I’ve been thinking about love lately. That, in itself, is a quite frequent occupation–but I’ve also been discussing love more of late, and that has spurred me to make this post. I will also admit that the Toronto van attack, committed by a man identifying as “incel”, short for “involuntary celibate” is a motivation as well.
I am a single man in my mid-twenties who has never had a serious relationship. I have had unrequited romances, which I would argue I felt love in–it is not the same love that would take place in a mutually loving, committed relationship, but it is love nonetheless. So I would still claim to know love, even with that lack of experience.
I definitely desire a romantic relationship but I experience great anxiety in telling people how I feel. I also desire something deeper than a quick fling, and try to be aware of proper consent. I haven’t even had a first kiss yet, though I have definitely turned down opportunities to do so for various reasons.
I suspect a large part of my lack of romantic experience is because I am on the autism spectrum. A similar lack affected members of my family who are likely undiagnosed autistics. Given how their early relationships went however, I am not sure that that is a comfort.
Faith provides me a context to understand this though, and offers some guidance. The apostle Paul writes extensively on romance and marriage, and gives his opinion on whether people should marry or not, whether they should marry a non-believer or not, and a host of other issues. There is reason to believe that Paul is both very concerned about the possibly of sin through sexuality and not all that at risk of it personally, maybe even being asexual–which always makes me take his writings on sexuality with a grain of salt, I must admit. Christ has less to say–aside from teachings on proper reasons for divorce, answering some questions from the Sadducces about resurrection, and an admiration for various kinds of eunuchs, he doesn’t have much to say. His example–dining and talking to prostitutes, saving the life of an adulteress, etc. are far more indicative.
Perhaps the biggest help for me is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which begins “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”, and includes “a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing” among others. This I take as a promise that eventually a mutually loving, committed relationship will come into my life so long as I desire it and am open to it.
That does not make the waiting any less difficult, but I do believe that quality of relationships is more important than quantity, and I’d rather have one or two serious romantic relationships filled with love, authenticity and vulnerability than I would half a dozen shallower ones.
I am realistic enough to know my autism and related disabilities will provide challenges in any romantic relationship, as will my family dynamics and history. I have even been told by a few people that nobody will love me for my brokenness–but on that point I have to strongly disagree. I firmly believe that the only chance I have at a romantic relationship is someone who WILL love me, in part because of my brokenness, of the dark parts I’d rather keep hidden. A large part of my journey has been learning to love my inner darkness and recognize it as an intrinsic and invaluable part of my self–and I don’t think someone CAN love me without loving the whole of me. This may seem like an impossible order, but I believe it is possible. I may not have first-hand experience of a mutually loving, committed relationship, but I have plenty of second hand real life experience, as well as the romance of myth and legend and story which I think is valuable as well. All of this leads me to believe I do know love, and one of the lessons I have learned is that love is often seemingly impossible. Everybody who is desiring love and open to love will eventually find it, and everybody is lovable to the right person. I also have learned that people can be right for each other at some points in their lives and not in others, and the people who we love and who love us often come as a complete surprise.
I know, in my best moments, that a mutually loving, committed relationship will eventually come into my life, and that it is only a matter of time and of openness. That may not make the waiting any easier, and I may be far from patient at times, but with God’s strength and guidance, I will endure until the day it comes.