Love In Rebirth

Most of 2013 has been about rebirth for me and my wife. We revisited old places in our life and set out to establish a place that is wholly ours. After thousands of miles of travel, difficult events, deep discussions of love we have found where we want to restart.  That place is Columbus, Ohio. It is a place that is giving us an opportunity to slough parts of our life that weren’t intentional. Columbus has given us a chance to test our truths and try things again.

This year M Rose and I changed places. Instead of throwing a party for my birthday and having a quiet night for her’s we did the opposite. For my birthday dinner we went to one of the first places that we ever went when we first came to Columbus. Just the three of us and some very nice craft beer.

M Rose’s birthday started as soon as she got off work on Friday and kept going until Sunday at about 10pm. We had lots of food and drink and adult merriment. We had people we knew and new people over to the house. M Rose went on a big adventure, mostly with strangers, for much of Sunday. This is the kind of social extroversion that she rarely launches into of her own free will, but it was very exciting to see. For three-entire-days she had this excited aura for each new, slightly out-of-character event.

On Sunday we were eating some very good barbecue with our friend Laurie and I heard M Rose from the other room:

“I really like it when Carlos does [redacted] with me. He only ever does [redacted] when I am happy. He never really wants to otherwise.”

I really couldn’t help but smile when she said that. It was a funny moment that I never expected. As I thought about it I agree with her observation, but I had never thought about how differently I behave when my wife is happy. There are whole genres of behavior that don’t occur to me when she is grumpy.

Love’s Reward

It ends up being a little feedback loop. I spent a couple days encouraging her to do a bunch of things for no greater reason than self-care/celebration and the payout was not at all what I expected. Of all the thank you expressions that came from M Rose, that was the one that was the most touching. She was excited less about feeling happy than she was about the little things that state draws out of the world.

I like making/seeing M Rose happy, she usually does a lot of nice things for me when she is happy (like when we first started dating). But, it turns out that I do some things that make M Rose happy, because she is already happy. Even though, may be because, there have been very difficult moments and decisions this year we have rediscovered some of the little joys that we had when our love was young.

Love Means Helping

When I say that love means helping I don’t mean acts of service. Acts of service are easy. The object of your affection off-handedly mentions something wistfully, or pointedly, and you go out and take care of business. Simple, right?

But, that isn’t real help, that is doing. It fills the time of life and rarely accomplishes much more than that. Love as helping means hearing what is being asked as a concept, not as an action. One of my mentors from many years ago said that most interpersonal communication is either a request for or expression of desire.

When your loved one asks they are looking to be desired. When you listen, listen for the part that isn’t said. When you speak, you should do your best to leave nothing out.

If you want to be near your partner, don’t ask them if they want to move, tell them you want to be near them. If you want to spend time don’t ask what they want to do, tell them you want to do something with them. Desire is met with desire, and words of love encourage acts of love.

If you love someone, help them see it in your words, and they will return it.

Love is a Drug

Love (particularly the romantic variety) acts the same as a drug cocktail. Just like cocaine it is going to introduce you to a huge spike in dopamine and norepinephrine, just like Ketamine it is going to numb your pain, cause change in perception, and disassociate you from your conscious self. The result is a feeling of euphoria, energy, and intensified consciousness. On the negative side there can be intense feelings of withdrawal when love ends. The intense period where we produce everything that is needed to make the object of affection perfect only lasts a few weeks to two years. After that love-halo ends, love that lasts has to transcend merely biological processes and pass into social, psychological, and practical.

In my last post on The Philosophy of Love I discussed the four common philosophical, logical approaches to love as Union, as Robust Concern, as Valuation, and as System of Emotions. Across the philosophical models of love there are themes that can help to connect them and solve some of the weaknesses.

  1. At first Love is a hallucination.
  2. Ultimately, Love is a disassociation of Ego.

Try thinking of love not as the instigator of how you feel, but rather as a description of how you change under its influence. Your fantasies of the future, your decisions that favor the object of your affection, your drive to protect the magical feeling, your vulnerability with the object of your affection–these are not feelings that describe love, these are feelings that allow love to happen.

During the hallucination period, we make the decisions that establish our patterns and build the portions of our life that allow us to sustain ourselves in a state where the object of our affection is seen as an end unto themselves. We work to build a state where we share their emotions not because we have anything to gain, but because we are empowered by the connection. We work toward moving into the next state, the dissociation of our Ego as an act of Love. This brings us to, perhaps, the most important value brought by Love: the feeling of co-joy and timely support (compersion and loving kindness). Long lasting love means reaching a state where you no longer consider how the object of our affection reflects upon you.

Love is one part always remembering the best of our loved one (a dream of the past), one part always believing in their potential (a dream of the future), and one part allowing their presence and connection to be an excuse to ignore the rest of the world’s demands (a dream in the present).

Love is better than a drug because the more places it is applied, the more you can act in ways that are not driven by fear. Love becomes the practice of doing what is right for the moment and accepting the outcome. It may seem scary, but it becomes the rising tide that makes all of life richer, rather than comparing now to the peak hallucination.

Philosophy of Love

Up to this point we have been avoiding talking about love on the blog from the standpoint of philosophy. Today I am going to correct that and walk though the academic side of love.

The first thing that I want to clear up is that this is all going to be centered around interpersonal love, so don’t expect this to explain your love for Harley Davidson motorcycles or mid-century modern architecture. This is all about how one person loves another person, primarily.

When boiling love down, we tend to end at one of four elemental concerns:

  1. Love as Union
  2. Love as Robust Concern
  3. Love as Valuing
  4. Love as Emotion

I am not going to mention specific philosophers in the following descriptions because I want you to address the ideas based on their individual merit, not the people that presented the ideas. If you do want to see a version of this with quotations and citations to individual philosophers visit Stanford.edu

Love as Union

love exchange

Love as union is a primarily community based model of love. It is the model that is most at play in a marriage (legal or otherwise) or adoption. Love is the culmination of desire, reciprocation, and social conjunction. Love is the resultant state of subsuming individualism into partnership. The union of two people into joined concern can be both metaphorical and literal. Some adherents to this philosophy believe that only literal, apparent-from-the-outside union constitutes love. Once two people become (or desire to become) We, instead of individuals, they exist in a state of love. Some adherents to love-as-union have described the We as a separate entity from the people that form it, others believe that individuality is in conflict with the state of love.

One of the problems in this philosophy is it has trouble accounting for non-transactional love. If I have to be joined to you in a literal sense it requires reciprocation, which clearly is not always the case. Love as union has gaps in explaining love without goal, or love for the sake of the person, not for their outcome.

Love as Robust Concern

concerned cat

Love as robust concern is a logic based model for love. Person X feels love for Person Y because Y exhibits Virtue π sufficient that X sees the benefit and presence of Y as an end, not a means to reward. This model sees love not as a creation of We, instead it is my concern and volition that put me in a state of love.

Because love in this model sees a person’s love as driven by the individual’s internal motivation and preferences, it better accounts for unrequited love and loving your beloved for their own sake. Robust concern is potentially a very individualistic love because it is based on internal motivations, both known and unknown, so it allows for synergy of personal values. However, autonomy presents a logical hazard.

If your goal in love is to support your beloved’s best interests, how do you enact love when your beloved is acting against what you perceive to be their best interest? If you act in a way that counters their goals you would steal their autonomy. In taking autonomy from them you would be undermining them in the big picture, and so, be disrespecting the model for loving action. This would be a no-win situation in which both action and inaction are against the overall well-being of the beloved. Similarly, how could you love someone whose best interest you don’t want to support because of conflicting desire?

Some theorists on love as a robust concern give it a higher degree of interdependency, that the lover is transformed and beholden to concurrences with the beloved. In taking on empathy and emotional parity with the disappointments and windfalls of the beloved, the lover declines in autonomous identity. Love would then be a vulnerability to the beloved and a submission of personal identity.

Continued love after death, or prolonged separation, also present challenges for a logical valuation, because once a person is beyond your sphere of control, for harm or benefit, how can love be enacted? My personal view on this particular problem is that love for those that are no longer in our life can be handled through applying the formula in the past tense, but that creates an unfortunate line of argument that love is a form of fantasy–which is unpleasant for most people to think about.

Love as Value

Mimi Eunice

Credit: Mimi&Eunice

Within the philosophy of love there are two buckets that love as value falls into: appraisal of value and bestowal of value. Appraisal of value means: you have value, so I love you. Bestowal of value means: I love you, so you have value.

In a recent post on the price of love I discovered that people have a strong aversion to economic metaphors of love. I am going to make a distinction that many other philosophers make between price and dignity. Price is applicable to material goods, like 3 chickens are equal to 1 goat. Exchange of combinations of goods with equal price should be considered as value exchange without loss, because price is interchangeable. People are not interchangeable. Exchange of one person for another results in both incomparable gain and incomparable loss of value, so we will use a different word for value that is not interchangeable; we will call it dignity.

Love as Appraisal of Value

Person X appraises the dignity of Person Y and comes to one of three conclusions: respect, love, or neither. If Person X assess Person Y’s dignity such that Person X values acting in support of Y’s well-being, then X exists in a state of respect. If Person X also lowers emotional protection and reduces drive for self-protection in regard to Y, Person X exists in a state of love. Otherwise, Person X feels neither love nor respect for Y.

Love is the disarming of personal defense to offer vulnerability and accessibility to our beloved based on their display of dignity. This view allows for a clear understanding of depth of love and change in depth because it can be seen as proportional to dignity. Love as appraisal of value also allows for individualism because it is relative to the lover’s personal values and can hold feelings like attraction, protectiveness, etc. as expression rather than cause of love.

Where love as appraisal starts to become strained as a model is when we try to account for selectivity. Discernment of why you love one person and not another with the same qualities, and if you can love a person at one time and not another starts to erode the fundamental idea that human qualities are incomparable. In this model, is it ethical to deny love to someone who displays sufficient dignity? Also, can you have continuity of love even when a change in situation causes a temporary failing of dignity?

There are emotional caveats that can be added to the appraisal of value model to deal with selectivity, but they will take you into realms that are better described by robust concern or emotional models of love. The other option in bridging the gap is to attribute some degree of fantastical thinking to mitigate these issues, either crystallization of appraisal that is held as truth, or a forward projection of potential appraisal.

Love as Bestowal of Value

Bestowal is an a priori view of love. Love exists both before and independent of justification. The bestowal model addresses love in a mystical and ethereal way. It is constituted of unnamable stuff and results in recognition of details to condone itself. With bestowal it goes without saying that the beloved is worthy.

Unlike the appraisal model love is independent of the qualities of the beloved. Constancy is less of an issue because appraisal is descriptive of love, rather than prescriptive. Likewise, selectivity is easily solved by the fact love exists without justification.

Bestowal gives the best accounting for love of community, family, and affiliates. If love is simply projected upon its recipient, many questions posed in the other models are moot, but it creates different difficulties. If there is no reason in love, then there is also no responsibility and no action inherent in love. Bestowal is the model that is most susceptible to construction as delusion and manipulation as it puts the lover in a subsumed state with no agency against love. The lack of practical connection makes being the beloved an arbitrary state that can be evoked and revoked without apparent cause. Potentially this puts both the lover and the beloved in a position of question at all times.

Love As Emotion

Emoticon

The most concise description of an emotion is an intellectual and physiological state precipitated by internal valuation of an entity or object that produces a motivation. Emotions have an input and a response, they have a body feel and a mind image. Emotions are greatly affected by chemical presences (hormones, drugs, etc). Your mind can deduce an emotion from the chemicals the body produces, and your body can produce chemicals as a response to the mind’s images. Emotions are considered to have a target (sometimes called formal object). Both rational responses, like desire to flee, and arational responses, like slamming a door, are considered resultant expressions.

Love as emotion is confounded by the question of whether love should be seen as an emotion proper, like fear and anger, or as a compound emotion that describes the combined effects of proper emotions and their subsequent reactions and interdependencies.

Is Love a Proper Emotion?

If love is a proper emotion, it would require some form of specific target. It is often difficult to distill what this target would be in the many cases; particularly in cases of both positive and negative parts like feeling love for a family member that you don’t like being around. Additionally, love as a proper emotion would require enriching the definition of an emotion to account for some kind of differentiation of resultant expression that doesn’t require the introduction of another emotion to explain sexual and non-sexual love. Clearly if love is an emotion, it isn’t proper.

Is Love a Compound Emotion?

If love is an emotion, it is much more likely a system of proper emotions, or an arational resultant expression of that kind of system. This would allow for a very comprehensive understanding of selectivity and receptivity that includes intellectual and biological interactions with less stress to the model. Discernment becomes a knowable quantity for a person because it is a simple comparison of feeling a greater quality of yes than you feel quality of no.

A compound emotion model can allow for a wide variety of contextual values for continuity of love because it can address depth of love as the summation or synergy of several concurrent emotional responses. Likewise, a compound emotional model can allow for physical and community desire to be separated–this means that romantic and sexual can be seen as separate, but potentially compounding. If love is seen as a system of emotions you can also account for love being projected onto future or past. Compound emotion model allows for contributions of interconnectedness to influence the love as a resultant state.

If love is a system of emotions resulting in a state of empathetic response and supportive desire, then love can be seen as a historical narrative instead of an attitude. Each emotional response can be seen as additive, leading up to the eventual summation of love. Specific events, both positive and negative, can collect as a whole within the system. A wide variety of manifestations can then be covered under the umbrella of love: pleasure, frustration, hurt, etc.

If love is an emotion, then you need to account for external forces, fungibility, and irreparable loss of self. Because emotions are intimately linked to biological substances, that would mean that love could be fabricated, manipulated, and eradicated through external means. Further, regardless of the constituent parts, love can then be measured as biological processes, which makes people interchangeable and chemically reproducible. If love is an emotion and results in empathetic response, then you as lover are both bodily and mentally beholden to your beloved.

The gap that I see in love as an emotion is that the model allows for a passivity that acts against the general account of love as requiring expression.

What Does it Mean?

I can’t encapsulate all of love in a single model. Each of the distillations of love clearly has pieces that supplement and compliment the other models. The reality is that to adequately describe all of the qualities and actions that we associate with love would require, in some degree, to see love as being all four (Union, Robust Concern, Value, and Emotion) simultaneously.

To this end I have been working on two different approaches to a more unified conception of love that openly ignore the boundaries described above, and instead seek to connect their common themes.

The Real Cost of Love

It is expensive

 

When people talk about love it is often in poetry and songs. I do it a lot through writing lately. So, I am going to write about how the songs are lies: you can buy me love.

Love isn’t about what you do, it’s about what you give.

We each pay for love with some resource. Some of us pay with our bodies: with our hugs and kisses, our soft touch, our slap on the butt, the high-five, and the held hand. Some pay with our service: the ride, the extra trip to the store, the computer check-up, showing devotion, and free work. Some pay with our words: the poems, the songs, the please, the thank-you, and the love words. Some pay with presence: the wave from the stands, the full attention, making space, and being there in body and spirit. Some of us just fork over some bills: I got you tickets to that thing you like, you would look nice in this, and I bought my wife a George Foreman Grill on our second date.(I did buy my wife a Foreman Grill)

But, we all pay. If we don’t pay our love goes away.

by 呱呱

I guess that sounds really cynical, but it is sadly(?) true. Every interview I have performed for the 50 Love Project has boiled down to how the person pays for love, and how their love was bought and maintained. Some of the stories are sad; they are about how someone stopped paying the bill and love faded away.

We have talked about great dates, and broken down moments. We have talked about the a priori love of an infant you have just met and the enduring love of a partner that you can’t live with anymore. I have talked to people wearing collars (figurative and literal), and people holding leashes, deeply religious people, polyamorous people, monogamous people, and just a guy eating a hotdog at Costco in Oregon. And the theme is always there: the cost of love.

The stories are perhaps hardest when they involve loss. One of our interviews was with a man, Otto, who was disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witness church. For him there were very powerful positive effects from his ex-communication. Among the many emotional moments that were required for him to find a new church that he loves, there were two other important stories of love—his ex-wife and his father.

Through the process of disfellowship Otto was offered support from his wife, to some degree understanding, and opportunity for repentance. Here he was faced with a many layered problem of what the lose of love for his wife’s community meant for their love. He had to make a hard decision about what was the most loving action, try to bring her out or make it easier for her to stay.

For decades Otto would have told you that the love of his father was anemic and strained. But, when Otto came to the point where his devotion as a Witness ended, where he no longer had love to express for the church, he in many ways saw how deeply his father has always loved him. During a crushing moment of losing the love of his church and leaving the love of his wife, Otto came to recognize the devotion of his father. Once Otto tested the limits of his expression of love, devotion, he saw what his father had paid for love.

In our interview Otto described this moment with his father as the single most loved he had ever felt, when he realized that his father didn’t have ego about who Otto is. As a Witness, as a husband, as a man, his father took him for what he was. Otto’s father had paid a frequent price by not being prideful in the face of conflict over the church that they didn’t share, over life decisions that were at odds.

The price that you have to pay for love is Ego and Pride.

Every resonant story of love that we have heard has involved people who don’t invest their ego into who their lover is. When we hear about what makes people feel loved, many of them are about times when they see that lack of fear and pride in how someone is there, what another person does.

Communication is often claimed as the heart of a successful relationship. To communicate well you will often have to overcome fear. Fear that you will hear something you don’t want to, or fear that you will be chastised, or fear that you may lose something in your openness. Communication can help us work out the particulars of of our expressive price of love: the right date, the right words, the right presence. But, the real cost of love as a feeling is not being too proud to ask for help, not being afraid to ask what your partner needs, not letting your ego define your child’s life.

The price of love is letting the ones you love be what they are without letting it be a reflection on you.

For the Men I Miss During the Holidays

Today is a turning point for me. But, not a big one. It happens every year. I am on the 30-day countdown to my birthday. In spite of my general excitement about having an excuse to have a party and engage in a couple of personal traditions it isn’t a happy time of year for me.

This is the time of year that I miss my dad the most. Even though he has been gone a very long time he is still with me on a regular basis. Many of the things that I feel are important in my life are modeled after thinking about what I liked most about him. It really shows when I am around certain people.

I think that there was some positive in not having him around over the last decade. It has been easier for me to be the parts of me that he didn’t like. And, it has been easier for me to separate myself from the parts of him that I didn’t like. I can pare away the parts of him that I don’t aspire to without ever worrying about offending him.

Robert Bly’s Iron Johnalong with the writing of Joseph Campbell, were helpful in understanding that I was literally experiencing something that I would have to do, at least metaphorically. You have to bury your mentor. Obi-wan, Gandalf, Dumbledor, and Mom&Dad all of them have to be laid to rest before you can emerge as your own whole person.

I know the conflicts that I would have had with him over the years, but as I come into this part of the year he is the person that I want to have around. To share my weird problems with.

Our family trouble from the summer has left us with less to worry about when making plans, but also brings some weight. I’m used to feeling that there is an empty place at my table, but this year I miss Joe (my brother-in-law) too.

I after having him as a central part of the family Rose and I are building I miss sharing our weird problems with him too. Particularly, I miss sharing Rockford’s weird moments. Today I want to express my sincere thanks to the men that have been important to my life: Sean, Birger, Chris, Andrew, Eric, Joe, et al. but most of all my Dad.

8,500 Miles to Love

50love The Journey So Far

We have traveled 8,500 miles in Nessy (the Chinook van). This has included 18 cities. We have almost 200 online survey participants, 20-group discussions, about a dozen in-person interviews, and a handful of online interviews.

Along the way we have had surprise family struggles and lots of very frank discussions with people. One of the most interesting finds was this:

For residents of southern Michigan and northern Ohio that should be familiar. His name is Carlo F. Sommers and he lead a crusade for love. That was a major happy moment for me during this process so far.

One sad part for me so far is realizing that people are actually quite scared to talk about love. Most people we have met don’t want to talk about their personal feelings. They all start, and some never leave the space of, talking about what people believe. There has been a pervasive fear that they might give the wrong answer.

I can’t say that I have heard anyone say something that is categorically wrong; there are definitely trends that can be seen in what individuals see as the most important thing. Openness has been a big theme, understanding has been a big theme, and communication has been a big theme.

Here is my challenge to you: Write down what you think love is and read it out loud. Ask yourself if you really believe the words you are saying, and what is the most frightening part of enacting your beliefs.

Showing Love For Your Community

One of the looming questions for us in raising our cute beige baby is “how should we define the community he is part of?” I know there is going to be that weird moment when he asks about the very stark difference between black culture and white culture. I am quite aware that neither of these are monolithic, but I have never seen a place where the two are the same.

This question, how do you support the community?, is challenging even for otherwise very astute and inclusive people like Mikki Kendall and Skippington. Recently they both have said that anyone who is married to a white person is of questionable value to black communities. I think that is bullshit.

Mikki Kendall, the woman who started #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and Skippington had an extended thread about the value (or lack) of interracial families for the community of the members. In the middle of their attack on feminism for disenfranchising women of color they broke down into a discussion of whether an interracial child is “Black enough” to be part of the community–that hurts my soul.

Skippington

One of the things that Rose and I discussed when we set out to find our new home was finding somewhere that Rockford would grow up with access to black communities. In part I want this because I feel like I missed that opportunity when I was a kid.

Ultimately, I want to pass on to Rock that you should know your neighbors. You should look people in the eye and greet them. Even though he will likely want to escape the neighborhood that Rose and I choose, I want him know that his life will be happier if knows his neighbors.

Making the Difficult Decisions With Friends

In my mind there is one really standout moment where I had to make a very difficult choice about how to support one of my friends. I had to decide which of two bad decisions was most supportive of what I knew my friend’s goals to be.

Back in 2006 I received an unexpected phone call from one of my friends. She wanted to talk to me about her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is one of my closest friends, both then and now.

She was on the fence about whether she should break-up with him. Part of her felt like the relationship was stale and had run its course. Part of her felt like they had a good thing, albeit not excellent. She felt like the fact that they didn’t live in same city was a problem, but she also liked the freedom that built in.

We spent well over an hour and a half on the phone. It is a supreme oddity for me to talk that long on the phone. We talked about her actions and his actions, her feelings, my thoughts, my shared history with both of them and so much more.

At the end of the conversation there was no clear answer to what was going to happen. While she felt much more comfortable having talked about it and being very thorough in thinking about it, she still hadn’t decided what she wanted from the impending conversation with her boyfriend when she went to visit.

This is where the situation became most difficult for me. I was faced with a decision that felt like a catch-22: should I tell him that I had this conversation?

On one hand, I have always believed that forewarned is forearmed; on the other, I felt loyalty and affinity for both parties. What if she decided that she didn’t want to break-up with him? What would happen if she decided not to even bring it up during that trip?

Not telling him seemed like it would make him mad at me. Telling him seemed like it would cause him to stew on the issue, or confront her and make things worse. I knew for a fact that this was the girl he planned to marry.

I told her that if the fight got heated (I was pretty sure it would) that it was okay to tell him that she had talked with me. To ask him if he thought there was anyone who would have done a better job advocating for him and his interests in the relationship.

In the end I chose not to tell him anything. At the end of their weekend together I heard from both of them. She thanked me for talking with her and letting her throw me under the bus. He told me that he understood why I made the decision that I did, that he couldn’t really offer any good alternative, and that he didn’t want to talk to me for a while.

So, what about you, what would you have done?

Asking For What You Want in a Relationship

As promised in the comments of Who Gets to Choose: the story of the time I said no to a break-up.

Long ago when I was a different person–not entirely, but quite a bit–I was dating an enchanting, vivacious woman who told me, “I don’t think we should date anymore.” This was not a huge surprise to me, there had been other hints dropped. During this moment I realized that I had no desire to stop seeing her, and since she used the word think I asked her to walk me through the reasons why.

At core it came down to the fact that I wasn’t the kind of person she saw herself marrying. Since her goal timeframe for marriage was still the better part of a decade away, I made the argument that there was no necessity for us to break-up. In fact I said, “No, I don’t agree to break-up with you. I am going to treat you the same in the future that I treat you now.”

So, how do you think that worked out? I followed through on my promise by inviting her to see a move the next Friday. That dinner and movie ended the way most of our Friday night dates ended. I continued to stop by to see her during the day when I was in the neighborhood (this was during the time that I didn’t have a phone), and continued to send her e-mails when I thought about her, and invite her to do things. For many weeks very little changed. We spent less pre-planned time together, but we still had a very intimate connection.

I don’t think that she liked this period of our relationship as much as I did. In the end she took the step necessary shutdown my behavior. She got a new boyfriend. Honestly, that didn’t stop me, but it did give her a much stronger reasoning for saying no to invitations (only dating one person at a time) and soaked up a lot of the free time that offered me opportunities to interact with her.

I know you may be wondering what this has to do with asking for what you want. Both of us put our cards on the table: “I don’t want to marry you,” and, “I don’t mind, I am going to preserver until this is over.” In the end I think we both got what we wanted: she did eventually marry someone who isn’t me and I got to not change my behavior.

As far as who chose our future I would say that I think she did. She was in a position to decide how much contact and opportunity I was given to win her over to my side. You could point out that I had an opportunity to up my game and win her heart, but I don’t think that was a real possibility, even if I had become a different person it would have fizzed and I would be in same place, and maybe resentful of what happened. You could point out that I could have actively pursued her later on, and maybe I could have, but I don’t think she would have liked it.

Ultimately, I made one really big bet. I bet that if I was open to whatever the future held, things would eventually come around. In many ways I think that they did. I would still consider her a good person, I suspect she would do the same. That reminds me…I need to write some songs for our epic supporters!