• Chris Rynning

I cannot be your village

The late Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) held that even suffering can lead to finding meaning, and that meaning can lead to fulfilment and happiness. A “holocaust” survivor, Frankl said that even though he was in concentration camp with no freedom, he had the “freedom of how to react or respond to the circumstances in the camp.” Frankl held that no one could take that part of freedom away from him. Freedom in isolation, is that possible?

Photo: Freedom, Wix

During the “Covid-19” period of 2020, many people are suffering – losing loved ones, work, money and we are isolated. Isolated from work, society, their partner or from their “village. Frankl’s theory seems eerily relevant now that new rules and restrictions are imposed on us, limiting our freedom. There is beauty in thinking that we have “freedom” in how to respond to any situation, although our freedom to move and work has been taken away. Personally, I am choosing to channel some of that “freedom” towards understanding sensuality and relationships better. Maybe coming out of this period of isolation, I will be better at understanding myself and what constitute a successful relationship. Is it not ironic – that “isolation” is the catalyst for me to study how to be better at connecting to people. At least I found the “freedom” to choose.

Jan Brøgger, the late social anthropologist and my professor, opened up my eyes to “dyads”. Dyads are the “most important” relations in a societal structure. In most western democracies, certainly sometime after the second world war, the most important “dyad” became the “love marriage” between a man and a woman. Men and women were really for the first time allowed and expected to find a partner and marry out of love. Up until this change, the most important “dyad” had been the “father – son” relationship, where economic rights were vested and passed down. We have gone from a marital commitment “until death do us apart” to “until love dies”…quite a traverse in history and every day life.

For me, I have experienced “love dying” twice. Well, not entirely, I guess. I still have feelings, emotions and increasingly even “love” for my “exes”. My first marriage, I have often dubbed as a “horrible mistake that yielded two beautiful children.” I was wrong. The second marriage I have not thought of as a mistake, in fact I was very happy – for a long time. While I felt that “love died,” I did not feel that my “love for her” died – I more feel like it was “killed”. I did not want it to end…but it did. For a long while, in fact up until this week, I have looked at both my two marriages, both about 15 years each, as two “failures” if not “mistakes”. But is that true? 15 years each, is that a failure?

Thinking of my two past long relationships this week has opened up for the possibility that they were successes, not failures. Keeping it together and being committed for 15 years, jumping into the “unknown” together and making it that far, certainly cannot be just a failure? Yes, there were controversies and big disagreements for sure, but there were good times and major successes too. We overcame much together, but clearly not all. Now preparing for a possible third relationship, I have learned that the quality of my relationship(s) will define the quality of my life. Therefore, I want to take it to another level. And the start of that journey is to think about what I can give, what I can offer, what can my future partner expect? Or, for you, what is it that you can or should think about giving to your partner?

The first thing I think of that I want to offer is a “union”. It sounds so incredibly boring, but I feel that I want to offer to be part of a union, - a union that goes on a journey together. For a start, I don’t want to be lonely, so I guarantee you that “you” will not be lonely. Loneliness is a disease in our societies, and it kills people. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mind being “alone”. In fact, I want to be alone often. I need space for myself, and I expect you to also want that space, and I want to give that space. We want to trust in each other to give “space,” but also knowing that when we are apart, I want to know you are “there” and you to know that I am “here”. Distance can be ok, in fact distance can cause “yearning and longing, desire and increased passion. I like “longing” – but I also want to give closeness. I want to give intimacy, passion, sex, cuddles, hugs, breathing, skin, smell and strange loving sounds.

We should find, give and calibrate a relationship that has a variable amount of closeness and intimacy, but also distance and apartness. We need to be able to “be together” when we are apart and be apart even when we are together. I am not entirely sure what that entails, but it certainly includes confidence, trust, safety and kindness. I think it may also mean that maybe a long-distance relationship is possible, but maybe it is not…Time will tell where I go, where you go. I feel there need not be one “correct answer”. The space between living together and being apart, that deep intimacy and desire from being apart is a conundrum that just needs to be “negotiated”. We need to find that space, it seems clear that it is not one or the other. It is both. Let us negotiate then.

Photo: Together, Wix

Oh….and by the way: This morning, I just finished a “tantra” class online, thought over “online video” by a couple in the middle of a field somewhere in Sweden. Apparently, one can have intimacy, passion and yes, even sex online now. I guess “Covid-19” is changing everything. No, I did not have sex online…but we were a group of likeminded people from all over Europe exploring “sexuality” over “Zoom”. Not sex, sexuality. There were sounds, there were heavy breathing, there was music, exercises and person to person “eye-gazing” ….online. Who would have thought that, I would not even have thought that about me 6 months ago? But there we were all together, being apart.

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