Alain de Botton’s new novel, “The Course of Love” is nothing short of exquisite. Weaving fiction with a philosophical take on modern love and what it truly entails and encompasses, it pierces at the various chambers of my heart. It prods me to take stock on how my personal history, my current context and my vision come together in the evolution of my relationships.
The book talks about how our childhood experiences of love and belonging shape our adult life choices. This has prompted a self reflection on how a big part of what I value in my most intimate relationships is hinged on needs that I felt were unmet. Consistency and reliability are what I seek and treasure, values that I also try to embody because I’d like to give what I want to receive. These same virtues have helped me explore my edges knowing that I have an anchor that will hold me together despite grazing the fringes.
It also touches on the notion of desire that springs from the new and different. In a loving and stable relationship it is easy to take the road of complacency and comfort. I believe that we have to strive to be interesting to our partners by cultivating our independence and interests. This is my current context. It is in the spaces in between our relationships where we flourish as beautiful individuals. I am a staunch supporter of self-care as a means to keep the well of giving full and generous.
What ties this book together for me is the lesson on helping each other become the best and fullest version of ourselves. It is not about conforming our partner to the ideals and expectations we’ve built in our heads but letting him grow into the person he ought to be. It dispels the romantic view of having your life partner fulfill all the roles that you need – doting husband, sensual lover, dedicated dad, best friend, confidante, wise mentor, etc. But instead offers a much more compassionate worldview that is marked by an acceptance that he can’t be all of this but that his whole self who strives and tries everyday is more than enough. Ultimately it is the ordinary, mundane and everyday loving that is lasting and worthwhile.