Remember the dude that was staring at his own reflection for so long he fell in love with it and then promptly fell into the water to never come back up? His name was narcissus. What’s kinda dickish about the myth is narcissus looks like a hobo in every later depiction of him.
Anyway here’s the moral of the myth: stop filtering your selfies.
There’s a spin-off to this folklore. It’s a state where you crave for someone to love you and they do that by saying good things they say about you and you, on your part, then go on to say equally flattering things about the other person until your asses are sore from all the kissing.
You are not fooling yourself. You are fooling someone else in order to fool yourself. Nauseous-eous.
This isn’t new, of course. You may be familiar with this at work (sycophancy) and home (dad issues). But I don’t even want to walk toward that cesspool here. There’s far deeper sewage that needs cleaning-up: relationships.
Relationships tend to become contaminated by this form of narcissism easily. It becomes the crutch the relationship leans on each time things look shaky. Tell your man/woman something nice to make him/her feel special, wait for him/her to return the compliment, do this long enough, and you get to celebrate your anniversary by blowing off candles sticking out of bullshit. Congratulations by the way.
The simple explanation for this pattern is insecurity. But that’s an explanation that works for pretty much everything. There’s something far more significant and sucky playing out here: confusing validation with love.
You are staring at your partner’s reflection in a pool of sewage. You are not falling in love with one another. You are waiting for a push. This sacrifice is your idea of love.
The foundation of good relationships is freedom — from which comes understanding — from which comes maturity. What we call love is a coming together of all this. It’s the depth of feelings you are scared to confront. Because it can break you. It means finding your way up to the surface, together.
Quick aside: Humans are terrible when it comes to appreciating one another. Because we suck at feelings. The closer the relationship, the worse this gets. When was the last time you said something nice to mum (or dad)? Just the thought is gooey and nauseous. That’s because appreciation has become a trade. It was a feeling, once. And we are afraid to feel it because it makes us vulnerable. So instead we just stand there looking needy and awkward. It feels like so much work because it is work.
Relationships of narcissistic dependency eventually become toxic. It’s not the sacrifice you want to make. Manuals have long prescribed unconditional love as an antidote. You know how that worked. Your unconditional love becomes dependent on the extent of unconditional love you receive. Isn’t that the condition we were trying to overcome?
You tie one another in strings of self-deluded, mostly-inspired-by-shitty-movies ideas of love and affection and then wait for the other person to arrive on a freaking unicorn to release you and take you on a euro-trip. And when this doesn’t happen (and it never does), you fall. In love with the strings. In inertia. Into sacrifice.
Moral: It’s not worth it. Narcissus could tell you that.
The point is and has always been an appreciation for each other’s pathologies. You want to become one not through changing one another, but through the aloneness that comes with being together.
You want to be there for one another not through force and circumstance, but through hope and humanity. And you want to appreciate not because you don’t want things to fall apart, but because it strengthens what’s unbreakable in you.
In love, I hope, we rise.