Love

Antifragile Love

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness.
The resilient resists shocks and stays the same;
the antifragile gets better.”
– Nasim Taleb

“We’ll Get Through This.”

Comforting words, yes? Whether you’re hearing them from your doctor or your lover or your spelunking buddy, it’s a nice thing to know. In particular it’s a nice place to be when you’re in love with someone and something goes wrong.

When you first enter a relationship, it’s a tenuous place. The combination of hyperfocus and emotional rawness makes every moment that you’re not in contact an agony, and every text or phone call a rush of dopamine-fueled thrill. At the same time there’s a feeling of fear proportional to the amount of pain you still feel from the last time you were in a relationship. It’s called being “head over heels” for a reason.

After a while, though, that fear usually goes away, replaced by a particular level of security where you don’t need to worry quite as much. Where the thrill of the new is replaced by the comfort of the familiar and you’ve managed that transition without making the mistake of thinking it is love fading away (been there, done that). You recognize that love changes, and it feels comforting. It feels safe.

And that’s a trap.

courtesy of Julia P. via Flickr CC
The Chimera of Self-Criticism?

Not the love – that’s fine. The trap is the feeling that the comfort is a “safe” place. Because what it really means is that you are letting your guard down and opening the way for the Taking For Granted Monster. The Demon of Miscommunication. The Spectre of Ennui. For any number of things that make you more vulnerable for when things do go wrong.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t enjoy the comfort of a relationship – it’s a wonderful thing. But when you reach that point of stability, what if you went further – allowed it to deepen? What if you both identified the weak points and built them up, or chose intimate goals that you could work on together? I’m not sure it’s enough to simply “endure” the bad times – because there’s no telling when the bad times will stop, or even if they will. If all you are doing is being resilient and surviving, I suspect it will diminish the quality of any relationship.

On the other hand, working on becoming “antifragile” means that when the hard times hit – and they will – you instead greet them with bared teeth and a feral roar, knowing that they are opportunities for your relationship to get stronger than you ever imagined. You use that familiarity as a weapon against the stresses, leaning on your partners when you need it and supporting them when they fall short, and hobbling along together when you’re both not at your best. Love becomes not a status you wear but rather the framework on which everything else is built – and if the time comes that all the outer manifestations are torn away, the love remains, stronger than ever.

In other words, it’s not about just “getting through it.” It’s about moving beyond it. Together.

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