It is no secret that people fall in love all the time. It is equally no surprise that in our earlier years, we are all looking for that someone special. In fact, we are looking for that perfect person to fall in love with. What is quite interesting, however, is that people fall in love with each other’s imperfections. The paradox is exactly that it is our flaws and imperfections that make us more appealing to others.
Foucault, though no great source on love, has an interesting observation: for a woman to fall in love with a man, she is looking for the right amount of childishness in him. (If you have the source, please comment, as I am unable to find it any longer. I am fairly certain it is from The Passion of Michel Foucault by James Miller – on Amazon. Also note that his work has been discredited on some accounts by embellishing the facts – at least that’s what Gary Gutting claims in The Cambridge Companion to Foucault – also on Amazon.) And is childishness not the flaw that men hide, behaving over-confident and macho-like? Paradoxically, in other words, we should be willing to show our shortcomings. It is these that make us unique and ‘lovable’ towards others. The more we do this, the closer the relationship, the more intimacy we create in our approaches to the other.
There is little doubt that in our teenage years, we are all fraught with anxiety. Perhaps some less than others, but it is highly doubtful that there is or has been a person who did not feel anxious about approaching another for the first time. After all the stories we have been brought up with (and I do blame Disney for this, as I argue in this post), there seems little doubt that one is to seek the perfect partner – “true love” (which is becoming more awkward by the day), “the one and only”, and whatnot.
Let us leave for a moment whether perfection actually does exist. Would the perfect other be appealing? This is perhaps a subjective matter. But it remains true that the other in our own eyes is never perfect. Some studies have recently pointed out that what we traditionally call “love is blind” is in fact completely false. Love is not blind. Flaws of the other are definitely seen, and they are not necessarily just accepted as part of the package. In most cases, they are transformed into what makes us love.
Moral and political points
Additionally, the other cannot be perfect for the simple reason of subjective perception. We are, simply put, different people – with different interests, characters, etc. All of these combined make us, if not unique, at least very different. To find the perfect other is to find an identical twin, with a twist that your twin does not have any doubts or anxieties. One could say that simple appearance is not enough (as does Disney many, many times); or that you have to accept the other for what they are (see the conclusion of this post). However, is it not more prudent to understand one’s flaws and imperfections, to learn from them as a matter of constant improvement? And most importantly, is it not that your imperfections are necessary for a your narrative (Julia Kristeva writes about this notion of narrative in Arendt, and is in my opinion one of the best elucidations without the complex academic jargon – find it on Amazon)?
There is also a political point to be made here. In party politics, for instance, we can rarely fully identify with any party in our specific parties. One may find certain proposals more convincing than others, but rarely all of them will satisfy us. Besides blindly following a specific party, purely for traditionalist reasons, it is possible to understand parties in similar ways as a perfect partner. Here too one should not forget that although the perfect other does not exist, it does not mean that we should be complicit and accept the shortcomings. Quite the opposite. Just as with the moral point, shortcomings can be used to further understand our implicit (and deeply rooted) ideological stance towards certain goals.