Fromm's classic, The Art of Loving, is full of arresting ideas, if a little dated now,..I particularly like the distinction he draws between falling in love and standing in love.
Falling in love is perhaps the default idea of love today. When two people meet they are, by definition, strangers. So when they suddenly feel close and the walls come down, it can be possibly the most exhilarating and exciting experience in life. It seems wonderful and miraculous, not least for someone who has for some time being looking for the right person. Sexual attraction is the physical expression of that.
However, this falling in love is not lasting, since it is premised on the meeting of strangers. Once you stop being strange with this new person, the feeling of falling for them, and its exhilaration, will stop too. The miracle seems to be over. The risk is that the old antagonisms, anxieties, disappointments and so on flood back in and kill the previous experience.
At the time of falling in love, this just seems impossible to think about. Indeed, the intensity of the experience of falling in love, of meeting someone, seems to be the very measure of that love’s worth, again especially if when set against the previous experience of loneliness. This sets up a paradox though. If the intensity of falling in love is not a measure of love but is a measure of the collapse of previous loneliness, then falling violently in love when you meet someone might actually be the worst experience to have. Because once it is over, and it will not last, normal life – normal love we might say – can come to seem so boring. The risk is that people become addicted to falling in love. They can’t hold down relationships.
Standing in love, though, is what happens when you can.
First - is from Mark Vernon, whom I think is British. (hat tip Sullivan), who wrote:
to be able to be alone with yourself is a condition for the ability to love. If someone is attached to another person because they cannot stand on their own two feet, love may feel like a lifesaver, but the relationship is one of compromised love because it does not allow the other person to be themselves. To put it another way, if you are not capable of solitude, you might love to remove your loneliness, not to know another. Or you could say that the best relationships are about just being together, not doing stuff together. And being with someone requires you being able to be yourself.Second, is a piece also from Mark Vernon (via Sullivan) about Fromm, whom I remember reading in college. It's a difficult work. This defines falling in love (as opposed to standing in love)
John Bayley found a moving way of talking about it, when reflecting on how his love of Iris Murdoch took them 'closer and closer apart'. Or, if you are looking for a tip on how to find a partner, how about developing the capacity to enjoy spending a night in on your own!
Edward Gibbon, the historian, called solitude 'the school of genius.'
C.G. Jung advised people to have some time alone everyday for what he called 'active imagination', a time when you can let go.
William Wordsworth, in 'I wandered lonely as a cloud', talked of the 'bliss of solitude'. It develops the 'inward eye', for appreciating nature.
Of course, enforced solitude is a bad thing, even a form of torture. So be careful of too much solitude, and turning in on yourself. This is perhaps why religious hermits tend to live in clusters, 'alone together'; keeping their eyes looking out towards the community, as opposed to pure introspection, avoids madness.