I’m afraid that the movies have been largely responsible for this unhappy mentality. What is most remarkable about this fact is that, although most films seem to revolve about easily gratified sex, the portrayal of the associated acts is done so stupidly. One can easily see why this is so: sex, like the sound, the lighting, the graphics, the camera-work, the stunts, is treated as just another one of the many technologies that goes into the making of films. That is to say, the love scenes and the sex scenes are evaluated as triumphs of engineering with little connection to literature, biology, medicine or art. A truly successful artistic reproduction of the reproductive act would, in addition to depicting its ecstasy and tenderness, would not stint on revealing its squalor, horror and cruelty.
But to return to the subject at hand: I totally disagree with this definition of success in romance, and give my own: a “successful” romantic relationship is one in which the relationship itself has been shown to no longer necessary, or to be based on serious misunderstandings, and has been replaced by a more satisfying understanding that dissolves the relationship itself.
In every case, a successful relationship is one in which the participants have reached the level of realization that allows them to walk away from each other without bitterness or regrets. That is to say, “success” is achieved at that moment when the relationship breaks up in a shared recognition of understanding. It is not at all one in which the couple is bound, or imprisoned, or constrained, psychologically or through social pressure, for an indefinite period, sometimes for life.
Very often, the performance of actual physical relations merely complicates the picture, making this level of understanding far more difficult to attain. This point must be emphasized: I go as far as to claim that a truly successful romantic relationship is one in which the participants, happily and well satisfied, agree to separate before they have committed the physical acts which so often prove to have been so grossly in error.
This is the very opposite of being “unrequited”. It is “fulfillment” in the best sense of the word. I have known both the kinds of relationships: those that appeared to have been ‘unrequited’, yet which instead were fulfilled, as well at the other kind, in which the physical acts led to anger, bitterness, unhappiness, recriminations and profound depression. It is these relationships, “fulfilled in the Hollywood sense” that are truly unrequited.
Such relationships may be compared with the military strategies of the “condottiere” of the Italian Renaissance. They were masters of staging sham battles between city states, “conducted” in the true sense of the word. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, the mercenary generals got together, weighed the balance of forces, then decided the winner on the basis of who would have been the winner had the battle been fought. Hardly a drop of blood was shed. The belligerents lay down their arms to return to their cities and the serious business of living.
This is because – and I am amazed that otherwise intelligent people fail to recognize this – romantic relationships are wars! All of the passion, excitement, color, danger, physical exertion, egoism, rivalry, ego-gratification, sexism, sadism and racism that one finds in warfare enter into a love relationship, which is always a lover’s conflict . Why people don’t realize that one can’t enjoy the gratifications of warfare without the attendant suffering, brutality, bloodshed, sorrow, injustice, waste and futility that warfare must inevitably entail, is beyond me.
And what is a “successful” war? It is a peace achieved in such a way that everyone is sufficiently satisfied to be willing to lay down their arms and go home. The extraneous details of marriage, family and children may confuse and complicate this essentially simple insight. If a state of respect and understanding is achieved within marriage, so much the better. Yet it is truly mistaken to imagine that family and children are indicators of respect, or understanding, or “success”. It is so often the case that the opposite is true: the horrors of a bad marriage, these are truly the attributes of ‘unrequited’ love.
When both parties can walk away from a relationship, deeply cognizant of the erroneous perceptions that initiated it, with heightened awareness of the worth of their own lives and of each others: THAT is fulfillment.