Martyrs for Love; or… Losing Your Identity in Relationships

“I could be martyred for my religion. Love is my religion; I could die for that.” — John Keats

When I first got married, there were giant stars in my eyes for my husband. I was so in love with this man, so inconceivably fond of him, that if there had been a way to swallow his spirit whole & make it a part of my being, I would have done so.

I wanted to be him. I wanted to mimic his values, his essence, his beauty.

This fan-like adoration stemmed from a young mind warped with heart wrenching devotion to love & the concept of marriage.

I was told that when one marries, two become one flesh, and this always produced an image in my mind of the wife melting into the husband’s chest cavity, creating one entity, one personality, & one brain (which sounds more like a creature feature film than a romantic expression of love).

I think we all start off thinking love & committed relationships to be this way. We hear the story of Romeo & Juliet as impressionable young ones & get a sense of love being this tragic, tumultuous obligation, ripe with heavy burdens & sacrifices.

And not in the tone of fair compromises, but actual ritual slaughterings, much like Juliet’s dreadful demise: a deliberate, self-afflicted knife through her beating heart.

Why? Because it was better to die than to live without her lover.

I call this the I’d Burn Alive to Keep You Warm complex, which alludes to a lyric in a post-hardcore song, but perfectly describes this fucked up, fatally dependent concept of love we seem to romanticize.

We hear these stories (& songs) & we celebrate them because they appear to symbolize a deep & incredible demonstration of intimacy, however delusional or damaging.

As for Juliet, she decided that killing herself was the ultimate indication of her devotion to Romeo, making her a martyr to love & a victim of brutal misinterpretations about it. She compromised her selfhood. She went a little mad. And we glorify her for it.

I often wonder what Juliet’s family & friends were left thinking after all was said & done. I am inclined to believe that the people in her village were not extolling her bloody offering to love, but scoffing at her foolishness.

“Silly Juliet,” they must’ve sighed, shaking their heads. “And he wasn’t even that attractive.”

The whole Romeo & Juliet saga is heartbreakingly dramatic & looks fantastically sappy on paper. But our conscious minds know that that kind of temperamental romance is terribly distorted. Yet, we’ve been conditioned to believe that this is the standard for love; that we must make unfavorable trade-offs for our romantic relationships.

Luckily, we see the falsehood in the I’d Burn Alive to Keep You Warm complex. (That’s what electric blankets are for, no?)

We don’t want to become martyrs for love.

We don’t want Juliet as our role model for idyllic intimacy.

We don’t want to transform into lifeless, dependent drones in a partnership that strips us from our individuality.

And we certainly don’t want to get so fucked-up-in-love that we lose sight of our precious missions, talents, & passions.

So what is there to do?

It seems that if we don’t want to lose our identities & minds to love, we must opt out of domesticated commitment. We must become completely self-reliant & stubbornly independent. We must swear off of heavy commitment & focus instead on the care & nurturing of ourselves.

But must we choose between these two very extreme, black & white options: unsympathetic independence or dangerous dependency on our partners?

We don’t have to.

There is another way to approach relationships, one that mixes elements of both extremes (independence & dependence) to create a stable, impenetrable middle ground.

This option involves all the beauty & freedom of individuality, yet still manages to uphold the virtues of unconditional companionship.

Those who choose this third option are self-possessed freethinkers. They have a respect for collaboration & a keen sense of togetherness, but value the complexities of their own identity & are wholeheartedly devoted to the organic expansion of it.

This third option is radical, revolutionary, & will change the way you view your relationships forever.


And I’ll tell you what that third option is in my next post.

(CLICK to read part two.)

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