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Susan Kane

Writer, teacher, author of the book “Introverts. How to use the features of your character.

Imagine an elegant Italian named Francesca. At the end of World War II, she meets an American soldier, marries and moves to a small farming town in Iowa. Her husband is a kind and devoted person. She loves her children.

One day Francesca’s family leaves town for a week. For the first time in a long time spent in marriage, a woman is left alone. Until the photographer knocks on the door to ask for directions. Thus begins their passionate four-day love. The photographer begs Francesca to run away with him, but she refuses at the last minute, and they yearn for each other for the rest of their lives.

This story doesn’t sound familiar to you. It is from the novel The Bridges of Madison County, which was published in 1992 and sold 12 million copies. Even if you haven’t read it, you may have seen the 1995 film of the same name starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Fictional history divided people into two camps. Some liked the line of pure love between the photographer and Francesca, carried through decades. Others appreciated the refusal of the main character to leave her husband, because true love is a constant work on relationships.

Who is right here? Is it time for us to give up our desire for perfect relationships and embrace imperfect ones? Or is it not worth losing faith in the unity of souls and soul mates?

Where does our thirst for perfect love come from?

In 2016, writer and philosopher Alain de Botton published in The New York Times essay titled Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. The material became the most read author’s column of the year. In it, de Botton argued that it was time for us to abandon the romantic idea of ​​​​the existence of an ideal partner who will satisfy absolutely all our needs.

In the wake of the success of the article, its author has conducted several seminars under the brand of his own organization School of Life, which operates worldwide, from Sydney to Los Angeles. I was among 300 people at one of them.

De Botton’s seminar builds on the idea that one of the most dangerous mistakes in relationships is believing that they can’t be made better and approached wiser. The writer believes that it is the fantasy of a lost soul mate that prevents us from enjoying a partner who is next to us here and now.

We constantly compare the imperfect person in front of us with strangers, whom we endow with amazing qualities.

Alain de Botton invites the participants of the seminar to complete an exercise called “The Anti-Romantic Fantasy”. We are shown four photographs of potential partners: two men and two women. “Choose the person who attracts you the most. Now imagine in detail five reasons why he may not be the most ideal partner after three years of relationship, ”the writer instructs us.

One participant selects a photo of a woman wearing a red headscarf with a sad expression: “She looks like my dog ​​when I leave her alone. I guess this woman can be pretty intrusive.”

Another participant points to a photo of a girl in the library: “Perhaps this girl likes to read books. But she’s the kind of person who will make you read what she reads. Only her choice is considered correct.

Alain de Botton is wonderful: he is a very insightful author and orator. But even as we apply his ideas to our personal lives, the question of Francesca’s desire and our desire for pure love remains open. What to do with him?

Why you shouldn’t give in to the craving for perfect love

When the longing for perfect love emerges during a relationship, it can feel like something is going wrong. The most deceptive part of romance is that a long-term relationship begins with the belief that our desire is now satisfied. The deed is done, the dream has come true. In reality, this is just the effect of the candy-bouquet period.

Gradually, real life intervenes in love in the form of daily conversations about how to maintain relationships and improve life, in the form of manifestations of human psychology. For example, you may realize that your partner instinctively avoids intimacy, while you, on the contrary, desperately need it. Or that you are clean, and your loved one prefers a creative mess. Or that you are punctual and your boyfriend or girlfriend is always late.

Most likely, some small detail will always be missing in your relationship. You will be one step away from the dream of perfect love, but you will never be able to touch it.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Lecturer, PhD, author of books on Sufism, mysticism, dream work and spirituality.

People who seek intimacy with others respond to this craving. They think the other person will satisfy her. But who among us has been completely, truly satisfied with a loved one? We always want something more, more affection and more intimacy. We want to feel God. But not everyone dares to plunge into the pain and longing that can lead to this feeling.

If you are an atheist or agnostic, you may not be comfortable talking about “feeling god.” However, believers, I think, understand what is at stake.

When you listened to your idol sing familiar songs at a concert of your favorite band, it was that feeling. When you met your love and looked at each other with shining eyes, it was that feeling. When you kissed your 5-year-old daughter goodnight and she said, “Thank you for loving me so much,” it was that feeling. All these are facets of one sparkling diamond.

And yes, at 23:00 the concert will end, and you will need to go to the subway or look for a car in the parking lot. Your love relationship will not be perfect because it is impossible. And the daughter will become a teenager, bring the first deuce and say that she hates you. All this is to be expected.

The Bridges of Madison County is not a story about marriage and an affair. It’s about the transience of the perfect moment and why it means so much to us.