I don’t really talk about my love life to my closest friends. Whenever they would ask, I simply reply that I do not have much going on regardless of whether it is true or not. It has been an instinct for some time now. I do, however, talk about my love life with friends that I have not seen in a year. Sometimes. Only if asked. I don’t really know why I am willing to discuss my love life, which is supposed to be a personal matter, with individuals who are not an active part of my life over my close friends. There is a part of me that thinks that the mere mention of my own love life is a sign of weakness, as if I cared about something such as love. Of course, I do care about love. But, in terms of willing myself to a state of vulnerability, I still have a hard time justifying that to myself.
It was a conversation topic that had come up the other day. It was with one of those friends that I see once per semester. The topic of love came up. I had just given her some recent updates in my love life. She, likewise. We spoke in the abstract, without names or any identifying information regarding the individuals that we had just discussed in detail. I didn’t mind, of course; I was only interested speaking in and hearing about the abstract. Love, in the abstract, is the only conversation topic that never gets old to me. Love, in the specific, becomes stale and irritating quite quickly, and I do not have as much patience as I did a couple years ago to hear about a detailed recount of love, But, love, in the abstract, is infinitely interesting to me.
At one point, we began to question why we speak about love only through abstracted lenses that extracts the sentimental qualities of love. Or, in other words, why love only exists in reflection and not in observation. To me, it always seemed that the concept of love is more real than the feeling of love, which is why I could engage in reflecting so much about love without showing the same enthusiasm in real love of being in love. I had always considered the act of loving to be a private act, and I do not think there was ever a time in my life where I deviated from this belief. But, then again, there is a difference between love being a private act as opposed to a personal act. To this day, I still have difficulty distinguishing them.
I have memories of being in love. These are memories that I reflect upon. Quite often, if I am being honest. It is all that remains of the concept. But, if we’re referring to the actual process of being in love, I often give off an aesthetic of indifference. Even though I justify my own indifference as the act of conforming to the same indifference from universe that I have experienced, there is still a part of me that feels wrong for being so indifferent to individuals who care about me so much. It is a contradictory notion that I do not yet understand myself. Yet, I also feel oddly justified in behaving the way I do even if it leads to collateral damage to the individuals who care for me. Logically, I understand that I should feel bad. But only logically.
When I reflect on my past experiences of love, I could not help but to notice a trend. None of my friends knew much about my romantic partners. It would take a few weeks for me to even mention their existence at all, which is motivated out of courtesy to my romantic partners and not the desire to do so. It is a judgement of logical necessity. And, even when my friends were aware of their existence, they would only be able to conceptualize their existence and not observe their presence because I would never simultaneously hang out with my friends and romantic partners. They would exist on two separate spheres of existence, unable to interact with one another. There would be the platonic sphere, and then there would be romantic sphere.
I don’t know the etymological origins of the word compartmentalize. Whenever I would hear the word, I tend to think of the Titanic. Or an explosion. It is, above all, a containment. But it is a containment resulting from an understanding that a catastrophe is imminent. If there is no disaster, then there would be no need for compartmentalization. If there is no thought of disaster, then there would be no need for compartmentalization. The need to compartmentalize only comes from the experience of the disaster. It is an insight that is gained from experience, and it is an instinct that results from a series of happenings that cannot be reversed.
My experiences in love have informed me of the need to compartmentalize. If we fall in love with, on average, three people in our lifetime, I wonder if that means I have already reached my quota of the total amount of people that I will ever love. It certainly seems so. I find it quite difficult nowadays to replicate the same intensity in my feelings as I had a couple of years ago or even a couple of months ago. I am no longer able to approach my romantic encounters without a need to compartmentalize because my experiences had informed me of the need to do so. From my experiences, I have constructed a definition of love that necessitates the devolution into violence. The disaster is coming. The disaster is inevitable. To me, compartmentalization is a natural recourse to an ontological certainty.
There is the social containment that confines my romantic partners and friends from ever interacting with each other. But then, there is also the mental containment that prevents my friends and romantic partners from ever reaching a level of emotional intimacy that would necessitate the merger of those two spheres of life. If anything, compartmentalization is a hedge against the possibility of emotional collateral damage that is inevitable whenever two objects dabble with the violence of love.
I tend to conceptualize my willingness to invest in relationships similar to my willingness to invest in the stock market. By the nature of real business cycles, I know that there is going to be a recession every 10-15 years. After understanding this information, I could have two possible responses: I could invest my savings into the stock market and liquidate my assets before the start of the recession, or I could not invest in the stock market at all and keep my savings. Seeing as though I had already lost $100 when I had invested my savings from my freshman internship into ETFs (and liquidated in January 2019, which was the lowest point in that fiscal year), I have very little faith in my ability to pull out before economic crashes. Similar to the economy, I have very little faith in my abilities to pull out my emotional attachment whenever I feel that the relationship is destined for a decline. I know that a recession will hit; I just don’t know when.
If I do not invest in the stock market at all — or if I do not invest my emotions into a relationship — then it is certain that I will not lose money. Sure, inflation will lower the value of my existing savings, but losing 2 percent per year is always better than losing an additional 10 percent from a faulty investment decision. Similarly, there are other means of retaining emotional security such as spending more time with close friends or engaging with hobbies. There are safe ways of retaining emotional capital without the depreciation of emotional assets. There is only a very finite amount of emotional capital that I am willing to invest in a relationship. I know that there is a recession coming, and these are emotional assets that I am willing to throw away.
If disaster is certain, then compartmentalization is necessary. If the romantic and social spheres are intertwined, then the inevitable detonation in the romantic sphere is bound to spread into the social sphere and wreck havoc. Since the end of one part of my life does not need to mean the end of another part of my life, it is only natural that they are separated.