A Love Poem by Henry Van Dyke Followed By Exploring Our Actions In Romantic Love

Posted on March 24, 2012



Let me but love my love without disguise,
Nor wear a mask of fashion old or new,
Nor wait to speak till I can hear a clue,
Nor play a part to shine in others’ eyes,
Nor bow my knees to what my heart denies;
But what I am, to that let me be true,
And let me worship where my love is due,
And so through love and worship let me rise.

For love is but the heart’s immortal thirst
To be completely known and all forgiven,
Even as sinful souls that enter Heaven:
So take me, dear, and understand my worst,
And freely pardon it, because confessed,
And let me find in loving thee, my best.

– Henry van Dyke

In case you’re wondering, I did not choose to share “Love” because the author’s name has the word dyke in it. This poem appealed to me because lately, thoughts on the concept of “romantic love” and the expectations involved with a monogamous relationship have been floating around my head. In this post I explore the idea of romantic love and some of our actions in these types of relationships drawing on a friend’s post break-up musings (with her consent) and my relationship with another woman (again with her consent).

My friend, her break up and is there a point to lesbian relationships without grand aims such as kids?

Recently, a friend of mine went through a break-up with her ‘wifey’. To simplify things, she wasn’t feeling the spark any more and didn’t see the point of spending any more of her time trying to breathe new life and excitement into the relationship. She had this thought and wanted to share it here: When things get rocky do lesbian relationships tend to break up because the couples don’t see a larger aim for staying together, particularly kids? What do people think? This actually deserves a mega post so I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

I did a bit of research and discovered that many researchers are fascinated by coupling, marriage and the place of love amongst all of this.

Scientists have reasons to believe that romance  as we know it was shaped by the unsentimental hand of evolution. We humans don’t have a monopoly on oxytocin and other molecules linked to feeling in love. Martie Haselton, a psychologist at UCLA, is exploring the forces that may have shaped those more primal attributes into what we now call modern love. She believes it all comes down to the long-term health of children. Haselton calls romantic love a “commitment device,” a mechanism that encourages two humans to form a lasting bond. Those bonds help ensure that children survive to reproductive age, getting fed and cared for by two parents rather than one. “Natural selection has built love to make us feel romantic,” she says.

I didn’t do any further research on this because I’ve never considered biologically mothering kids or being a parent too seriously but I am currently working on seeing what the world of science has to say about ideas of romantic love, coupling and children. For example I wonder: is there a differential break-up rate between lesbian couples and non-lesbian couples where kids are not involved as “commitment devices”?

Let me know what you think on this and if you have any readings please suggest!

My drawn-out and very interesting relationship with one woman

Over the time that I have known this woman the relationship has evolved tremendously. Without going into the nitty gritty of things I’ll say there was a time when I really badly wanted her to be my girlfriend. I wasn’t sure how things would work out, whether it would be monogamous and exclusive or open. I didn’t really care about the specifics of things. All I cared about was that I was open to building “something” with her and that she felt similarly. The girlfriend bit of things didn’t quite work out as I had imagined it would and when tonight the topic of “settling down” came up in a text convo with another friend, I replied asking what exactly settling down entailed? To her it means being in a romantic love relationship as a monogamous couple.

My recently single friend and I concluded that we feel constrained by the idea that two individuals need to form a singular identity akin to couples portrayed in romantic love stories just because two people think themselves to be ‘in love’. Egos begin to clash and themes of possession and jealousy begin to surface. To quote the lady in one of her rants, “I hate the ‘us’. As a young and selfish person, its hard for the ‘us’ to me mutually beneficial”, she says.

In my non-detailed dreams of being in a relationship with the woman mentioned above, I never outlined the elements I wanted present in an “us”.

I did some Google research on the ideas of romantic love and existentialism and I found some interesting ideas. One site actually offers a taste of a full blown test containing 180 questions aimed at finding out if we are really in love or just under the ‘Hoax of Romantic Love”. The owner of the work, James Park, an existential philosopher, believes that romantic love was invented approximately 800 years ago by the French Troubadours. He doesn’t refute the idea that love exists or that humans form bonds for reasons including sexual attraction, compatibility and companionship. His main point is that there is an ingenuous notion of romantic love that pervades popular culture and in fact permeates our behaviours and actions to those we purport to be ‘in love’ with and taints our expectations of them.

His “Romantic Love: How do we know we are in love?” test includes 26 features that point to romantic love arising from ’emotional programming’ thanks to the propagation by popular culture of this type of romance as desirable. Some of the features of romantic love according to Park include:

  • Watching for small signs of reciprocation e.g. interpreting any response as a sign that she really notices or cares
  • Uncertainty and fearfulness of rejection; it is exclusive, possessive, and jealous
  • An illusion of oneness
  • Sometimes depends on manipulation e.g. are you wondering of what to do to make your beloved ‘fall in love’ with you? Do you strategise to bring about the responses you want from you beloved?
  • Romantic love causes an ecstatic feeling
  • Romantic love sees the beloved as perfect
  • Romantic love causes a roller-coaster of emotions
  • Romantic love causes preoccupation and distraction
  • Romantic love causes compulsive, neurotic, dependent thoughts and feelings

In my affairs with the lady mentioned above, I certainly felt some of Park’s features and I won’t deny I enjoyed revelling in the feelings of ecstasy. Our relationship never had that feeling of oneness. That has just never been me. I love me, being me and I love doing me. There was however a feeling of ‘usness’. Not the possessive type but one of feeling connected to a person and in those moments, believing that the unique bond between both of you takes precedent over all else.

Obviously each relationship has subtleties that can’t be captured by tests or categories but I also experienced feelings of uncertainty in a major way. I made a lot of decisions based on her and her perspective, and often tried to predict what her reaction to something might be. I did and did not do many things because of this.

In hindsight, those were very silly calculations and I want to kick myself for being so lame but becoming aware of my attitude taught me something major about myself. If you’re giving freely, you don’t need to try to second guess. Do what you are willing to and from the minute its left your hands forget about it.

Realizing some of my actions also helped me cut down on feeding off how I felt that she felt about me to reinforce my positivity. I’m still amazed at how something as little as not receiving the reply to a text message when you want it can set a person’s mood off in a vile way. Sourcing one’s positivity from any one individual can be disastrous because you project that energy onto areas that this person isn’t aware of and may not even be concerned for.

Reflecting on this helped me reach a point where I was actually able to visualize what I wanted out of a partnership with someone or people. I decided that in future I expect more self awareness from myself. Feeling giddy can be great but I think its also great to maintain a level of self-consciousness and remain on a path to self-development. I think it would be awesome to be with someone that you can reach a level of ‘usness’ that doesn’t involve discarding or hiding parts of who you are.

For the future, I am working on feeling brave enough to be able to immerse myself unreservedly in love like van Dyke’s character without seeing vulnerability as a weakness or getting mangled in a dependency-type situation and if this is not too ideal (please let me know if you think it is!) to “find in loving thee, me best”.