Book Update: Writing love that cannot be

Various life events have been slowing down my writing and social network posts, but I somehow found a moment to write this here blog post. So, to make the best of the time I have before my mind insists I attend to one of the dozen other pressing matters I have to attend to, I’m going tell you about a scene in the novel I’m currently writing.

I don’t often write love stories, but when I do, I make them complicated. Writers have to speak from their own perspectives, after all, and I’ve never felt that love was a simple thing. It’s a messy affair that isn’t at all like the Disney tales made it out to be. I find myself drawn to stories of love that allllmost worked out, but tragically failed for some reason.

I’m writing such a story now. Two characters are slowly discovering feelings for each other, but circumstances keep them from having a real relationship. They’re two lonely people with an inexplicable attraction for one another, but nothing can come of it. The only thing that eases the pain is the promise of a brighter future when their work is done, and they can finally have the time to be vulnerable. Because that’s what love is about at its core: vulnerability. Chuck Palahniuk wrote, “The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open”, and that’s the problem my characters face. They can’t risk that vulnerability. Not now. Not until they finish saving the world.

Then, maybe, they can find time to love.

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Know them before you love them

Relationships. We all know how challenging the love game can be. The initial honeymoon period is all ice cream and candy, but all too often it gives way to fights and hurt feelings. Time and time again I see people falling victim to the same, avoidable mistake of getting involved with someone too quickly. If you want to avoid this fate, follow this simple rule:

Know them before you love them

The rule above is deceptively simple. You would think it would be obvious, but far too many of us become Prisoners of the Moment, and abandon logic and common sense for the tantalizing allure of love and consistent casual sex. Then months, weeks, or even days later we realize that this cute person with the smile that makes us melt and the charming personality isn’t who we thought they were.

Well, no shit.

In general, people are rarely who we think they are the first time we meet them. This applies to everyone — from the new coworker you meet on your first day on the job, to the neighbor across the hall, to the hot guy/girl you met at that party one time when you were a little drunk and brave enough to talk to them. People rarely give you 100% of their personality and history all at once. You have to learn who they are in a variety of different situations, over time, slowly.

Yes, slowly.

Here’s the mistake people make: they decide they like someone for whatever reason, then after an all too brief courting period they believe the best way to get to know this person better is to get in a relationship with them. They invite these virtual strangers into their lives, hearts, and bedrooms as a work in progress — confident that they’ll just love this person more as they get to know them better. It’s the exact opposite of what they should do, and a short time later it all ends in shouts and/or tears. It may take a week. It may take a year. But more often than not it does happen, and when it does, it’s messy. Wouldn’t you prefer to avoid all that in the first place?

Think of it this way. Let’s say you meet someone new at a party. They seem cool, stable, sane. Likable. After a couple weeks of hanging out, your new acquaintance asks if they can borrow your most valued possession. Just for a little while. What do you say?

If you’re not an idiot, you say “Hell No!”. Why? Because you don’t really know this person. Which means you can’t trust them. Trust is to be earned, not given, and a couple of weeks is not nearly enough time to earn enough trust to warrant risking your most valuable possessions. You wouldn’t let a mere acquaintance borrow your car, or your jewelry, or your social security number (hell, most guys probably wouldn’t even let ’em borrow their Xbox). But somehow it’s okay to give them access to your friends, your home, and your heart?

Material possessions can be easily replaced. A bad relationship can hurt you physically, emotionally, and financially for years.

So the next time you meet someone new who gives you those butterflies in your stomach, remember that they’re still a stranger. Find out more about them. Learn their hopes, fears, vices, and virtues. Work on this before you make the emotional commitment to them. Know them before you love them.

I know what you’re thinking — “I can’t know everything before I start dating somebody!”. And that’s true. You’ll never be 100% sure about anyone. The love game always has risks, and even if you’re extra careful, people can always fool you. But that’s just another reason to take it slow. The more time you give it, the more opportunities you’ll have to see this person’s true nature. If they’re hiding behind lies and deception, give it enough time and you’ll start to see cracks in their story. If they have ulterior motives, your insistence that you take things slowly will piss them off and they’ll lose interest. And that’s not a bad thing. The person who is right for you will respect your patience, and if they’re smart they will also be taking things slowly to get to know you. If you go into each new relationship with your brain guiding your heart, you’ll greatly increase your chances of finding the right one, and waste less time on the wrong ones.