Consider the common scenario for a moment: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy or girl leaves the other. At some point or another we have all had a personal experience with this scenario whether we were the leavee, or the leaver. The reasons for this are as wide spread as the stars in the heavens and to pinpoint the exact reason why we end up leaving or are left would be too taxing to explore in a simple blog post. Rather, we should refine our inquiry to a specific topic that will allow us to explore the reasons behind why we do the things we do in our relationships with others. To begin this inquiry, we must first ask ourselves, “what is love?” To answer this question we might turn to a number of different sources from self help books, to philosophy, to religion; I choose the middle. In his dialogue Symposium, the great philosopher Plato attempts to ask and answer the question we have before ourselves now. The story presents many different views of what love is, one is that it is purely scientific, another and possibly the most interesting is presented by the Greek comic playwright Aristophanes. Aristophanes describes love as a desire to seek our other half; in the beginning all humans were connected to their other half but because we were only focused on ourselves and not on the worship of the gods we were separated and scattered. We spend our lives searching out our other half and depending upon other sources, in this case the gods of Greece, in hopes that we will have better luck. In reality we do sometimes appeal to God in hopes that He will allow us to find our one true love, others turn to magic, others just ignore the idea that we are some how meant for only one person in the world. But what happens when we find our one true love and for some reason or another they aren’t what we expected? They’re too short, too fat, too stupid, are physically or mentally disabled, etc. What then? Too often than not we leave that person and pass it off as, “well, they weren’t really the one for me.”
The new movie Adam, staring Hugh Dancy as a Asperger’s patient explores the circumstances of when boy meets girl, they fall in love and the other leaves. Asperger’s Syndrome is a member of the Autistic family where one is unable to cope with the emotional realities of the world; Asperger’s patients come off as disinterested, or sometimes too blunt because they are unable to recognize the subtitles of human emotions. As the main character Adam is faced with having to be alone for the first time in his life upon the death of his father, he meets Beth; Beth is a teacher who has just moved into the same apartment building as Adam. They develop an acquired acquaintance before Beth is finally told by Adam of his condition. It would appear on the surface that Beth initially falls for Adam out of pity, but by the end of the movie the audience is convinced that she did truly love him. It should be pointed out that this post does contain spoilers for the movie Adam. She is faced to ask herself, despite her love for Adam, is he capable of truly loving her? The answer comes when Adam and Beth are close to moving out to California for a job Adam has received. Adam admits to loving Beth, only after hearing her say he has never told her that while on the phone with her mother. He also tells her that he needs her, because she is a part of him and also because he needs her for the assistance she could provide him.
With a disabled person, whether physical or mental, the unfortunate reality is that whomever they love does end up being both a part of them, and a person who can help take care of them. Friends and family of the disabled can cope with this reality better than a potential partner because they are not forced to deal with the disability in ways the partner will evidently have to. Family will come closest to what the partner will have to deal with more than any friend will. The other unfortunate reality is expressed in the movie, as it is often times that women who fall for disabled men are unable to cope with the realities of what that love will entail. This ladies, should be a lesson that no matter how independent you claim to be, when the tables are turned and you are asked to love and help someone else more often than not you will leave. This is not meant to be a rude observation, but as a disabled male myself I have experienced this on some level with members of the opposite sex. Either way, the prospect of having to care for someone who may be unable to care for themselves independently of another scares all of us away even if that person is the one whom providence has separated from our self.
The question we are forced to ask ourselves at some point in the relationship is, can the idea that this person loves us whether they are able to express it or not over come the reality that they are in need of us in a very real way? We will almost always do the selfish act and run away from happiness with someone who needs us. A relationship with someone, such as the disabled, is not an easy relationship to handle and it is certainly not the romantic relationship we grow up seeing in movies, and on T.V. and read in books or magazines. It is a commitment that we, as selfish animals, are too often unable to make despite our feelings for that person. Even in Adam, despite Beth’s willingness to work with Adam’s condition she is ultimately unable to commit to him because he is unable to care for her in the way she insists on being cared for. She admits in a narration at the beginning of the movie that Adam teaches her how to love, in a way he demonstrates to her that the man she is meant to be with and the man she thinks she needs are two different men. Likewise,when we meet the person we were meant to be with it so often conflicts with the reality of who we thought we would end up with.
On our wedding day we are all asked the question, “Will you love, honor, and respect (insert adjective) in sickness and in health, until death do you part?” And while we will end up saying, “I do” the reality in the United States is that nearly half will end up divorcing. We have been raised in a selfish society, to think that just because we want something that we some how deserve to get it. When we think we have found it, we hold on to it until we realize it wasn’t really what we wanted. But after all, don’t we always get what we wanted in the end? Are we just simply too blinded by our selfishness to accept whom the gods separated us from in the beginning? This is a lesson we all need to learn, to be able to answer the call and to love the person who we love and not expect them to be something they can never be. Going back to the example used throughout, there are certain people out there who cannot unlearn their habits such as one who is mentally disabled, as Adam is. What we must do is learn that regardless of whether or not a person can express their love for us, that we sometimes have to sacrifice ourselves for our own happiness and realize that sometimes love means having to care for another.