Updated: Mar 1, 2022
The Course of Love, a fictional story revolving around the Love life of Rabih & Kirsten, emphasises What happens after the "Happily Ever After". More than a fictional story, it's an objective take on what Love really is, what it takes to keep a relationship going after the initial spark fizzles out. Most movies & romantic novels do not go further and never display how the head over heels in love couple handle the everyday mundane aspects of their routine life while their attraction declines and the outside temptations increase. This book delves in depth all the challenges the modern day relationship faces and the factors influencing them. Although I cannot do justice to the articulately written book with my words but here is my humble attempt to share some concepts that I learnt from the book:
Love is a Skill
The author throughout the book maintains that Love is not just an enthusiasm for a person. It is a skill that needs to be polished till you are together with the person.
Physical Intimacy is more than physiological sensation but an idea of acceptance and the promise to an end of loneliness & shame. It's a deep longing for extreme closeness & mutual acceptance.
A hopeful, generous, infinitely kind Gamble taken by people who don't know who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of imagining. In the book, De Botton maintains that "To a shameful extent the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone."
Transference is a concept where we transfer our childhood emotional wounds to our current relationships unconsciously. For example, in a relationship, we expect the other to read our mind because it is related to our womb days, when every need of ours was met without telling or expressing.
The over reactor is responsible for the transference of an emotion from the past to someone in the present, who perhaps didn't deserve it. Minds are not good at knowing which year they are in. They jump quite easily. For example, whenever Rabih saw clutter in house, it angered him because subconsciously it brought memories of the chaotic days he spent with his family in the bombing area of Beirut.
We often play from scripts that were generated from a crisis we forgot long ago.
When our minds operate from transference, we lose the ability to give the people benefit of doubt, we move towards the worst conclusions that our past mandated.
Teaching & Learning
According to ancient Greeks, love is an admiration of the virtuous qualities of the other. And the love deepens when one continues to inspire the other to become virtuous, a willingness to teach and be taught ways to be more virtuous.
According to the author, for teaching our partners, it should be done with the same delicate care as teaching students with patience & care & for every negative remark there should be 10 compliments .
Not to care too much that the student is learning or not & not taking their interest personally.
Sincere lovers would never accept the other just as they were. There would always be something to improve in ourselves and educate others about.
Never to see faults in others in isolation but to see them as weaknesses of their strengths.
Children teach transcendence of oneself for the sake of another. It's kind of a service.
We are used to loving others with expectations in return.
Children remind us that no one is self made. Everyone is heavily under the debt of another.
Everyone will have something substantially & maddeningly wrong with them when we spend more time with them. Something so wrong as to make a mockery of the initial rapturous feelings for them.
The only people who strike very normal, are those we don't know well. The best cure to love is to know them better.
A loving marriage & children kill spontaneity and an affair kills marriage.
Marriage comes down to identifying which variety of suffering we are more likely to sacrifice for.
My previous blog talks about Attachment theory in depth. You can read it here. In this book both Rabih and Kristen have attachment styles that are causing trouble in their married life. Rabih lost his mother at an early age and has developed anxious Attachment Style which has made him fearful of abandonment which in turn has made him clingy and looks for validation & reassurances all the time from his wife who is unable to provide him that because of her own Avoidant Attachment Style which she developed at an age when her father walked out of her home without any explanation & never to return when she was young. She became independent because she learnt to fend for herself but yet was scared everytime Rabih went on his business tours for the fear of him never returning. She avoided conflicts and becoming vulnerable and close to anyone in order to protect herself from getting hurt. Rabih due to his need for validation started looking outside for validation. This dynamic between the two added strain in their relationship.
One becomes ready for marriage because he/she has given up on perfection. We can only begin to love someone only when they have substantially disappointed us. Choosing someone to marry is to choose what kind of suffering we are ready to endure. We should marry when we are ready to love rather than be loved.
A relationship is a journey of self discovery, self Acceptance and self love. Loving ourselves despite our flaws will enable us to love others with their flaws. Becoming whole with another person is a romantic myth popularized by the mainstream media. In reality, a relationship is a journey of accepting our imperfections and sharing our imperfect experiences with another imperfect being on the road to becoming whole again. The conclusion of all these concepts as per me is that the reason to be in a relationship is not to find perfect happiness in Life. As per the author, "Perfect Happiness comes in tiny incremental units only. This is what one has to take in both hands and cherish."
Buy the book
The Course of Love by Alain De Botton.