School of Life: The charms of unavailable people
This week I watched a video of the School of Life. Not because I searched it, but because it magically appeared in my overview when opening YouTube. I can hear you think now, no no, that’s the algorithms betraying your interests and desires and secrets, blah blah blah, but that’s fine if you like to see it that way and who knows you are right :)
“The School of Life is an educational company that offers advice on life issues. It was co-founded in 2008 by Alain de Botton. It has branches in London (headquarters), Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, Melbourne, Paris, São Paulo, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, and Tel Aviv
People following my blogs know of my battles with love in and through Second Life. The always edgy sides of being happily married in RL and never giving that up, yet also enjoying love in Second Life as an extra. It may show a need, a desire for more, or just being selfish to also relate in a virtual way, but like with all love issues there never are simple explanations why things happen and why we act in a certain way or fall in love with an avatar we most likely never will meet. The video I watched made things clear in a way I think many people in Second Life will recognise and in general all people who are using digital platforms with chat/cam options. Skype, Messenger, Snapchat, Tinder, Instagram etc etc etc all are available with a simple app and click and can open a new world with contacts all over the world. Some use it for functional purposes only like exchanging work related information, others use it for seeking partners for life or sex, and then there is the group of people who use it in a way to experience new forms of love or extended forms of love without the obligations of marriage for reasons of not seeking that or being occupied already. I am sure there are more variations than the ones I mentioned.
This all sounds a bit like it is a planned and organised strategy, but in most cases people just stumble upon people and their attractions and then things happen. Especially on virtual platforms things can happen fast, we all know that, because certain RL barriers are not there and because chats often enter a deep level much faster than a ‘let’s do a coffee together’ chat in RL. These RL barriers not being present sounds like perfect and it is sometimes, but it also creates a new barrier we often are not aware of maybe. The barrier of ‘no risk’ making it so attractive it can become a tricky or ‘false’ way of loving maybe, or at least a way of loving that can create issues on the long term.
Text from the video
It’s an odd feature of love that some of our most romantic moments can include these scenarios: – being with a lover who lives a whole continent away from us and can never move to be closer. – an infatuation with a lover who is married to somebody else and has no will ever to leave them. – a romance with someone dying of a disease that will kill them within a matter of months. – a crush on someone at the library – who we never talk to yet think of obsessively (even when it turns out they have a partner). – the last days of a holiday romance before we have to take a gruelling 12 hour flight back home. What unites all these situations is an external obstacle to love which, paradoxically, serves to make our desire more intense.
We might suppose that our love would be strong in spite of the challenges – but the situation is weirder than this: our love is strong precisely because a proper relationship is not possible in the real world, because love is fated to be in some way unrequited or incomplete. People stuck in these unrequited situations can garner a lot of sympathy and seem like the natural friends of true love. But they tend to be no such things. They are timid visitors to the land of love, who have carefully chosen situations which will prevent them from ever taking up more permanent residence. They are self-saboteurs, who would rather be in control of a sad situation than half out of control of a happy one. They have carefully made sure that there is no chance to disappoint or to be disappointed. It is the external obstacle that gives them the security to surrender themselves totally to feelings that they would keep well at bay if – miraculously – the obstacle were to be removed.
To feel a lot for someone who is available is an emotionally highly flammable requirement. The possibilities for getting hurt are enormous. We might learn to trust a lover over many years, and then promptly find that they had decided to leave us, or died in the night. We couldn’t survive; our defences mask too gelatinous an interior. We would have given them the keys to our self-confidence and direction – and would struggle (after so long) to know how to carry on. Not all of us have the psychological histories that make us robust enough to dare to enter situations where mutual trust is a risk we can endure day-to-day.
We may have been too badly let down as children (perhaps a parent left or humiliated us), and are at some level therefore profoundly determined never again to surrender in the true sense to another person. We don’t put it that way to ourselves of course. We are most likely not even aware of the pattern we’re involved in; we just feel very in love whenever someone happens to reside very far away while we report that the person who has an apartment round the corner is truly very boring and not that sexy. It sounds – for a time, before you can see the pattern – quite plausible.
The true challenge of relationships is not to fall in love with someone who may never want to see us again: it is to accept the far more interesting, and truly heroic challenge, of falling in love with someone who isn’t dying, isn’t stationed in the Arctic or married to somebody else – and would have no objection to seeing us pretty much all the time. Impossible situations feel so romantic not because we have found a soulmate, but because the absence of risk has loosened our hearts.
We should – with time – more fairly learn to dare to turn our amorous attentions to that deeply dangerous threatening but ultimately rewarding character: the person we know, the person who likes us a lot, the person who is available all the time. Now that would be truly romantic.
How (c)harming I am
For me it is crystal clear I am unavailable as RL love for anyone else than my RL partner as long as we live together happily, which is the case here. I also am aware this the reason I date/relate in Second Life with limited commitments. It creates a safety I need and will not bring a risk into my life I cannot and do not want to take. I also prefer others to see/ treat me like that, to be unavailable as RL love and to not commit to me in the ultimate way like in RL. That creates the second safety I also need to feel ok enough to be able to relate and to know I will not be claimed or expected to show up like I show up in RL with my partner. To be free of expectations and obligations that come with a committed love relation like in RL is essential to function as partner in Second Life for me. Even so I believe people can have a meaningful and deep love connection like this.
Others may feel it different, I only can speak for myself, but I do think many can identify with these safety precautions, even when not doing it all with full conscience maybe but as natural approach. It works perfect when 2 partners can agree on this and act on this. It becomes problematic when they differ too much in views on relating like this. The video explains why (the desire for) unavailability is so attractive. It also tells why choosing different will reward more, which of course is true when finding that perfect soulmate and more, but it clearly does not shed a light on a platform like Second Life where many people do not seek that kind of rewarding love for a RL, and prefer to limit it to SL and as rewarding as possible only.
One way of looking at myself can be like this: selfish narcissistic bitch who only wants the fruits of sweetness, cuddles, sex and attention, and a hell of a partner for others who want more.
The other way of looking at myself can be like this: realistic, loving and caring person who has a lot to share in passion and character, just always clear in her limits and therefore not being a fraude or fake, but honest and strict in what is possible.
So, how (c)harming I am depends on what one expects and desires from me. Call it selfish, call it wise, call it what you like. Your characterisation of me will depend on your own views and needs in this. And of course I will defend my choices since I do not see them as selfish but as normal and respectful for my RL. I know I can love deeply and with that create a bond that feels like unbreakable, but don’t mistake that for letting go of my limits in committing. It will never happen and therefore I am dangerous if more is wanted. That’s not charming, also not necessarily harming, because that as well depends on how someone copes with differences, choices and consequences.
Second life and First life
Love is love, and yes I do recognise that pattern they speak of, but do not see it as a bad thing in Second Life. It would be less okay when I would use Second Life as dating agency and willfully and knowingly would seduce others to satisfy my personal desires, regardless what it does to them when I would say goodbye after that and on to the next one on my list. (I have no list to be clear). I try my best to take care of the other in this and my advice always will be to not see Second Life as a portal for real life love too much. Or to not date/relate unavailable people when you seek otherwise.
If a situation becomes complex due to this available/unavailable issue and the different nature of commitments linked with that, I think it is fair to say, no one is really guilty, but just trapped in an impossible love with a romantic element that attracts and works like a magnet, but also will create a gap with dead ends if the complexities start to kill a mind and change a trusted love into one with distrust.
I am happy to have taken the ultimate risk in RL concerning love and relating, but I cannot do that simultaneously and in the same way in Second Life. This makes me a good partner actually, one you can trust to not cheat on you and not walk away from you, in RL. In Second Life that can happen however, because like the name states itself . . . it is SECOND and not FIRST life. Feeding a Second Life with First Life commitments and promises only will increase the tragedy and drama when it one day ends and destroys the person who needs more than can be given. So I will not feed it that way and hope it prevents a too big drama when it ends or becomes itchy. If that fails I at least tried to lower the impact of it all. Nothing much more I can do. Endings never are easy anyway, also not for the one ending it, but to be the one who is left behind always is worse. That being said I have one more time sharpened my views on Second Life love and I guess / hope it all adds to growing insights and what not to do :)
Two songs on both ends of the unavailability spectrum
When more is wanted, charms will die.
And yes Kristina Train sounds a bit like Norah Jones.
When I hurt you, be good to me
When I tell you what I see, don’t punish me
Just smile as you fall in love
You’ll find somebody (don’t beg for love)
There’ll be somebody (don’t beg for love)
Tired and I’m still here but I’m not yours anymore.
There were nights when you held on to me
But the ship we’re in was no good for me
Just smile as you blow away
And you’ll find somebody (don’t beg for love)
There’ll be somebody (don’t beg for love)
I’m tired and I’m still here but I’m not yours anymore.
And this is what it will do to the other when charms become harms
Just wandering, with no place to go
Since I lost you, lost you, all I ever do
Is be wandering, ’til I wander back to you…
Oh, I’m wishing, been yearning for your kiss
Oh and I’ve been missing, the warmth of your caress,
Since I lost you, I lost you, all I ever do
Is be wandering, wandering, wandering
Wandering, I’ll be wandering, ’til I wander back to you…
I look on every corner, down every dismal street
Are you there, are you there? Oh darling I repeat
I visit all familiar places, there’s no one there but me
Where can you be? Where can you be?
Oh darling, where can you be?
Oh I’m praying, your touch for me has grown
Oh and I’m saying, for before it’s not been known
I love you, I love you, and all I ever do
Is be wandering, crying, I’ll be wandering, wandering
Back to you