in love?” Others will tell me, “Oh you’ll meet yourself a nice girl soon!” The thing is, my family doesn’t understand me at all. I’d like to talk about love and relationships as they exist in my rather neurotic mind. This may sound like a vast intellectualization, but I assure you it’s not. This is way too complicated to explain to a family member during a Christmas dinner, but if I take some time this morning, I suppose I could give a brief outline of what goes on in my head.
I easily understand love and relationships in other people’s lives. I understand people in general. I’ve read a lot of psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science. I see through people. I really do. But my own mind is something strange. There’s all these intellectual tangles and the only way I can think to describe it is to ask you to imagine a large rock with thousands of ropes and hooks attached to it. Then at random times different forces are pulling on the different ropes in different directions. In the end, the rock (me) jiggles in place but never really moves. But what are these ropes pulling me, conflicting with one another?
On the one hand I’ve studied a lot of evolutionary psychology and I oftentimes look at the human race in the same way I would an animal. I think of the reasons people are attracted to one another and I have a really really hard time respecting human love. We have all this evolutionary baggage and most of the things driving attraction between people is based on ridiculous things. I read all kinds of psychology journals and look at the statistics of how people behave and why we do what we do. I stare at it all and think, “Do I really want to get involved in this mess?”
On the other hand, I hold these almost deeply religious beliefs. Underneath that mechanical meat-bag is this personal subjective consciousness. There’s this great mystery when I look at another human being and think, “That person is like me. She sees me with her eyes. She feels the pains and joys of this world. She’s alive. Sentient. Aware. Conscious.” I think about protecting that person from the pains of this world and trying to make them happy. I reflect on things from that perspective and then love becomes the most important thing in the world. To find someone. To build your world together. To share what you can. To grow together.
One side is pulling on my right arm, the other on my left arm and I don’t move at all. They both seem equally true to me.
I think a lot about whether love is a passion or an act of will. I’m always thinking about whether free will exists or not. Think of it this way. If I put a drug in your drink at the bar which made you fall in love with me, what would you think? It’s no different when I study the human brain and see through what makes us attracted to one another. I see all kinds of irrational influences at work and it no longer feels real to me. It’s not genuine, pure, beautiful. On the other hand, I wonder if free will does exist, and I think of this almost divine being in this world coming up to me and offering to spend our short lives together. I’m taken back, almost at a loss of words. Me? Really? ME? Why me? Of all the people in this world, you’re really choosing me? I’m not anybody special. I’m totally honored and in awe.
So you may say to me, “Jason, quit thinking so much about it. It’s about friendship.” Is it? Then we can just be friends. I’m not in need of anything. I don’t need anyone to support me. I don’t even really need much helping getting through this life. We’ll get together every now and again, hang out, and we’ll leave it at that.
How about sex? Women are beautiful, but with me there has to be genuine love or I’m not making love to you. A real relationship. A real friendship. To feel comfortable, to feel we belong together. All of that. So, all of this other stuff needs to be sorted.
My head’s full of contradictions. I want a place where I’ll always belong, but then again, I want to be self sufficient. I want to be a source of life in and of myself, yet sometimes I wonder if I should accommodate a love interest in there.
In a lot of ways relationships scare me. This is where I get a little embarrassed. I think of being with a woman who goes crazy spending all my money and my eyes pop out of my head. I come home and there’s this expensive car in the driveway, or I see all my money being wasted on expensive handbags and shoes. If it’s her own money, fine. If it’s my money, that’s fine up to a point, but there’s a fine line. If she ever went too far I’d be quick to say, “You work and buy your own things, or get out.” Freedom is very important to me, and if all my money was blown, I’m forced to work more and more. I’m not typically fond of most forms of work, and I’m not working two jobs to support someone else’s stupidity.
I wonder if I’d ever make a good husband. I think about whether I want people in my life if they drink a lot of alcohol or have other bad habits. Do I have the strength to help support them? I’m not really into most “romantic” things. I try to imagine myself cuddling on the couch with someone and realize how much I don’t want to waste my night doing that. I’m not a family man either. I imagine having to visit in-laws and aren’t thrilled with the prospect. I have friends and I always hear about arguments, jealousy, psychological abuse, and other things they’re enduring. All in all, I find myself wondering how much of that I’d tolerate.
The older I get, the more successful I’m becoming. I grow more wealthy and I have the things I want. I’m pursuing the mysteries of the cosmos. I have exciting career prospects. Everything gets better and better. More and more is competing for my time and attention and most women seem far less appealing than they once did.
Women my age oftentimes have little children running around from a previous marriage. Do I want to raise someone else’s little rugrat? What if the child will grow up and not respect me as the father figure and authority of the household? I could have peace and quiet out in my cabin studying what I love, or deal with a screaming, ungrateful brat which I have to drive to soccer practice each afternoon. So should I spend my time studying the universe, working on interesting technology and what I love, or should I choose to deal with all of that? The choice is not very hard for me.
I have this vision where I’m in my cabin trying to research quantum field theory and these little kids are running in and out, in and out. They’re screaming and the dog’s chasing them. They knock over my things. The dog urinates on my bookshelf. My wife’s yelling back at them, trying to get them to watch television, play games, or go outside. I’m just there, trying to plug my ears and escape it all. I have absolutely no desire whatever for that life. I’m the type of person who would never come home. I’d spend all my time at work, and then go out with my coworkers that night. I never want children. At all. Ever. I don’t think I could be a loving parent. A loving husband, yes. A loving parent, never. The desire is not there and never will be.
The most important thing in a relationship is probably to have a common purpose. Common goals and interests. Deep friendships and bonds. The more I learn and the smarter I become, the more I desire to be around people who have invested the same amount of time and energy into their education as well. The prospects of finding someone of that quality goes down with time, as does my incentive to find them in the huge haystack. I feel like it’s less and less likely that I’ll find someone who shares my love of economics, philosophy, history, physics, and other sciences. Someone who I really feel gets me, and I get them.
Sometimes when I think of romantic love, I see it as a very high risk, low return investment. It asks a lot out of me, but I don’t feel it pays well. Then again, I do sometimes get lonely when I’m out for my long walks. I do wish someone was there walking with me. Someone who’s always there, who understands things, understands me. Respects me. Appreciates me. If a woman treated me like that, and loved me, I’d always be good to her. Even if things went sour, if she’d been there for me in the past, I’d work things through with her.
But I just don’t know. I have all these conflicting ideas to sort out in my head. It’s work to sort it out, and I have other things to do. I oftentimes tell my best friends that I’ll never marry. I’m almost sure of it. That’s not because I’m uninterested, but because I don’t think there will ever be a time where I’ll want to put the effort into making it happen. Things may change, but I’m already climbing up in years. I’m no young chicken.