9788711655818

Kirsten Ahlburg

Entering Couplehood

and Taking Leave of It

Translated by
Ib Gram-Jensen

SAGA

When We Fall in Love

Daniel was a serious, introverted man. He was not very convivial. Rather than partying and having fun with his friends he devoted most of his youth to studying history and literature, gradually making himself omniscient in these fields.

Hannah was a carefree, spontaneous, extrovert and optimistic woman. She loved to have fun and was generally speaking always happy and cheerful.

When Daniel and Hannah met, they soon fell in love with each other, different as they were. Daniel was attracted by Hannah’s carefree temperament. He needed a cheerful, spontaneous touch to his life, and so Hannah was a godsend. When Daniel was with her, he was able to forget all about his seriousness and his studies and laugh and have fun instead, something he could never do before. He thought Hannah was wonderful, and suddenly his life was meaningful. When they were apart, Daniel would be thinking of Hannah all the time. He would visualise her face and write her beautiful poems and mails. In that way he felt close to Hannah and only that made the separation bearable to him.

Hannah was immediately fascinated by Daniel as well. She was amused by the way she was able to make this serious and highly educated man laugh and ease up. And she loved listening to him when he gave her a share of his wide knowledge of history and literature, or recited some of his beautiful poems. Although she had never been interested in literature before, she suddenly perceived the world of literature as a beautiful flower opening in front of her eyes. And Daniel was delighted that they had this interest in common.

The more Daniel and Hannah got to know each other, the more infatuated they grew, and the less realistic about their relationship. They were too intensely emotional about each other to see straight. They saw only each other’s good qualities, and that is how it is when people are in love. They were too intoxicated by infatuation and the difference between them to see that some of the other’s qualities might be obstacles to some of the things they would eventually need to realise in couplehood too. For instance Hannah never imagined that Daniel’s keen interest in history and literature might not leave room for talks about personal matters, or that he might not be able to relate to the near things at all. Nor did she imagine that Daniel’s serious and introverted nature might eventually annoy her when she was to introduce him to her friends and relations. Instead she idealised Daniel. She only saw his good qualities. The same was true of Daniel. He did not imagine that Hannah’s spontaneity and optimism would ever irritate him. Even when Hannah’s friends warned her of Daniel’s bad points, Hannah would soon find a positive explanation. And on the first occasion when Daniel started grumbling about Hannah being late for a date - and only five minutes at that - Hannah was not long in construing it favourably rather than becoming sceptical and thinking Daniel might have a problem about losing control and handling his anger. Instead she was happy and thought he was angry because he loved her and could not do without her. She was neither willing nor able to let go of her idealised image of Daniel, because then her intense infatuation would burst.

When Daniel proposed to Hannah after a period of only three months, she accepted his proposal at once, and Daniel promised to wait on her hand and foot. He would always love her and take her to the theatre and to historic spots and show her the world he had been studying for so many years. In return Hannah promised to bring light and happiness into Daniel’s life, and her acceptance of his proposal was wholehearted.

Many couples will recognise the above infatuation and recall it nostalgically. For infatuation will rarely last, and after a few years’ marriage or couplehood most people do not understand why they doted on their partner the way they did during their period of infatuation. But there is a reason why everything seems so rosy. Infatuation throws us into a state of mind different from our familiar one, a state of mind in which we are unable to be clear-headed. Some people use such expressions as ‘being in the seventh heaven’, ‘being on cloud nine’ or ‘be blinded with love’. Those expressions describe the state of mind one is thrown into quite well. One lets go of one’s prosaic outlook, is blinded and loses contact with reality. Infatuation is even comparable to drug taking. One feels intoxicated and delightfully weightless in the company of one’s beloved (when taking the drug). And the absence of one’s beloved (the drug) will produce a sad feeling of emptiness.

In such a state of intoxication it is impossible to be clear-headed. One sees only the good points in the beloved one and will dismiss anyone who attempts to make one see straight. It is as if infatuation programmes us to overlook unpleasant qualities in our beloved, no matter how obvious they are to others.

People do not only have an unrealistic perception of the beloved one’s character. They also have an unrealistic perception of their own ability and may easily promise each other far more than they can possibly do. They describe all the things they are willing to do for each other in the future, hoping that the other will be unable to resist and will eventually choose them: a kind of unconscious salesmanship. They do not do so because they want to cheat the other one in any way by selling a wrong commodity. Momentarily they actually believe that they will show their beloved all the historic spots and take him or her to the theatre, as Daniel intended to do. For they do not know their own limits and indeed several couples will eventually realise that the things they promised are never going to materialise.

Another characteristic of infatuated couples is their feeling of having much in common. They think they are very much alike and have tastes in common. All of a sudden they may find the kind of music their partner likes incredibly beautiful, even if they never liked it before. The fact that the other likes something is enough to make oneself like it. For example Hannah had never shown any interest in literature before. But when Daniel recited poems and passages from novels, she became deeply fascinated by this world, after which Daniel concluded that they had tastes in common. Recovering from infatuation many partners who used to say they were unbelievably alike will describe each other as very different persons.

The reason why many will disregard their own tastes to engage themselves very intensely with those of the other during the period of infatuation is that they need affinity and intimacy. They want to be so closely bound up that they willingly let go of their own and give themselves up to their partner and his or her world just to be together. In this way they make themselves believe they share so many things, and what differences there may be as to temperament, interests and life aims melt away because of their wish to please, have affinity and sell themselves to win their beloved.

Infatuation is a wonderful feeling that delivers us from our humdrum everyday life. It brings out our good points and makes life bright and hopeful. We would not miss it for the world, and nor should we. As long as it is there, we should abandon ourselves fully to it and just enjoy it while it lasts. We only have to remember that it is all illusion. We have to remember that things will be back to normal, looking less rosy. What you can do is to moderate your expectations while giving yourself up to your beloved: if you are able to do so, you will protect yourself from those blows the future is sure to give you. Because the more intense infatuation was, the more the couple’s subsequent disappointment may be if they think the soaring reveries they have about each other’s incredible qualities during infatuation are realistic.

Dating

She wants a man and would like to have children, but where is he to be found, and how is she to flirt with him? Jennifer does not have the slightest idea. Her female friends have met their sweethearts and husbands at college, at their workplace, at parties or during holidays. Jennifer has tried travels too, even travels for singles - but without success. She has also been attending evening courses and university extra-mural courses, but she did not find a partner there either. She has even tried social events for singles with dance, dinners at restaurants and pub-crawling, but she realises that it is no use to her any more. She has grown too old and does not want to stay out all night, being dead tired throughout the next day.