The Summons of Love

The Summons of Love

Mari Ruti
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/ruti15816
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Summons of Love
    Book Description:

    We are conditioned to think that love heals wounds, makes us happy, and gives our lives meaning. When the opposite occurs and love causes fracturing, disenchantment, and existential turmoil, we suffer deeply, especially if we feel that love has failed us or that we have failed to experience what others seem so effortlessly to enjoy.

    In this eloquently argued, psychologically informed book, Mari Ruti portrays love as a much more complex, multifaceted phenomenon than we tend to appreciate -- an experience that helps us encounter the depths of human existence. Love's ruptures are as important as its triumphs, and sometimes love succeeds because it fails. At the heart of Ruti's argument is a meditation on interpersonal ethics that acknowledges the inherent opacity of human interiority and the difficulty of taking responsibility for what we cannot fully understand.

    Yet the fact that humans are often irrational in love does not absolve us of ethical accountability. In Ruti's view, we must work harder to map the unconscious patterns motivating our romantic behavior. As opposed to popular spiritual approaches urging us to live fully in the now, Ruti treats the past as a living component of the present. Only when we catch ourselves at those moments when the past speaks in the present can we keep ourselves from hurting the ones we love. Equally important, Ruti emphasizes transcending our individual histories of pain, an act that allows us to face the unconscious demons that dictate our relational choices. Written with substance and compassion, The Summons of Love restores the enlivening and transformative possibilities of romance.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52798-9
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Romantic love summons us to become more interesting versions of ourselves. It speaks to those dimensions of our being that reach for enchantment—that chafe against the mundane edges of everyday existence. If much of life entails a gradual process of coming to terms with the limitations imposed on us by our mortality (by the tragically fleeting character of human experience), love boldly pursues the immortal. This does not mean that it grants us everlasting life. It cannot, unfortunately, rescue us from the relentless march of the clock. But to the extent that it rebels against the undertow of everything...

  4. [ 1 ] The Hall of Mirrors
    (pp. 12-26)

    It is tempting to see romantic love as an answer to life’s difficulties. Many of us have been programmed to believe that love has the power to make us whole, mend our injuries, and give us the meaning of our existence. This is not to say that we are naïve or gullible. Undoubtedly most of us know that seeking our happiness through love is a treacherous affair. We recognize that the act of placing our well-being in the hands of another person can be terribly imprudent. And we understand that looking for a validation of our individuality through the grace...

  5. [ 2 ] The Patterns of Passion
    (pp. 27-44)

    Those of us who have loved more than once know that there is often a peculiar kind of consistency to our romantic lives, and particularly to the ways in which we get hurt. There are patterns and emotional scenarios that we tend to repeat over and over again, even when we make a conscious decision to avoid them. We may begin a new relationship confident that we will be able to sidestep familiar traps. And we may be determined to implement new ways of resolving tensions so that, no matter what happens, we will not find ourselves disrespected or trampled...

  6. [ 3 ] The Sliver of Eternity
    (pp. 45-61)

    If love is so full of illusions and painful repetitions, why do we want it so badly? The simple answer—one that this chapter is intended to complicate—is that we want it because it gives rise to an unparalleled sensation of self-awakening. Through love, a sliver of eternity, of what appears magical and awe-inspiring, inserts itself into our ordinary existence. We feel as if we had been touched by a magnificent force that lends nobility to our lives, lifting us to an existential sphere that feels more elevated, more meaningful, than the one we normally inhabit.

    Under usual conditions,...

  7. [ 4 ] The Midst of Life
    (pp. 62-77)

    Whether love seizes us without warning or catches up with us with premeditated softness, it ruptures the ordinary rhythm of our lives. The thrill of love arises in part precisely from this rupture. We enjoy being jolted out of the complacency of our everyday existence. We are eager to explore the mysterious opportunities of the soul that love awakens within us. And we are enthralled by the promise of emotional revitalization that eros represents. At the same time, the closer we come to a genuine connection with a lover, the more likely we are to resist love’s summons. Sometimes we...

  8. [ 5 ] The Edge of Mystery
    (pp. 78-93)

    Throughout this book, I have highlighted the mysterious specificity of desire: the fact that we are frequently drawn to particular lovers for intangible reasons that we cannot rationally comprehend. I have shown that there are times when love causes a torrent of disarray, forcing us to rethink our accustomed manner of living. Other times, it infiltrates our daily routine so gradually that it takes us a while to realize that this routine has been restructured in ways that we would have never been able to anticipate. Often, we have no idea why we are willing to put up with such...

  9. [ 6 ] The Ambivalence of Ideals
    (pp. 94-108)

    I have talked about narcissistic fantasies of self-completion, the compulsion to repeat, the life-altering aspects of love, the enduring imprint of passion, as well as the edge of mystery that renders our love lives opaque and to some degree incomprehensible. I would now like to focus on a dimension of romance that has been implicit in everything that I have discussed this far, namely, our tendency to idealize the person we love. This tendency is almost inevitable, at least in the beginning of a new relationship. One might even say that romantic love without a dose of idealization is more...

  10. [ 7 ] The Intrigue of Obstacles
    (pp. 109-125)

    In the previous chapter, we saw that romantic love more or less inevitably entails a degree of idealization. As the nineteenth-century French novelist Stendhal remarks, “in love only the illusion appeals.” Stendhal explains that, when it comes to love, we do not easily reconcile ourselves to what is attainable in reality but aspire to rearrange this reality to conform to our desires: we strive to shape reality to accord with our ideals rather than vice versa. Stendhal labels this process “crystallization,” describing it as follows:

    Leave a lover with his thoughts for twenty-four hours, and this is what will happen....

  11. [ 8 ] The Initiations of Sadness
    (pp. 126-141)

    Whether or not we feel that the person we have lost is irreplaceable, loss is usually difficult in the context of romance. It is devastating to give up a person we love, even when we recognize that the separation is necessary. The process of reconfiguring our inner world to accommodate the void left by the absent person can be demanding for, ultimately, it forces us to reconceive who we are. We cannot relinquish our investment in an adored person without considerable psychological readjustment. The purpose of this readjustment is to enable us to proceed with our lives without the person...

  12. [ 9 ] The Lessons of Love
    (pp. 142-157)

    I have attempted to illustrate that even when love ends painfully, it often teaches us valuable lessons that we can carry into the future. Foremost among these lessons is the recognition that the outcome of our relationships is not something we can control. Though we can become better at relating, and though we can learn to process relationship conflicts in more constructive ways, we cannot predict how our loves develop. Some relationships resonate with, and provide an opening for, our deepest needs and most dearly held potentialities. Others shut down, impede, or enfeeble both. We cannot know ahead of time...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 158-174)

    If my discussion of love seems to always return to the past, and particularly to the pain of the past, it is because the object of our love—as Lacan, among others, has argued—is always a “refound” object. In other words, our unconscious blueprints of loving are so powerful that the person we love in the present always in some ways reincarnates the people we have loved in the past. And, as I have shown, our current configurations of desire often revive previous configurations even when we would prefer to do things differently. Unconscious patterns tend to sneak into...

  14. Index
    (pp. 175-180)