Sunday Snippet: Anton Chekhov

“Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.”

I can get just as sappy as the next guy, but we have to be careful to differentiate between commercialized romance and the notion of true love. Amidst all the overpriced flowers, chocolates, bottles of champagne and the overwhelming obligation to deliver something “special” for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, we may want to take a step back and ponder on the topic of love in the first place. What is it? What is it good for?

One of the more common phrases that will likely get thrown around today, possibly over a Valentine’s Day dinner later tonight, is this idea that “you complete me.” This may sound romantic and heartfelt and charming to some. I beg to differ. It implies that neither person was or is complete in and of themselves outside of this relationship. I don’t think that’s healthy.

While the whole can certainly be greater than the sum of its parts, each part must be complete before it can be a viable addition to the partnership, so to speak. A wheel that’s bent and a tire that’s punctured can’t operate properly together, even if they feel like they belong together. The wheel and the tire must mend themselves before they can function as a unified whole.

And when you are in love, when you are in a loving and supportive relationship, your partner can act as a functional mirror. You can learn through this relationship who or what you should be. Who you can be. Without the wheel, the tire might not know that it’s supposed to stay inflated. Without the tire, the wheel may not know it needs to be perfectly circular. The relationship brings out the best in both of them and it’s a relationship that grows better with age. It’s about falling in love with the same person every day for years.

Being in love isn’t about giving up who you are in order to accommodate the other person, just as it isn’t about the other person bending to your will and every whim. It’s about bringing the best out of one another and becoming stronger, together, because of it. It’s about feeling inspired to do better and to be better. To do more and to be more.

The quote at the top comes from Russian short story author and playwright Anton Chekhov. He is best known for such tales as The Lady with the Dog and is widely regarded as one of the most prominent figures in the rise of early modernism in the theater.

It is a bit of a curiosity that he would speak on love, as Chekhov described medicine as his “lawful wife” and literature as his “mistress.” He would go unmarried until the age of 41, passing away just three years later.