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The Triumph of Hope Over Self-Knowledge...

I see this a lot in human relationships.  This idea, this ever lasting, real, life altering hope that we, they, us will become more than what is currently present and available in the relationship.  It is like there exists in us this overwhelming, life altering current of hope that defies all that we already know about ourselves, about our beloved, about the trajectory of true love’s course.

In the beginning, we hang on every word, we get lost in their narrative, we become the historian of their childhood, their dreams, their, well everything.  We are interested in the ending of every single errant speech about antidotal information. 

Now, we do not lose touch with reason, no, that we have all the while and it comes back to roost with a vegenance in times of turbulence, of fear, of shame, of feelings of less than.  But in the beginning, hope takes over, and calls all our shots.  We fall in love with this idea that this time, this person, this love will survive us to a place where we are able to believe for all time that this other person is immune to the things we already know about ourselves:  the weakness, the dishonestly, the greed, the sloth, the inability to compromise, the selfishness, the inability to set aside our own wants and needs for another.

And it is here, where our judgment lapses because it has to.  I mean, who would want to fall in love with a person who is selfish, weak, dishonest, greedy, slothful and uncompromising?  No one ever.  And so instead of grappling with these most human of defects that exist with us all, we pretend, like this person, our beloved, doesn’t have them, or only has them in cute ways, that fail to rise to the level of issue in our love soaked narrative we are peddling to everyone who will listen, and mostly to ourselves.

“We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through our union with the beloved, help to maintain (against  the evidence of all self-knowledge) a precarious faith in our species.”  Alain De Button, “Essays in Love”.

And as a divorce attorney for 29 years, I can tell you that this is so fucking true.  I see it daily, every single day of my professional life, replayed over people’s lives.  And it always starts the same.  Every single one, no exceptions.  NO EXCEPTIONS!

This triumph that hope has over what we already know to be true:  That we like men, not women, that we like women, not men, that we are capable of more than we currently show, that the other person is more capable in more ways than they are currently able to perform.  It is this bitch of hope, that we all die a thousand loving deaths.  Repeatedly because we fail to really use the knowledge we have of ourselves, and our own limitations and capabilities from the beginning.

And hope is a poisonous elixir, because it is capable of augmenting that which feels like it is in short supply, supplanting all factual evidence to the contrary and provide us a never ending narrative to survive our actual experience in this loving exchange.

But is is a mysterious cocktail, to be sure.  Because if we don’t drink it, each for the other, we likely shall not fall into love’s intoxication.  If the knowledge we hold about ourselves, and the other we are just coming to know, is capable of surviving hope’s all encompassing spell, we likely will not succumb to the magical thinking required, thereby seeing the warning signs, the flashing red lights, the whistles going off everywhere, that most others, in fact, almost all the others, see with a clarity that eludes us completely.

We are all so capable, those of us outside of hope’s charms and spells.  This is why our friends, our family and even co-workers are capable of seeing the ending of this particular affair long before we are even aware there is a problem.

When I talk to people who are in or on the brink of divorce, and they tell me their “divorce story” which always includes their “falling in love story.” I see the end usually within the first ten minutes.  I can see the signs, and I wasn’t even there.   And most often, the person telling, doesn’t even see it now, in retrospect, before the shit hit the fan.  They are just telling me what happened, with no ability to see how this all unfolded, they are baffled and confused.  They are just in this horrible relational state that feels super unfair and not really their fault.

And while I listen, I see it all unfolding.  The issues, the problems, the cancer that will rot this marriage to the core.  It is painful for me.  To see this person who believes still in the idea of this love story, who while telling, still cannot see the demise that has been long coming.  Because they are still intoxicated by the drug dealer hope.  And so long as you are buying what she is selling, you will always end up talking to someone like me about a love so great that you were sure it would never end...and yet there you will be telling me exactly how it went so wrong, and you will not even, still, believe it yourself.

And you would think that I, being who I am, and doing what I do for a living, would, be immune, capable of using all this information to my own advantage to avoid such perilous pitfalls in love and romance...nope, I fucking buy off hope too.  And honestly sitting at the edge of love’s demise for as long as I have, hope has burgeoned and become more powerful over time because I so want her to prevail over the reality of self knowledge every single time. I want love to win. I want us all to get what we want. I want hope to prevail and so I feed her all she needs to continue the narrative one more time...even with all my fucking knowledge, self and other.

And in the end, I think, we all succumb because it is so much better to hope than to deal with reality.  I mean, reality sucks so very often in this life:  we do not have the looks we wish, the money we think we deserve, the love we are capable of reciprocating, the job we deserve, the kids that appreciate us, we are disconnected and discontented with the reality of our existence so we pin the present to hope’s ever present tail and take a ride that always feels like the right thing when we begin.

Our own immaturity and childishness, our own need to believe is the thing that fucks us every single time.  Our need to believe that in the heart of another we shall find a salvation, a life, a love, that has never existed before...not within us, not within them.  It is a story that we tell to ourselves because of this innate need we have to believe, to really fundamentally believe in a person who appears, at first blush to make up for all the things lacking within ourselves.  We see or think we see in another the integrity we know lacks within us.  And so we invest with all that we have and are, in this idea, that this person, this other will carry us forward in ways that we cannot muster or manage on our own.

It has been my experience, both professionally and privately, that hope will always triumph over self-knowledge because it comes with this intoxicating elixir that tastes quite differently when consumed in solitary form, hope feels more real, more capable and more like reality when we drink it in in the presence of someone who turns us on, and lights us up in all the ways.  Hope is not unlike the pleasure of drinking alone versus drinking with others.  Sure, alone it gets us to that next level, but it is only when we do it with others are the possibilities made infinite.

And try as I might, there is not a sufficient antidote to the charming story hope creates in all our lives.  I mean, the only way to combat her prowess and power is to kill her off at the beginning, and who, for the love of all, wants to do that? Hope is the most successful drug dealer ever.  She is always selling because we are always buying and we are always buying because she is always selling.  And it is a stalemate of epics proportions...because we can no more give up the ideas and dreams hope is always pushing, and she will never take it from us, because it is all she has to offer in the end.

So the cure can never exist until the supply has been expended.  And then, the cure has grown quite bitter indeed.  Because, if we are paying attention, and there is nothing like a good explosive relational disaster to embitter us to all that was once holy, we see, if we are truly paying attention to the words we are speaking, the language we are using, we can see that this whole debacle of a dumpster fire we called love and loving was fucked from the beginning and it was all our fault.  Not that we created the quagmire all by ourselves, but this intoxicating and all encompassing denial, this consumptive and causatic reality was born not of life and love’s most recent circumstance, but with our own cooperation and investment oh so many years ago.  We do it to ourselves, again, still.

So hope shall always triumph over all our knowledge, information and previous belief, because, and this is very important, because we want her to. And that very simply put, is where it all goes so very wrong...again, still. And marriage, and love, is the place where hope prevails, it is her proving ground...forever because we just can't stop believing.

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