A doctor friend defined love as ‘primarily a form of OCD’. I pondered over the idea for a week and indeed, it gave me a way out of the end-of-love situation I was facing at that time.
When I’m facing the inevitable disillusionment, discontent and general dissatisfaction that sets in after the dramatic highs of the sort of relationships I get into, I know this. I know I’ll get over it, eventually. I can even estimate how long it’s likely to take me. What I didn’t know until the doctor’s prescription, is how I would get to that place of ‘over it’. Do I know now? I suppose I do. If love is just another form of OCD, a habit, I can figure it out. I know about making and breaking habits. Goals work for me, organising is my strength. I just have to focus on what parts of the person or relationship constitute habit in my life and figure out ways to get out of those habits.
I need to stop eating that particular food for about six weeks so it doesn’t immediately pull up the memory of him cooking it for me. Because then when my body is processing the dopamine hit from the food, my brain connects it to his memory and to him. Break that pattern, learn a new one. I’m so Pavlovian.
I‘ve never been addicted to any of the common afflictions around. I’ve tried most of them and I still dabble as often and as much as I want. It’s not that I have stronger willpower than most people. It is that I know how to manage habit. I’m good at organising actions, thoughts and motivations into bite-sized pieces and feeding them to myself (or other people, if required) in a staggered out way. It requires a fine blend of deprivation in tiny quantities and rewards on a periodic basis. It’s not rocket science and I am good at it.
I am speaking often now to a former love. He’s going through some hard times right now. Off and on over the past few years, we’ve reconnected briefly. A lunch here, a movie there, coffee and some messages. Then we get into newer habits with other people and lose touch till the next time we reconnect. I think it suits us, not making a habit of each other.
I spoke to another ex today, who is married to a friend of mine. I set boundaries in this relationship by changing or insisting on certain times, places and conversations. We only ever meet outside homes. Only sit on opposite sides of a table. No hugs except at the end of a meeting. We discuss the past in detail but the present, only superficially. This relationship gets defined by the habits we all agree to. Periodically he breaks a habit and in response, I create a new one. We stay in balance.
And finally, this now explains my restlessness at the start of any relationship when nice things get done and said. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it. But I fear that it will turn into a habit that I become dependent on. And who knows better than I, how acutely messing up a schedule can hit you?
This works for me. The only trouble is, I draw people who are the exact opposite of me. People who enjoy the excuses and hiding places that chaos, the lack of habit affords them. Then again, I suppose you could say I enjoy solving puzzles and what are relationships like these but puzzles to be solved?