Tag Archives: true love

Why You Should (And Shouldn’t) Marry Your Best Friend

marrying-your-best-friend

Love is complicated. You don’t need to be an aspiring erotica/romance writer to understand that. Anyone who has any experience with love, good and bad alike, finds that out very quickly. As someone who writes about and contemplates it more than most men dare admit, I find many of those complications both fascinating and frustrating.

Recently, one particular complication has interested/confounded me. It has to do with who we ultimately decide we want to spend the rest of our lives with. I know marriage is rapidly changing and I’ve highlighted some of its past deficiencies, but I’m focusing primarily on the romance part. I know love hasn’t always been linked to marriage, but love is a feeling that goes beyond any institution.

That’s what makes it so special when we find someone who we love so much that we want to indelibly link our lives with theirs. Whether or not you call it a marriage is beside the point. Seeking a romantic connection that deep isn’t just the premise of a good romance story. It’s a powerful human drive that has guided us since the hunter/gatherer days.

Whether or not we marry that special someone, having that kind of love for someone and wanting to be with them is a romantic constant that transcends institutions. This brings me to a question that I’ve asked more than once over the years and gotten many conflicting answers that all sound legitimate.

Should you marry your best friend?

I’ve asked it to close friends and family members. I’ve asked that question on Reddit. I’ve even asked it on Twitter. No matter where or how I ask it, though, I always get a wide range of answers. Some say your best friend is the only person you should marry. Others say that’s the last person you should marry. Both give reasons that I can’t entirely disagree with.

As an admitted romantic, this really confounds me. Beyond complicating my efforts to write compelling love stories, it highlights the complexity and diversity surrounding love. Even though it’s a feeling most of us experience, people go about it in such wildly different ways. Remarkably, people can make those ways work and experience intensely meaningful romances.

To understand how, I want to share some of the responses I’ve gotten over the years. When I first started asking the question among close friends and relative, most said without hesitation that you should definitely marry your best friend. Your best friend is someone you know, care for, and stand by through thick and thin. Marrying them is just an extension of that depth.

I’ve seen relationships built on this. When one of my close relatives lost his wife after a nearly 50-year marriage, I could hear the strain in his voice when he said he’d just lost his best friend. To him, there was no line dividing the woman he loved and his best friend. The same person he hung out with on a Saturday night is the same person who bore his two children.

It seems definitive, but at the same time, I have another close relative who sees it very differently. To him, a spouse is someone very different from your best friend. A spouse is someone with which you share a unique intimacy that you can’t have with any other friend, no matter how close you are. Trying to mix friends and spouses is like trying to get a plumber to fix your computer.

Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, this same relative has been married to the same woman for over four decades. Their love is every bit as intimate as anyone else’s. I’ve seen them interact differently with each other than they do with their friends. This is how they go about their relationship and it works for them.

On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve seen people who’ve tried to answer this question prove themselves dead wrong. One of my cousins made it clear in seeking a partner that he didn’t want a best friend. He wanted a wife. He wanted someone he could share his life with and later build a family. He eventually did find someone and they had that family.

However, their relationship was never that stable. They ended up getting divorced after less than 10 years and it was one of those divorces that surprised nobody. My cousin and his wife both shared the same goal. They even shared the same approach to finding love. Despite that, they couldn’t make it work.

Something similar happened to a girl I knew in college. She was a romantic like me and she once told me that she would only marry her best friend. I believed her and I may have even encouraged her. Right around my senior year, she claimed she found her best friend and she couldn’t wait to marry him. Like my cousin, though, it didn’t work out. They got divorced.

Their reasons for breaking up aren’t mine to reveal. I’ll only say that if you spent a just few days with them, even at their best, you wouldn’t have been surprised about their relationship failing. They were one of those couples that just never took anything seriously enough. They acted as though just being best friends was enough. Relationships, no matter how good they are, still require work.

I could list dozens more examples that prove or disprove both sides. There are plenty of cases where best friends go onto become strong relationships. There are others in which attempting to turn a best friend into a spouse fails miserably. It’s possible that either approach could lead to a profound love story or an agonizing heartbreak.

To add even more complications to the mix, friendship and romance can be one of those things that just never intersects for some people. While some may disagree with me, I believe it is possible for people of different genders and complementary sexual orientations to be just friends. I’ve had female friends that I could never dream of marrying and I guarantee they would say the same thing about me.

At the end of the day, this is one of those rare questions where there are just as many right answers as there are wrong answers. The people who claim their answer is correct can cite plenty of examples beyond their own experiences that are perfectly valid. They could just as easily argue that the other side is wrong and be objectively right on some levels.

In discussing and contemplating this question for many years, I can’t claim I have more insight than anyone else. I feel like I’ve had experience on many friends, both with friends and with romantic partners. In light of that and all the other responses I’ve gotten from this question, I think the only true answer is best summed up with two simple words.

It depends.

I know that sounds like the kind of answer that only a politician would give, but it’s probably the most comprehensive. Some people just approach love in a way that precludes their best friend entirely. Others go about it in a way that practically requires it. Both can work if you and your lover are on the same page. Both can make for great romance stories with plenty of sex appeal.

It can still be frustrating. It can be downright counter-intuitive at times. It’s for that very reason, though, that love and romance can be so intriguing. If something can confound and compel you at the same time, then you know you’re dealing with something uniquely powerful.

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Filed under gender issues, human nature, Marriage and Relationships, psychology, romance, sex in society

Do Soul Mates Actually Mates Exist?

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When it comes to love, romance, and whatever else manifests in every song a boy band ever sang, the ultimate manifestation of this beautifully sentimental phenomenon is the soul mate. We’ve probably all heard about it in some form. Some are even lucky enough to be with someone that they consider to be their soul mate. Regardless of whether or not you care for the concept, we envy those people.

As a long-time romance fan and an aspiring erotica/romance writer, the ideal of the soul mate is the alpha and omega of the concept. It is to romance what Superman is to modern superheroes. It is the ideal to which we aspire. It embodies the ultimate example of what true love is and what we want it to be.

I’m not going to lie. That sort of thing makes parts of me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, among other things. Most people who enjoy romance to some degree probably feel the same way. The idea that two people have a love so strong that it’s practically interwoven into the fabric of time, space, and the basic laws of reality just feels so special.

It makes for both a great fantasy, full of more romance and passion than most can ever manage without seeing “Titanic” fifteen times in a row. It’s the kind of love that makes romances like Jack and Rose, Romeo and Juliet, and even Superman and Lois Lane seem ordained by destiny.

Now, here’s where I kind of have to put a dent in the time-honored fantasy. I know that’s kind of dangerous for a self-proclaimed romance fan, but I’m going to do it anyway because I think it’s a discussion worth having. It’s a discussion based on a simple question.

Do soul mates actually exist?

I know that me asking that after I just said it makes parts of me gush sounds like an about-face. I promise there’s a context to it and one that ties directly into how we go about answering this question. Whether or not you’re a romance fan, the ideal of the soul mate and our inherent drive to seek love makes it an important question to ask.

Before I give my answer, I need to add a few caveats to my fondness for the concept. Yes, it does resonate with me, somewhat, as an overall romance fan. However, as a fan of compelling stories and an aspiring writer, I actually don’t really care for stories built around the idea of soul mates.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think it’s a sweet concept. When I was younger and just starting to explore romance, I really liked those stories. As I got older, though, and my tastes in stories evolved, that appeal quickly waned. Whenever I read a book or saw a movie that ran with the concept of soul mates, it became somewhat of a turn-off.

That’s because from a narrative perspective, soul mates make for bland and shallow stories. If a couple are established as soul mates, then that basically renders any need to work or nurture their love moot. They don’t have to put in the time, work, or effort to become a great couple. Destiny and whatever supernatural forces behind their bond do that for them.

This is why I don’t care much for “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s established from the beginning that they’re “star-crossed lovers,” which is basically a more Shakespearean way of fate had ordained for these two to fall in love and there’s nothing anyone or anything can do to prevent it. Sure, it’s sweet and dramatic, but it’s a very limited story.

Those same limits that undermine a story are a major factor in answering the question. For someone like me, who follows romantic plots and sub-plots way closer than most straight men will ever admit, it shapes my perspective on what makes a great love story and what makes a real or fictional relationship strong.

Within that context, I’ll give my answer to the question. I don’t claim that this answer is definitive. This is just my opinion, having formed it from years and years of both consuming and crafting all things romance.

No. I don’t believe that soul mates are real.

I’m sure that’s tantamount to blasphemy for other romance fans out there. I understand that sentiment and I gladly accept the scorn that comes with that answer. However, I am willing to justify my answer.

It’s not just because I regularly write about the inherent flaws in the human brain, which make the prospect of achieving any ideal, be it perfect love or perfect justice, impossible by default. I think the concept, as a whole, does not fit with the whole process of love, at least as I see it.

Whether it’s love in the real world or love in sexy novels, falling in love and being in love is an ongoing phenomenon. It takes many forms and plays out in many ways, sometimes chaotically and sometimes dramatically. That’s part of what makes it such an appealing narrative.

Some of the best manifestations of that process, which I’ve gone out of my way to highlight, occur when two people work together to build and strengthen their love. They work together. They fight together. Sometimes they even clash, along the way. There’s never an endgame in mind. Their love is something that builds and evolves day-by-day.

In the real world, we see that play out in the work people put into their relationships. Whether it’s scheduling a sex night or going on some romantic getaway to Fiji, people in love put work into that love. It’s not something that just happens. For that feeling to remain strong, it takes time, effort, and understanding.

With soul mates, there’s no process to love. It just happens. The universe basically commands it. There’s no reason to put any work into it because those involved are so made for each other that they couldn’t drive each other apart if they tried. That kind of love doesn’t just rely on supernatural forces. It relies on two people’s thoughts, feelings, and desires being perfectly compatible every second of every day until the end of time.

Given the chaotic nature of the human mind, that’s just not realistic. It’s not even that romantic, when you think about it. I don’t deny that there are particular moments, such as a wedding day or the first time a couple makes love, where they’ll feel in that moment that they are soul mates. I don’t deny that feeling exists. As for the larger concept, as a whole, I think that’s about as real as Superman holding a black hole in his hand.

So I guess my answer does have a bit of a caveat. I do believe there are moments when two people are so in sync, emotionally and romantically, that they fit the mold of soul mates. Those same people can go onto break up, get divorced, or cheat on each other. That’s just the chaotic, unceasing nature of human passions.

Again, my answer to this question is anything but definitive. Perhaps there are other romance fans out there who believe I’m dead wrong and that soul mates do exist. If you feel that way, I’d be happy to discuss that issue in greater detail. For now, I simply ask that all those reading this contemplate that question and answer it for themselves.

Even if you’re not big on romance, it’s a question worth answering. It reflects both our sentiments and our aspirations when it comes to seeking love. As someone who is currently single, writes sexy stories, hopes to fall in love one day, I imagine I’ll continue contemplating this question for years to come.

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Filed under Love Or Obsession, Marriage and Relationships, sex in society, sexuality

Love Or Obsession: First Literary Edition

After writing so much about love, obsession, and the obscure, unexplored gray area in between, I thought I’d continue exploring that subject this week. I didn’t intend to spend more than a few posts on it, but it ended up being such a broad, engrossing topic that I decided it deserves greater scrutiny.

However, rather than just dig deeper into what constitutes love and what constitutes obsession, which can often lead to horror stories about stalkers, I’m going to try and approach this from a different point of view. I’m going to try a little exercise here. It’s going to be small, but it has the possibility to expand, just as my “Sexy Sunday Thoughts” column has expanded in recent times.

What I want to do here is fairly simple. I want to take classic romances from various sources, be they books, movies, TV shows, or comic books, and do a quick assessment on the nature of the relationship involved. Now there are some very complex relationships in fiction, so much so that I can’t hope to dig into every one of those complexities. If I do, it’ll be in a different post.

Instead, the purpose of this exercise will ask one simple question. Is the relationship in question more akin to love or obsession? Now I don’t claim to be an expert on the literature in question. I’m sure there are true literary buffs who would argue my assessment passionately. I perfectly understand that and I’m happy to have that debate. For now, I just want to get the discussion going.

For this initial exercise, I’m going to focus on classic romances from literature. These are the kinds of romances most people learn about in English classes and literature studies. They may also come from popular contemporary sources. Since this is just the first edition of this exercise, I’ll focus on romances that are most well-known. If someone wants to chime in on a more obscure romance, please do so in the comments.

Also, if you think I’m dead wrong in my assessment, please let me know why. Again, I’m not an expert. This is just an exercise that I hope will make people more aware of the differences between love and obsession, along with how it impacts romance stories. With that in mind, here’s the first round of “Love Or Obsession.”

Romeo and Juliet

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

I know it’s a classic. I know this is the romance most people cite when they want to embody the sappiest, most ideal form of love possible. However, having read this classic play in high school and seeing multiple movies of it, I still have a hard time calling it a genuine love.

I know that sounds blasphemous to those in literary circles. I don’t doubt that there’s some element of love there, but I think too much of it is built on obsession. These two barely know each other, which is very much a result of the circumstances you get with a play. Everything has to happen so quickly. There’s not a lot of time to develop this romance.

Even if there were time, a romance where every waking thought and every single feeling is centered on each other doesn’t give the impression of love and comfort. It gives the impression of desperation and extreme distress, which is hard to frame in the context of genuine love.


Sir Lancelot and Guinevere

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

This is another classic romance that’s built on a love triangle, a tool in romantic stories that tends to kill any meaningful passions like a thousand dead puppies. I’ve made my hatred of love triangles clear. This one is probably the most famous in classical literature. It can be argued that it’s probably the most refined and polished.

Granted, this is one love triangle that doesn’t make me want to bash my head in with a brick. Guinevere and Lancelot are both well-developed characters in their own right for the most part. However, too much of their character is defined by this love triangle. It’s kind of the only thing Lancelot is known for, wanting to hook up with his buddy’s wife.

On top of that, there’s not a lot of emotional depth to this romance. Lancelot and Guinevere never give the impression that their chemistry goes beyond just wanting to kiss and bone. They don’t seem to know each other on a more meaningful level. They give the impression that the forbidden nature of their desire is what fuels it, which makes it hard to see as genuine.

For that reason, I say this counts as obsession. It’s still not as bad as other horrible love triangles, some of which I’ve broken down on this blog, but that’s not saying much.


King Arthur and Guinevere

Love or Obsession?
Love

In keeping with Arthurian Legend, I feel like it’s important to assess the other part of the love triangle. When it comes to Arthur and Guinevere, the dynamics are considerably different compared to those involving Lancelot. For one, Arthur and Guinevere meet at a younger age and they do get to know each other fairly well before things get romantic.

They also make a genuine effort in pursuing their love, despite advice to the contrary. In the classic narrative, Merlin actually warns Arthur not to pursue Guinevere. However, he doesn’t listen. He still follows his heart and Guinevere embraces it.

Even though this romance does have some tragic elements to it, I think it has more polish compared to Romeo and Juliet. Arthur and Guinevere both build a live together and support each other for much of it. You don’t do that without having genuine love for one another.


Edward Cullen and Belle Swan

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

This one is kind of loaded because I know Twilight hardly deserves to be on a list that includes some of the most iconic romances of all time. I understand that, but it’s still probably the most iconic romance of the past decade or so. I know just mentioning it will bring out the anti-Twilight crowd. I understand the sentiment of that crowd, but I ask that crowd to temper their rage for the sake of this discussion.

There’s a lot of overly idealistic, overly cliched components to this relationship. It’s so ideal at times that it’s hard to take seriously. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, these two do get a chance to really know each other and become part of their world. However, I have a hard time calling this love because so much of their story, especially Edward Cullen’s, is defined by Belle.

On top of that, the idea that he watches her while she sleeps kind of skews the narrative into areas beyond romance. Watching someone while they sleep is something more akin to a stalker than a lover. That’s why, despite the passionate moments in the meadows, I rule this to be obsession.


Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan

Love or Obsession?
Love

This is a less contemporary romance, but one that’s still structured in a very modern context. Unlike Twilight, this book is a lot more detailed in who these characters are and why they do what they do. It’s easy to tell that the story has some personal elements for F. Scott Fitzgerald. This shows in how the book’s most important relationship, Daisy and Jay, plays out.

It’s hard to judge the depths of a relationship that involves infidelity. On top of that, the greed elements that are so central to the book make the passions harder assess because it’s not clear how genuine they are. Despite this, I see Jay and Daisy’s efforts to be together as genuine.

These two characters each have such comfortable lives, if not excessively so. However, they still pursue one another. They still make an effort to be together. As such, I do think there is real love between them.


Paris and Helena

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

When it comes to judging romance from ancient literature, such as the Illiad, it’s hard to put it in a modern context. This was a time when women barely had more rights than livestock and marriage was a loveless business arrangement that had all the romance of getting a building permit.

That’s not to say that the ancients didn’t appreciate love. One of the central romances in the Illiad revolves around Paris and Helena. This is the romance that starts the Trojan war and all the carnage that ensues. Passions have to be pretty damn powerful to start a war like this, with or without the help of the gods.

However, that passion is somewhat one-sided. Paris is clearly infatuated with Helena, but she doesn’t seem too receptive to him. It’s hard to feel that romantic to someone whose idea of a romantic gesture involves kidnapping her. Being so one-sided and built on an act that we consider a crime these days, it’s hard to rule this as anything other than one man’s obsession to have the prettiest girl in the land.


Odysseus and Penelope

Love or Obsession?
Love

Sticking with classic Greek literature, there is another iconic romance that’s almost as important as Paris and Helena. This one involves Odysseus and Penelope, two lovers who test the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s a test they end up passing.

Odysseus is away from his love for quite some time, braving the River Styx and all sorts of godly troubles along the way. Even so, he never does anything to undermine the love and trust of his wife. She never does anything to betray him either, despite being pursued by plenty of eager suitors.

The loyalty between these two is admirable. Like Romeo and Juliet, it’s very much an ideal, two people who love each other so much that they don’t look to others for a romantic outlet when they’re away. Unlike Romeo and Juliet though, this one has more depth. These two are able to function independently as much as they can function together. That’s a love that ancients and modern folk alike can appreciate.

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