It was raining outside. It’s been quite a while since the last time rain pours in Manchester. I was opening the door when I saw granules of raindrops spread all over. At first, I thought I won’t be able to jog because of the weather and I just have to wait for the rain to stop until, at least, the next day. Besides, my friend will certainly be reluctant to run even if I force them to.
But somehow, my willingness to run got even bigger. I don’t know what motivated me, knowing the fact that I’m currently suffering from a sprained ankle. I just want to run regardless of the weather condition or companionship. I want to run and that’s final. So I geared up, walk outside the house, and started running.
It’s been quite some times since I run alone, all by myself. The last two weeks had been a major fun since me and a couple of my friends made running our new routine. Every session we spent together was a picnic; full of stories and laughter. An extra session would only mean extra foolishness, which will leads to more stories. Simply put, it will always be a thrilling experience.
But running alone is a different experience. It’s a time of self reflection. Running alone means that you are in complete solitude with yourself and no one else. I started to question too many things whilst trying to figure out each of them simultaneously. It is a story about you against your own self; and no other adversaries bigger than what it is.
One question I had in mind in this particular morning was about affection. I was asking, to my own self of course, about the complex mechanism of love and things related to it. I asked about the types of relationship, the importance of physical affection, and the paradox of presence and essence. I couldn’t contain myself from asking such questions, but I don’t know why. I haven’t yet figured out the reason behind those questions. One thing I do know is that love has too many definitions.
Similar to nearly every single thing exists in our very world, no one could ever agree on defining what love is. For one, love might be a form of ultimate happiness, but for others – such as Robert Sternberg – love could be a triangular relationship between intimacy, passion, and commitment. Love could take the simplest form in one being while it occupies a very complex structure for another person. But, I won’t overcomplicate things by going after the endless debate of what is love. Let us assume that love is happiness and happiness is the one purpose of one’s life according to Armand Nicholi.
If happiness is the purpose, then the next question is how could people achieve it? Which road does one has to take in order to gain absolute happiness? Sigmund Freud said that sexual love is the prototype of happiness. He implies that ‘genital erotism’ will be being’s modus operandi to achieve happiness. Unfortunately, I found such idea to be extremely patronizing for both gender and for the sake of romanticism itself. I then tried to search for alternatives and I found John Alan Lee’s typography of love to be more intriguing. Lee identified six types of love: eros (erotic love), ludus (game-playing love), storge (friendship love), mania (jealous love), agape (altruistic love), and pragma (practical love).
Another approach was developed by Elaine Hatfield and Richard Lapson. They said that love could be defined in four categories: secure, skittish, clingy, and fickle. Those who are comfortable with intimacy and independence are categorized as secure; those who uncomfortable with intimacy but comfortable with independence are skittish; for individuals that comfortable with intimacy but restless in independence are clingy; and those who find comfort in neither intimacy nor independence are fickle.
The conclusion? There are plenty of alternatives for one to achieve their own happiness. It’s not merely through genital satisfaction as Freud offers, nor it could solely be achieved through a friendship love or being skittish. There are plenty of options that we ourselves could develop.
But then, my debate with my own self does not stop there. I am not satisfied with only looking for types of love. I wanted to know about the relations between presence and essence. I wanted to know what hinders Long-Distance Relationship (LDR) and what bolster the Short one. Is it true that presence is the key to open the Pandora box of the rare successful LDR?
My hypothesis was that as long as one could value the essence of one’s counterpart, then the problem of presence will no longer relevant to be discussed. Thus, the importance of trust, passion, and commitment will be more appreciated compared to the presence and tangibility of one’s dearest. As for this hypothesis, I was reflecting to my own relationship, being in an LDR for approximately one year. As long as I pay a tribute for my dearest, even though we are 11.811KM apart, then there will be no problem whatsoever – and thankfully it is still relevant until I wrote this article.
Unfortunately, the research showed me otherwise. Essence could barely survive without the attendance of presence. Andrew Gulledge wrote about physical affection and how it could benefit any form of relationship. One discovery that was quite interesting is the fact that physical contact could leads to various health benefits such as decreased blood pressure, decreased anxiety, decreased aggression, reduction of pain, and healthy social interactions. Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary conducted a join research and came to a conclusion that healthy romantic relationships are associated with physical health and happiness while, according to Michael Metz and Norman Epstein, unhealthy romantic relationship could leads to eating disorder. Therefore, it is evident that a relationship that contains both presence and essence could bring you to happiness. It might as well be said as the key to happiness.
The next question to keep in mind is on how one could break down at what point does presence becoming the most valuable commodity during the period of LDR. For me, it is nearly impossible to answer such question as each being has their own term of endurance. One could easily answer that once distance becomes an obstacle, the problem of presence will instantly kicked in. Or else, one could wait for a given period of time to decide whether it’s worth the fight or not. Either way it is extremely difficult to agree upon the immediate emergence of the problem of presence itself.
I do have to remind each one of you, though, that this article does not intend to encourage you to quit on your relationship if you’re currently on LDR. One simple article should not be your justification to give something up, especially something as valuable as a romantic relationship. It is merely my reflection upon what happened to me and other similar issues faced by my surroundings. But, if I may conclude this writing, it is interesting to question yourself whether your relationship worth the fight or not. Because at the end, you are the one going through it.