There is a significant difference between a surrogate relationship and an authentic one. A shadow, after all, is only a suggestion of the object it is attached to. Despite this, identifying that difference is less easy than a person might think. That's because the primary factor that makes a relationship a surrogate one - shared belief - can easily hide behind the powerful, exciting emotions that it has in common with authentic relationships. Nonetheless, shared belief has a fatal flaw: it lacks the depth necessary to deal not only with difference, but with the conflict difference inevitably brings.
Shared belief and common interest may be enough to initiate a relationship, but depth of relationship is only achieved by a willingness to successfully navigate through conflict - and to do so repeatedly. Does a person have the necessary humility to be flexible when he's having holes poked in his preferred image of himself? Can he find the flexibility necessary to surrender his viewpoint when he's proven wrong in matters he was "absolutely" sure about? Do two people have enough staying power to sustain and encourage the endurance, courage and humility necessary in themselves and in their partner if they are to make it through conflict?
Doing so successfully requires something much more powerful than the smokescreen people hide behind in surrogacy environments: preserving relationships by taking refuge in shared belief. If two or more conflicting parties are to find their way through intense, emotionally charged difference, something much more psychologically and spiritually sturdy is required: the courage to commit to the well-being of both self and other. The commitment to continue doing so regardless of the occasional lapses of judgement or character flaws either you or the party you are in conflict with displays.
Such a commitment only arises out of love. Not a love that prematurely forgives someone who has done you an injustice when a braver response might be to call them out about it. Not a sentimental love that builds a fantasy bubble based on mutual insulation and tacit agreements to paper over disputes. And not love that strategically furthers your self-interest by deceiving others into thinking your commitment to resolution is deeper than it really is. These versions of love may sound good in a pop song or make for an engaging plot line in a movie, but they fall well short of what's needed to navigate successfuly through conflict.
Doing that requires the love of the poets: a love that honors the self but extends past self-interest; one capable of ceding control of a situation to another; one fearlessly willing to have one’s own projected images stripped away in the interest of finding a way forward. The courage to genuinely and sincerely love another is, quite simply, the only force powerful powerful enough to counter the ease with which commitments can be broken and relationships abandoned when the going gets tough...something the poets have known about for centuries.
The Circle Around the Zero
A lover doesn’t figure the odds.
He figures he came clean from God
as a gift without a reason,
so he gives without cause
or calculation or limit.
A conventionally religious person
behaves a certain way
to achieve salvation.
A lover gambles everything, the self,
the circles around the zero! He or she
cuts and throws it all away.
This is beyond any religion.
Lovers do not require from God any proof,
or any text, nor do they knock on a door
to make sure this is the right street.
and they run.
- Rabindanath Tagore
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but
to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies on life's
battlefield but to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be
saved but hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant me that I may not be a coward,
feeling your mercy in my success alone,
but let me find
the grasp of your hand in my failure.