1. On Failure. What does love mean to you? What constitutes a failed relationship? What about a successful one? Did you ever think of yourself as a failure because a relationship came to an end?
Love to me means safety, excitement, being completely the person I am and have the potential to be; it means laughter, tears, emotional closeness, shared interests and times alone; it means mutual support and a way through the emotional minefields of life; it means talking and sharing, forgiving and arguing openly; it means sex and aliveness; it means wanting the best for the other person; it means a song in the heart (even if, inevitably, that song is sometimes a sad one) and a brightening of the colours in the world; it means poetry, hope, inspiration, adventure and pushing oneself beyond self-set limitations.
A failed relationship is one which operates in a system of fear, control, emotional or mental abuse, lack of communication, unfaithfulness or deliberate wounding of any other kind. It is a Wasteland where the Dolorous Blow has been struck, the blood pours out from grievous, often sexual (albeit metaphorical) wounds, and neither partner is willing or able to ask the Grail Question. It is a place without trust, full of the thickets and hurtful briars of anger, resentment and denial. It is a barren landscape of blame and righteousness, cruelty and complete want of empathy. It is the state of mind in which, ‘I want to be RIGHT,’ has replaced the soft roundness of, ‘I want a relationship with you.’
A successful one is the opening of mind, body, spirit and soul to the music, dancing, solace and deep bonding between two people. It is the connection which needs no words. It is nectar and warmth and beautiful Autumn leaves, and knowing that, whatever your differences and quarrels, the umbilical cord of love and desire between you is stronger, more durable and lighter. It is laughter and passion, little names for one another and private vocabulary; it is equality and light-spiritedness; it is going to the depths for someone else’s suffering and not just skating on the surface; it is empathy and humour and sensitivity and sweetness and assertiveness; it is the marriage of minds as well as bodies.
Relationship end hurts hugely; it is like a total vortex of doubt, a hole in the protective layer of the soul; it pulls into question everything you had thought true: your attractiveness, sex appeal, interest value, future, past; it makes you feel that everything you have done, or will do, is wrong, clumsy, thoughtless and stupid; it plunges the world into a wobbling and greasy board of terror, and you become convinced that you will lose all your friends, especially those of the opposite sex, that no one will ever want you again – and that your are deeply flawed.
2. On Being Flawed. Are you more comfortable on your own or in a relationship? Do you think there is something wrong with people who cannot or would not sustain long-term relationships?
I was alone (though kind of seeing someone) for fifteen years – and it had its pros and its cons. Having said that, I love having a special person in my life: I love that deep connection and sharing – but, a relationship just for the sake of it? No thanks! Soul-destroying, that can be. I do not think there is anything wrong with the choice to live, and be, outside a relationship. Relationship addicts worry me more, to be honest!
3. On Eros. Do you require a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled?
I feel fulfilled in many respects anyway – but I prefer being in a relationship because, at its best, the joining of two becomes more than two and brings out the best in both. It can be a transcendent thing, a touch of Heaven on Earth. I love sex and am not the One Night Stand type, so a relationship is preferable from that point of view. But, if given the choice between a dark and abusive relationship and being alone, I would choose the latter without any hesitation.
4. On Soul-mates. Do you believe that there is a soul-mate for everyone out there? Do you ever feel that you are only half of the equation, and will be ‘lacking’ something until you find someone to share your everyday life with?
I think there is a big difference between the soul mate and the conventional partner (though some people are lucky enough to combine the two) – and I don’t think everyone has a soul mate waiting in the ether for them. I think we are whole in and of ourselves – but that sometimes, for no reason we can think of, we link souls with another almost without effort. We know someone instinctively, are on the same wave length immediately, vibrate to the same harmonics – and, despite having only known this person for five minutes, KNOW there is a very deep, and probably enduring, connection. There may never be an obvious sexual component to the relationship, let alone a marital bond, but, if honoured with this kind of friend, one is at ease and can be oneself and is a better person for the connection. There often is a highly charged sexual energy between you and the soul mate, but it is expressed in other ways. You may, for example, share certain creative outlets; you may have little shared codes; you will almost certainly be adept at pretty advanced non-verbal communication.
I have been very lucky: I have two soul mates in my life, both men. Neither of them has ever been a boyfriend. With neither of them have I had sex. But both are much loved by me and we link at a very profound level.
5. On Self-Love. Do you think that to be loved by others you have to love yourself? What does self-love mean to you? To love, can it sometimes mean letting go?
Self love is VITAL. Without its protective layer, we are vulnerable, in our open-faced low self-esteem, and tend to attract predators and abusers into our bodies, minds, hearts and lives. Self love to me means knowing that you are the best version of you; that you are complete and whole and perfect (albeit with flaws!) and that you are worth only the very best in relationships: that you are worth more than someone else’s sloppy seconds; that you are worth more than a quick revenge fuck, or a desperate end of the pub grope. Self love means you have CHOICES and do not need to grab the first available man/woman out of need, scarcity and desperation.
And, yes, love can sometimes mean letting go. Both love for others and the self-respect element of self-love. Love for my son, for example, constantly involves me allowing him to go into adventures which fill me with fear; it has recently meant my letting him go from my apron strings into his first proper relationship with a girl.
6. On Fulfilment. Can we only find fulfilment in others, or is it possible to be happy and find contentment in our other accomplishments, whatever our relationship status?
I think the two are completely separate. It is, indeed, possible – and very healthy – to find contentment in our accomplishments, much less healthy, I feel, to seek it only in others. We can only ever borrow another human being really, can’t we? Each one is a gift (or a curse) which, eventually, we will need to repay – and the ideal scenario is to enjoy that present for as long as it lasts, and then let it go. Easier said than done, though.
My writing, music and other hobbies/interests give me enormous happiness – and did do even when I was without a partner.
7. On Interpersonal Skills. Are people in relationships simply better at ‘people skills’ than those who are not?
No, I don’t believe they are. Some people with very poor people skills go into relationships for the wrong reasons: because they are insecure, wish to hide behind a more sociable other, because they do not wish to be alone, ever. And some people who live alone are brilliant with others.
8. On Project R. Do you think this a worthwhile project? In what way, if at all, did this project help you think through the question of “relationships”? Feel free to add here any other thoughts you may have on the subject that was not covered by the above questions.
A great idea, Vic – very worthwhile and extremely timely. Part of the reason the world is in such a poor state is because we humans have forgotten how to relate properly, both on the personal level and the global. We confuse need and loneliness with love; we confuse lust with love; we buy into fairy stories and Mills and Boon type books; we are so desperate for connection, that we hook up with monsters – and, too often, we forget, or sneer at, the spiritual element, the soul connection.