Things come in cycles. Love being one of them (for us mere mortals who still (?) believe in the biochemical process of love, that is the vescicles of appropriate neurotransmitters fusing with the cell wall of the neuron and spilling their contents en mass across the synapse and other hormonal such stuff taking place). In the vernacular there is the idea of “the honeymoon phase”, that is, the early “phase” of love wherein the participants have only eyes for each other, are blinded to each others problematic or “negative” traits and are blissfully and unproblematically in love, until the other shoe drops, usually in the form of the recognition that each of them are human with faults and emotional problems and pasts and boundary issues, etc.
Now, I myself have never been an advocate of the honeymoon “phase.” First of all, unlike many actually phasic cycles in a relationship, it is not cyclic. It is an anomoly that comes only once, if ever, at the beginning of a relationship in the form of infatuation. As I’ve never been a fan of infatuation, how can I be a fan of one of its many manifestations. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been a victum of all sorts of infatuation: record collector, art admirer, literary Hoover (as in to purchase and suck up books), idea collector, metaphor whore, etc., all with varying degrees of sub-dilettante sucess. But this is an albatross around my neck not a virtue. Always chasing after the next great idea or collectable thing, perfect song, book or pair of glasses. True love is reading a book over and over until the pages fall off, especially a book with depth. It is skipping over the honeymoon “phase” as fast as you can or achieving a somber, neutral view of the world that allows one to get past infatuation completely and dive right into a deeper relationship with a person or object where immediately you and the other begin to work on each others strengths and weaknesses, building new structures where you can, butressing weak points or circumventing them with new constructions, finding novel objects that are the products of elements from the direct product of both where it just wouldn’t be possible to build without objects from the pair.
This is not “honeymoon style romance” this is dirty work, like, waders on, I know your shit you know mine and we’re both fine with it and lets party sort of work. I don’t know how often this happens in human relationships, anecdotally I would guess next to never, but I don’t get around much. In groups, special groups, where people tend to know, at least in certain domains, deep stores of other’s affairs, whether in their knowledge of physical chemistry or their relationship to drinking alcohol, it seems to happen more often.
Take the sciences for example. Lineage is important. People know who each other’s mentors are/were, who they have published with, what problems they have worked on, how many citations they have accumulated, they have read their work (stories?) themselves and can attest to the quality first hand, evaluate their depth with respect to the field.
Similarly, in a sort of strange, and at first glance, non-resonant, parallel, in some recovery communities, their is a “sponsorship” lineage, that some take quite seriously, people tell their stories from the podium and to their sponsors, and others can gauge the depth of their relationship with substance abuse and recovery, their are informal networks within networks that serve to filter out (and in) those that look like they are prospects to be taken seriously (at least that is my understanding). Like any goup with dynamics there are various jobs and personalities and one can guess at an anthropology of such things. (Interestingly, in this second example, it might be in the interest of the new participant to develop a “honeymoon” relationship and allow the group to do some heavy lifting for them and not ask too many questions about the mechanics until later, allowing for the “miracle” to take place, and enthusiasm to bubble.)
In any case, at some point, one has to get down to brass tacks, lift up the hood, be it in a job, an academic disclipline, a community centered on recovery, or a romantic relationship with their lover and get to know all the grime and grit and the parts that makes them work, if not, how best can they be a good participant in the relationship/community/company/academic community? I think many are afraid of this level of commitment in many of the domains above or perhaps it simply seems like too much to ask, too much work, too much. But we do see it in some well run companies with great HR departments, in some intentional communities with well defined process and good decision making protocol and in many academic disiplines (e.g. in physics and mathematics with online preprint servers (and those that study them) like arxiv and newsletters and people who put a lot of thought into how to best shape the community over time and make sure that say, mathematics remains healthy and full of talented new mathematicians (you can see evidence of this in say, the Notices of the AMS).
It is for this reason why I think a tempered enthusiasm going in, a skeptical, I hope this turns out to be interesting but I’m not going to put all my chips on it sort of approach”, seems best. From that vantage point one can begin to develop an infectious attitude only if the relationship demands it, as you get to the innards and you see what makes everything go, if the mechanisms behind it all still drive you to ask more and wanto to learn and build more, then chances are, whatever it is, it’s a keeper. That my friend, sounds like love to me.