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Lessons In Love According To Rick Sanchez

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What is love? Can we ask that question without referencing to a one-hit wonder R&B song from 1993? I think it’s a question worth asking and one people have been asking since the dawn of our species. Many men who are way smarter than I’ll ever be have tried to answer this question. Some have offered revealing insights. Others just use it as an excuse to whine about a cheating spouse.

Then, there’s Rick Sanchez. I know that by saying that name, I’ve completely altered the tone of this topic. I could’ve easily spent the next several paragraphs breaking down how the smartest men in history view love and how that understanding reveals itself in our modern concept of romance. For now, I’d rather scrutinize love from the perspective of a hard-drinking, brutally honest, nihilistic cartoon character from Adult Swim.

Yep, I’m referring to this guy again.

Make no mistake. I’m not just using this as another excuse to talk about “Rick and Morty,” although I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that. I really do think characters like Rick Sanchez have something to teach us on the topic of love. Being an admitted romantic and aspiring erotica/romance writer, I believe those lessons are worth heeding.

On paper, Rick Sanchez is the last person most would go to for insights into love. From the first scene in the first episode, he establishes himself as an overly-cynical, high-functioning alcoholic who may or may not be okay with blowing up the world for the sake of a fresh start. To say he’s not the romantic type would be like saying Jerry needs help with his golf game.

However, Rick does demonstrate throughout the show that he has a capacity for love. He has even had a few moments where he has shown genuine heart. There’s an odd mix of eccentricity and complexity to Rick’s behavior. That’s part of what makes him such an endearing character and why he resonates so much with an emerging generation.

From all that chaos, though, there are insights worth noting. “Rick and Morty” may go heavy with nihilism and moments of existential crisis, but it doesn’t avoid the impact of love. Whether it’s Morty constantly trying to get with Jessica or the constant upheavals in Beth and Jerry’s marriage, love is an underlying factor throughout the show.

This is despite the fact that Rick is pretty overt about his feelings on love. In “Rick Potion #9,” the sixth episode of the first season, he gives his clearest, most quote-worthy opinion on love.

“Listen, Morty, I hate to break it to you but what people call ‘love’ is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, Morty. Rise above. Focus on science.”

That sounds pretty jaded, to say the least. It’s perfectly fitting with Rick’s misanthropic mentality. However, there is a context here and one that’s fairly subtle, as things tend to be in the world of “Rick and Morty.”

Part of that context is Rick’s family situation. Beyond being a drunk and an eccentric mad scientist, he also has a family. It’s not just his daughter and two grandkids, either. He mentions in his cynical musings that he’d fallen in love and gotten married at one point.

That, alone, has some pretty profound implications. It shows that even the smartest, most capable man in the multiverse cannot avoid the impact of love. Keep in mind, this is a man who travels the multiverse on a whim, defeats Thanos-level super-villains while drunk, and understands how meaningless everything is in the grand scheme of things.

Despite all that, Rick Sanchez still fell in love. He still got married. That, in and of itself, shows the power of love better than any Huey Lewis song. While the show hasn’t revealed much about his former wife, Diane, it does establish an important fact. Rick is capable of love, even when he sees it as just a confluence of brain chemicals.

The show goes onto to reveal that Rick is still influenced by love, despite this reductionist understanding of it. The most comprehensive example comes in Season 2, Episode 3, “Auto Erotic Assimilation.” In many ways, this episode helps convey the most meaningful lesson in love that any animated series has ever attempted.

In the episode, Rick catches up with an old girlfriend, who happens to be an alien hive mind named Unity. If that sounds weird, even by “Rick and Morty” standards, trust me when I say it doesn’t crack the top ten. The fact that Unity is a hive mind is part of why the insights are so unique and impactful.

Throughout the episode, we learn about the particulars of Rick and Unity’s relationship. Unity establishes herself as one of the few beings in the multiverse who can keep up with Rick’s eccentricities. If anything, she has to be a hive mind in order to do so, as evidenced by Rick’s elaborately kinky requests.

In this context, Unity is the ultimate manifestation of supportive lover. She can literally do anything and be anywhere because she has the collective resources of an entire planet at her disposal. She’s more capable than a shape-shifter like Mystique or even an advanced sex robot.

If she wants to make love as a beautiful, buxom blond right out of a Playboy centerfold, she can do that. If she wants to do it as a greasy-haired, middle-aged man with a hairy back and bad breath, she can do that too. She can be two people, ten people, or as many people as she wants to be to love Rick and express that love however they want.

This breaks down, however, when Unity’s efforts to pursue that romance with Rick ends up straining her ability to maintain her hive mind. It gets so strenuous, at one point, that it leads to a nipple-driven race war on the planet. Again, this is pretty standard in terms of weirdness for “Rick and Morty.”

The implications of this breakdown are serious and I’m not referring to the nipple-driven race war. Logistically speaking, Rick and Unity had everything they needed to make their relationship work. They had unlimited resources and unlimited opportunities for intimacy, decadence, and everything in between. In exercising that, though, their relationship devolved into an ongoing spiral of self-destruction.

There was clear, unambiguous love between Rick and Unity. However, the act of being together proved toxic to both of them. Unity couldn’t be with Rick without losing herself, literally and figuratively. Rick couldn’t be with Unity without descending into a spiral of debauchery. Even if the love is there, embracing it leads to both of them getting hurt.

This made for one of the most dramatic and emotional moments of the show, one that reveals just how much Rick loved Unity. After she leaves him, it really hits him on an emotional level, so much so that he nearly kills himself. Remember, this is a man who said love is nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain.

The pain in that moment, though, belabors a much larger point about love and being with someone. Just loving someone is easy. As Rick says, it’s just a chemical reaction in your brain. It’s something that can happen to anyone, even the smartest man in the multiverse.

However, being with someone and expressing the full spectrum of love involves much more than convergent brain chemistry. For some people, love can be downright destructive. If pursuing love means undermining your sense of being, as happened with Unity, then that’s a sign that the relationship isn’t tenable.

It’s tragic, but unavoidable. You can love someone with all your heart, but not be capable of having a functional relationship. It’s a harsh reality, one that’s perfectly in line with the nihilistic subtext in “Rick and Morty.” At the same time, though, there’s a less dire lesson to be learned.

Even if love is just a brain function that helps propogate the species, it has the power to affect us in the best and worst of ways. It can lead us to the greatest of joys, as Rick and Unity experienced for a brief time. It can also lead us to the worst of sorrows. Few other brain functions can make that claim.

That wide range of experiences are a powerful mechanism for finding meaning in a meaningless universe. Rick Sanchez doesn’t avoid the pain in those experiences and he doesn’t hesitate to pursue the joys, often to a reckless degree. Finding meaning in this universe is hard enough, but love can do plenty to carry us forward. You don’t have to be a Rick-level genius to appreciate that, although that’s probably a good thing.

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Why Men And Women Cheat (And Lessons To Learn From It)

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As an unapologetic romance fan, I concede that I often talk about love the same way dog lovers talk about puppies. I go on and on about how wonderful it is, but often gloss over the nasty parts. In the same way those dog lovers don’t dwell on all the times their beloved companion shits on the rug, I don’t dwell on the more painful aspect of romance.

Well, in the same way ignoring the pile of dog poop doesn’t make the stench go away, ignoring those painful elements of romance doesn’t make them any less relevant. Even those who aren’t romance fans understand that romance often involves tragedy. It’s no coincidence that some of the most famous love stories, from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Titanic,” involve a hefty bit of heartache.

I would argue that’s exactly what makes love and stories about romance so powerful. There’s a significant risk of heartache, rejection, and loss. There’s real pain that comes with pursuing romance, but the we gladly risk that pain because the rewards can be as fulfilling as they are sexy. I’ve done more to highlight the breadth of those rewards in my novels, especially with stories like “Passion Relapse.”

However, the pain that comes from the other side of that coin can be just as dramatic, if not more so. Anyone who has ever seen old episodes of “Jerry Springer” understands this to some extent. It’s not usually the kind of drama that ends with two lovers dying in each other’s arms or Rose not making room for Jack on that floating plank. More often than not, it’s a more frustrating kind of drama.

In many respects, the unsexiest version of this drama has to do with cheating. To some, that’s the much more dreaded C-word. Cheating is to romance what food poisoning is to Thanksgiving dinner. It is the worst-case scenario for those seeking the joys and appeals associated with romance. It is also one of those unfortunate elements that plays out in real life more often than it does in sexy romance novels.

It’s unromantic, but inescapable. Cheating happens and it happens a lot. While it doesn’t happen as often as “Jerry Springer” might have us believe, it happens often enough that it’s a legitimate concern among lovers. That’s why modern marriage laws, however skewed they might be, often account for infidelity.

In the same way there has never been a drug-free society, there has never been a society where cheating and infidelity has not occurred to some extent. From our caveman ancestors to the increasingly-uptight Millennials, the risk of cheating is there and the rise of social media and online dating sites like Ashley Madison are only making it easier.

I’ve talked a bit about cheating when I’ve discussed jealousy and our approach to marriage in modern society. Within the context of those discussions, cheating is a significant portion of those issues, but it’s still only part of a larger whole. It’s still a significant stain on the pursuit of romance, but it doesn’t completely overshadow it.

To make sense of it, as difficult as that may be, it’s necessary to focus on the reasons why people cheat. To anyone who has ever been the victim of a cheating lover, that may mean poking at old wounds and for that, I apologize. I admit it’s somewhat underhanded to suggest there are reasons why people cheat instead of just excuses, but to make sense of cheating overall, we need to accept that there are reasons behind it.

Listen to any story about cheating, be it a magazine article or a poorly-directed reality show, and you’ll notice a few themes about cheating. For one, there is a gender disparity in the numbers. Statistically speaking, men do cheat more often than women. However, the difference in those numbers isn’t quite as vast as the “Mad Men” stereotypes would have us believe.

As to why the gender disparity exists, there are just as many theories about that as well. I’ve talked somewhat about those disparities in discussions about sexual promiscuity and gender double standards. However, those theories don’t always explain the reasons behind cheating. In fact, the process for gathering data on cheating is exceedingly tricky.

Absent an underlying theory, we’re left with a diverse list of reasons that men and women give for their infidelity. According to WebMD, men and women cheat in different ways. For men, it’s often physical, a method of meeting unmet needs. For whatever reason, they’re no longer satisfied with their spouse and cheating is either a way to meet those needs or escape from that spouse.

For women, the act of cheating often has more emotional connotations. While meeting a physical need is part of it, women are more inclined to seek an emotional connection when they cheat. That’s not to say that some women just want some sexual variety or some men don’t fall in love with those they’re cheating with, but these are the popular narratives and some of it does bear out in the data.

Like I said earlier, though, the disparity in that data is not exceedingly vast and there are a lot of issues associated with gathering that data in the first place. If you accept the rule of the great Dr. House, “The most successful marriages are based on lies,” then it’s almost impossible to ascertain just how much cheating is going on and why it’s happening.

Even if it’s impossible to know, there are lessons we can learn from the reasons and excuses that people give. Chief among the reasons men give for cheating involve seeking new intimate experiences, either out of dissatisfaction or boredom. Given how I’ve explored the impact of boredom before, I think that is likely a bigger factor than most care to admit.

With women, the reasons often involve a lack of satisfaction that goes beyond physical. It’s not just that they feel unsatisfied. The underlying theme often involves their sentiment that their partner is no longer putting in the kind of effort they did when they fell in love. That lack of effort gives the impression that they don’t care anymore, leading women to seek out someone who does care.

In scrutinizing these reasons that vary widely between gender, cultures, and personality types, there does appear to be one common theme that binds both genders when it comes to cheating. Whether it’s physical or emotional, it often comes down to the perception that someone in the relationship isn’t putting in the effort anymore. Either they don’t have the energy or just don’t care enough.

In either case, the context of the cheating seems less about meeting a need and more about finding someone who will match your passionate efforts. Regardless of whatever gender disparity may or may not be at work with cheating, there’s no denying that men and women are passionate creatures. We each seek outlets for our passion and if we’re not getting it from that outlet, we’re going to seek another.

That’s not to say that some who cheat are just looking for an exciting and novel experience. That’s another inclination that is hard-wired into both genders in ways that go beyond sex, romance, or fidelity. When it comes specifically to cheating, though, the primary catalyst often comes back to passion and how it’s being channeled.

Cheating and being cheated on often comes with many hard lessons, some of which leave deeper scars than others. Whether you’re a romantic like me, a jaded heart with cynical views on love, or believe that human beings aren’t meant to just love one person for the rest of their lives, the betrayal and dishonesty associated with cheating still hurts us. If nothing else, it’s a harsh reminder of how deep our passions run.

If there’s a lesson that both genders can and should learn from the pain of cheating, it’s the importance of understanding and channeling those passions. When two people share the kind of passion that keeps their love, sex, and relationship strong, then there’s no reason for either of them to cheat. It’s not easy sharing that kind of passion, but the fact we risk the pain of being cheated on shows it’s a risk worth taking.

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Why Do We Choose The Wrong Lovers?

We’ve all either seen it from afar, experienced it ourselves, or know someone who has. It’s one of the few narratives that plays out as often in real life as it does in fiction, including the sexy novels I write.

We seek out love and connection, putting a sizable chunk of our time and energy into finding that perfect lover. It’s the basis of almost every iconic love story ever made, from Shakespeare to “Titanic” to almost every Disney movie ever made. It’s also the basis of family, elaborate social connections, and the entire wedding industry. By every measure, finding that special someone is a big freakin’ deal for us.

If it’s such a big deal, though, then why do we do such a lousy job of actually choosing our lovers? I don’t ask that question out of cynicism. I ask it with a straight face, a sober mind, and a never-ending need to understand romance so I can write sexier, more romantic novels.

I know that’s somewhat self-serving, but every question involving love and sex has major implications far beyond those of aspiring erotica/romance writers. In that context, the actual process of choosing a lover is one of the most important choices we can ever make in our personal lives. It’s right up there with choosing your smartphone or your internet speeds. So why is it that we do such a lousy job in making such a critical choice?

I’m not just referring to the frustrating divorce rate among married couples, although that is a sign. I’m also not referring to the documented fact that the average number of sexual partners a person has in their lifetime is not one or less, although that also is a sign.

We humans seem to understand the importance and value of love, sex, and intimacy. However, we do a piss poor job when it comes to actually making decisions about it. Good girls will fall in love with bad boys. Good men will fall in love with bitchy girls. Good, decent people will try to love one another, but for all the wrong reasons and not realize it for years.

It’s both tragic and unsexy. People want to love each other, but can’t seem to pick up on the right signs. Even if they’re not looking for love and just want sex, they still find a way to screw that up too, as evidenced by the orgasm gap.

I even have some personal experience with this myself. Without getting into too great a detail, I was once involved with a cute, sweet, yet naturally sexy young woman in college. She and I met through our mutual love of comics and she was, in many ways, my first serious relationship. I won’t deny that I actually did feel love for her.

However, the longer we were together, the more I noticed on some fairly telling signs that were hard to ignore. She and I may have had a lot in common, but we had very different personality types. She was one way. I was another. We were rarely on the same page and it did cause plenty of stress.

Being drunk on love, I sure as hell didn’t notice it. My parents did, though, and they weren’t afraid to tell me. They know me too damn well and love me enough to discourage me from making foolish decisions. Were it not for them, I probably would’ve cut my face off the first time I tried to shave.

I credit them more than anyone for keeping me anchored, with respect to my emotions. I admit I kind of resisted their insight and made my share of excuses. In the end, they turned out to be right. My girlfriend and I broke up. It hurt, but I can’t say it was entirely surprising.

The fact that I, a guy who writes and reads a lot about sex and romance, can be so blinded by the feeling should be as clear a sign. It shows that we, as a species, aren’t very good at making wise choices when it comes to our love lives. Why is that, though?

That’s a hard question to answer and I’m certainly not going to claim to be a definitive authority on that. It’s so hard to answer that you can kind of understand why marrying for love is such a novel concept and why it was actually discouraged throughout history. Even so, it’s still a question worth contemplating, if only to refine our understanding.

I feel as though being an erotica/romance writer gives me a certain insight into this issue. I won’t say I’m the best equipped to confront it, but I do think I can bring something to the conversation. So in the interest of furthering that conversation, here are my explanations/speculations on why we choose the wrong lovers.


Reason #1: We Commit And Promise For Misguided Reasons

When most people talk about being with someone for the wrong reasons, they almost immediately conjure images of the kind of big-titted, gold-digging skank whose sole purpose in life is to inherit money from a horny old guy. Thanks to Anna Nicole Smith, that sentiment is not wholly inaccurate.

However, I’m not just talking about the gold digging angle here. That’s actually a tiny part of this reason. When I talk about being with someone for wrong or misguided reasons, I’m referring to the mental and emotional gymnastics that people do to justify the status of an inherently flawed relationship.

We’ve all heard a variation of those excuses. It usually takes a pretty bloated excuse bank to begin with, but it often manifests in fairly familiar, sometimes distressing sort of ways. It often ends with statements like this.

  • “Things will settle down after we get married.”

  • “Things will settle down after we have children.”

  • “I don’t think I can handle being alone right now.”

  • “I need someone like him/her in my life.”

  • “We’ve been together for a long time so we might as well get married.”

Each one of these statements probably makes sense to the person saying them. However, a lot of weird things make sense when you’re in love or you think you’re in love. That’s why falling in love is often described as being intoxicated. You don’t always make good decisions when you’re drunk. The same applies to when you’re in love.


Reason #2: We Have False Or Misguided Ideas Of Who We Should Be With

This reason is a big less convoluted than the first. We’ve either known someone who has made horrible choices in their love lives or we’ve been that someone. A lot of those choices stem from having a skewed or erratic criteria for who should be our lover. Some people don’t even stop to examine that criteria and it only becomes painfully clear after the relationship fails.

This is actually something that plays out in one of my books, specifically “Skin Deep.” Early in the story, Mary Williams is the hot girl that every guy wants to be with. Not surprisingly, she ends up with a star basketball player named Zach Crenshaw. It’s the classic hot girl and male athlete hook-up that we’ve seen play out every movie inspired by “Varsity Blues.”

Initially, she doesn’t really give much thought to why she’s with him. As the story plays out, though, Mary realizes that she was with Zach because she thought she was supposed to be with him. There was this indirect assumption that because she’s the hot girl, she should be with someone like Zach.

That misguided idea becomes part of the many conflicts that play out in “Skin Deep.” It also plays out in real life with people seeking certain types because they think they’re supposed to. Sometimes it’s peer pressure. Sometimes the pressure comes from culture or religion. It’s hard to actually acknowledge these pressures until after a relationship ends, but they all work to skew our emotions in certain directions.

It’s also part of why good girls fall for bad boys and good boys fall for bad girls. We have a false impression of why we’re with these people. We may call it love, but sometimes it’s something as simple as the adrenaline rush we feel when we’re with someone who might crash a motorcycle into septic tank on a bar bet.

Granted, that can be a good time that results in some pretty hot sex, but that’s not love, nor is it the foundation for a meaningful relationships.


Reason #3: We Underestimate AND Overestimate Our Ability To Love Someone

This one is a bit more subtle and self-reflective, compared to the other reasons on this list. Some of it has to do with our eagerness to love someone outstripping our ability. That does happen a lot with people who try their best to make a failing relationship work. Sometimes they succeed. Most of the time, though, it just delays the inevitable.

A better manifestation of this concept plays out in nearly every wedding ceremony, but not in the way you might think. A man or woman at their wedding is so overwhelmed by emotion and passion that it’s easy to love someone and imagine loving them until your dying days. That moment, and everything surrounding it, makes it seem so easy.

However, it’s all the days after that wedding ceremony that someone really has to worry about. A person is usually at their best on their wedding day. It’s only when we deal with someone when they’re having a really bad day that we understand the breadth of our love for them.

It’s when things go wrong that the strength of a relationship, or lack thereof, really shows. It’s in those moments when we realize that we don’t love this person nearly enough to deal directly with these issues. It’s also in these moments when we realize that we may love this person too much because their issues become hugely detrimental to our own.

Our capacity for love varies from person to person. It even varies from situation to situation. The key is finding a person whose capacity for love is similar to our own and who knows how to deal with those situations. That’s how some people can stay in love for half-a-century while others leave a trail of failed relationships wherever they go.

It’s like an extension of the laws of entropy. When you’re not on the same page as your lover, things just tend to fall apart in the long run. It’s only when you and your lover truly complement each other that it grows stronger over time. We see it in in real life and in the occasional X-men comic. It’s a perspective worth heeding.


Reason #4: We Fail To Know Ourselves Or Our Lovers Well Enough

This is basically the ultimate manifestation of not seeing the forest from the trees with respect to your love life or yourself. It also happens to be the reason that is almost impossible to realize until after it’s too late. You’re not going to see it on the first night you have sex or on your wedding day. It’s only going to become clear after the damage has been done.

This often happens with couples who marry young and divorce quickly. I actually know a few people who have endured this. One of them described it as akin to getting blackout drunk for seven years, waking up in a strange new city, and almost dying on the spot from sheer shock. In this person’s defense, he married someone who just wanted kids and that’s it. The lack of love or meaningful connection was an afterthought.

It’s somewhat tragic, but understandable to a certain extent. Some people really don’t know themselves as well as they think. Some are just really good at lying to themselves about the kind of person they are. We see it frequently in alcoholics and people with poor impulse control. They never think too much about a situation or themselves, never realizing their mistake until it’s too late.

The best illustration of this comes from another friend of mine who went through a nasty divorce early in life, but met the love of his life and has been happily married for decades. He told me outright that he and his first wife really didn’t know each other that well. They knew enough to want to hook up and that was it. It wasn’t until after they divorced that it became painfully obvious why they were wrong for each other.

Then, he met his future wife and he knows pretty much everything about her. He can tell me how she takes her coffee, what her favorite movie is, and what she throws at the TV whenever a referee calls a bad penalty during a football game. He and his wife know each other so well and not just with respect to their anatomy. It’s that knowledge and understanding that helps make their relationship so strong.

Sometimes, we get ahead of ourselves in wanting to be with someone. We love them before we truly know them and marry them before we’re ready. It creates a lot of complications for ourselves and our lovers, some of which become ticking time bombs in a relationship that can sometimes go off in the worst of ways.


Reason #5: We Fail To Understand That Love (And Sex) Is An Ongoing Process

I look at this reason the same way I look at foreplay. For one, I am totally in favor foreplay. It is one of the best parts of sex. It helps turn what is already an inherently intimate experience into something more awesome.

Sex without foreplay is still sex. It still can have the same end result, preferably a mutual orgasm. However, the process behind it, namely the foreplay, is what makes it meaningful. It’s that process that tends to get overlooked in both sex and love.

It happens with marriages that grow stale. It happens with relationships that burn out quickly. Those involved eventually stop putting work into the process of love and sex. Some think that the work is done when they get married or after they start having sex. They see that as an endpoint. It’s not. That’s just the beginning of a new process.

I’ve learned this in my own personal life. I’ve seen it play out with friend and family as their relationships evolve. Seeing love and sex as an endpoint is usually setting yourself up for disappointment, heartbreak, and a lack of quality orgasms. Emotions don’t end until we’re dead. Treating them otherwise will just turn us into the Bundy family.

Now, that’s not to say that the process always gets harder and more tedious over time. That only applies to relationships that are flawed or doomed from the start. Ideally, the process gets smoother over time if you’re with someone that you love for all the right reasons.

You shouldn’t have to do quantum physics to keep being with someone. Just being yourself, always trying to improve along the way, should be sufficient and complementary to the efforts of your lover. It’s a process that never ends, but is always rewarding if done right.


Once again, I want to emphasize that I am not an authority on love. I just write a lot about it and try to tell sexy stories. This is just my way of exploring this question that doesn’t get enough scrutiny, in my opinion.

If anyone has any insight that they would like to add, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to turn this into a larger conversation about the poor and not-so-poor decisions we make about our live lives. Until the day comes when super-intelligent machines can make those decisions for us, which may eventually happen, this is an issue that we’ll continue to struggle with.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, Reasons and Excuses