Stale, Comfortable Love
How can that love, which humbly clings to us throughout the years, that warms us on cold days, and is the last refuge on lonely nights, that abides by our side with infinite patience in all unremarkable moments — how can it ever compete with a fresh new flame?
Like the old shoe, worn into a conforming shape, so comfortable as if not even truly there, is discarded for something new, exciting, and stylish, so too are old loves replaced. When sex has largely lost its passion, when there are no surprises left to be revealed, and when happiness smooths from a sharp jolt to a gentle roll, you find it there. It is a love of habit. It is a love that forgets itself. It is the most powerful and the blandest. The most powerful, because the most enduring, and the blandest for the same reason.
It is this stale love that our yearning for passion holds simultaneously as the highest high and the lowest low. Like any coveted thing, it seems most significant prior to its attainment. More than any inherent quality in food, it is a whetted appetite that makes for the best flavor. When at last one achieves something long sought after, this is a lesson quickly learned.
Just as the senses grow dull with age, so too does love lose its ability to feel. Jealousy, passion, even anger at disagreement, all lose their piquancy, so that like a blind, deaf dog, remembering little of what it enjoyed in life, only that it must live on nonetheless, this love carries forward.
Still, though one does not return home each day and marvel at their dwelling the way they would upon entering some foreign castle, home has a quiet allure that won’t soon be replaced. Where has this feeling of comfort, safety, and trust been surpassed? The truest love is love that grows old; just as the ideal life is one that ends in bodily decay. We should all strive for and celebrate this stale love. Though the Colosseum and Macchu Picchu are now only decayed ruins of their former glory, it doesn’t detract from their grandeur; their slow decline is more of a testimony to the power of their design than was the grandness of their stature in the moment that marked their completion.
Like the gentle, flickering flame on a candle, this love’s subtle power is its charm. It is slight in its effect, yet in dark times, as in a dark room, it seems to fill all the space around it. From a distance, it radiates only an imperceptible heat, and yet this faint, little fire has the ability to grow into a conflagration. This stale love, which can often appear so near death, will rise like a wildfire if it is ever threatened with a final end.
Just as near the beginning of the dawn the orange aura of the sun begins to spill over the horizon, and it looks as if there were a massive fire burning somewhere in the unseen distance, this tiny flame can light up a person’s world if it is ever imperiled by the possibility of extinguishment. All lovers take each other for granted after a time, but let the possibility of an end to the relationship come vividly before their mind, and watch how their passion will burn once again.
This stale, comfortable love clings to us in the warmest and most faithful of ways, and though it has lost all zest and freshness, it humbly refuses to depart. Like a thing bonded to the skin by glue, we can forget it is attached to us, until the moment we go to pull it away. The only thing ever-fresh in love is the pain of separation.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons