34-Love Letters from Vietnam: Is Love Simply the Fulfillment of Needs?

22 October, 1969 - Wednesday

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22 October, 1969 - Wednesday

Dear Kate,

We just finished talking together, Kate, and the pain of our separation seems easier to bear. Thank you, Kate, for giving me something to break up the monotony of the week. I can't begin to tell you how I long to hear the sound of your voice and how much joy it gives me when I do.

When I talked to you, Kate, I got the feeling that something was bothering you. I don't know what it is, but I wish I could be there and share your problem. I feel that I should be there. I have a responsibility to you to be there. Can you tell me what it is?

Kate, my love for you has grown so I seem to have lost my old identity. I'm now two people. As time goes by, Kate, I'm finding it harder and harder to exist separated from you. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, I'm incomplete. I need you.

Love,

Tim

26 October, 1969 - Sunday

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Dear Kate,

Hello my love. It's been 8 hours,24 minutes, and 15 seconds since we've talked, my life, and how I long to hear your voice. Talking with you give me much happiness, Kate, as well as strength and hope. It's the only thing I look forward to here at E-2. Thank you for that great gift.

Well, Kate, how did the remainder of your Sunday go? Well, I hope you have rested for the struggle tomorrow. That is, the struggle involved in pouring knowledge into distracted wandering restless minds. Yours is a difficult task, Kate. You deal 5 days a week with the complexities of the human mind. But Kate, you compound the difficulty of your task by not neglecting the other needs of human beings. And for that I love you and respect you. Kate, because your job is so hard, you have to expect failure. But also know that because you are what you are, the children will become more complete individuals, more unselfish, and more compassionate because of their association with you. I can say this because I know you. And I love what I've come to know.

Please forgive the homily Kate, but it seems to me that you have been unhappy about the results of your efforts. You've been too hard on yourself, too critical, and because of your modesty, you've been blind to your achievements. In short, I wish you would cut it out because when you're unhappy, I am to. You're the only woman I would have teach our children!

It's getting late, and I'd better get to bed if I want to stay awake in class tomorrow. May God bless and protect you, Kate.

Love,

Tim

Is Love the Fulfillment of Need?


If you read between the lines of Tim's letter, you'll see that I was doubting my ability in as teacher of the deaf in my second year. The back story to that scene is that during my senior year in Deaf Education at the University, I realized I wasn't good at this profession that I had chosen. I was raised as an only child; and never babysat. I didn't really have a handle on child development or behavior modification. I never really wanted to be a teacher; I just knew that I was fascinated and empathetic with the concept of deafness and wanted to work in the field. At the time, there were very few careers outside of teaching for those interested in working with the deaf. Today there is a myriad of professions: counselors, advocate, social workers, interpreters, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehab. counselors, and on and on.

I do remember that in 1969, I was unhappy (and realistically so) with my ability to teach deaf children. I didn't have that spark that I saw in the remarkable other teachers at our school. I, therefore, was disillusioned; no one feels good doing a job in which they feel inadequate. Tim, in his emotional state of being in love, idealized who I was and assumed I was just being hard on myself. I was just being truthful, but I wanted to believe him. I wonder now if my degree of passion in this relationship was subconsciously heightened by feeling that marrying Tim might be an escape out of my dilemma. If I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would say that subconsciously, never consciously mind you, but subconsciously, was a feeling that Tim might somehow take me away from all of this - away from a profession with which I wasn't matched.

When I think about Tim's need at the time, it's obvious that facing the prospects of going off to a war he might not return from, Tim needed an anchor - a reason, a purpose for keeping himself alive. "He who has a why to his existence, can bear with almost any how." (Nietzsche) So perhaps our relationship was this intense because of Tim's need to make me his how. Maybe even his enlisting was a need in and of itself. After all, Tim's father had landed on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. Was there part of Tim that wanted to please his father by a noble act of patriotism? I'm sure that all had a part in his decision making. We have to be careful of neurotic needs that sometimes drive our actions.

Are These Needs Just Common to Us All? Where Do YOU Come in?

So, maybe Tim and I both had a subconscious need to escape from outer circumstances into the relationship. Is this any different than any other couple on the face of the planet? Aren't there always circumstances that pull us toward the person with whom we're in love - circumstances that create a deep desire to escape?

From my personal observations in the world among my friends, I would say that we all have some need outside of our love for the other person that drives a relationship. I don't think that necessarily is always a bad thing. My Aunt Ruth is 91 years old. She married my Uncle Bob when she was barely out of high school because her mother had sold their home and she had no place to stay. Uncle John suggested that they get married, and it was the happiest marriage I have ever witnessed! There are thousands of Aunt Ruth and Uncle John stories in the world.

Having said that, it does seem that marriage based out of want rather than need has the highest predictor of success, and that the more whole each person is when coming into the marriage, the more likely their chances of a healthy, growing relationship. It seems to me that success in a marriage might be inversely proportional to need. That is, the more one needs a relationship, the less are the chances of success. Conversely, the more whole and centered each individual is when they come into a relationship, the higher the chance of bliss. If we are escaping something, producing a need for the relationship, we must be honest with ourselves. It wasn't necessarily unhealthy for me to be in love during this transition time of my life. What might have been unhealthy was to not solve the problem of the issue from which I was trying to escape. If I was unhappy with my career, it was important for me to solve that unhappiness while in the relationship. Going back to school at that point in my life, being energized by something that would increase my feeling of competence would have served only to enhance the love Tim and I were experiencing. It was my responsibility to do that since I was the only one who really understood me!

There is a nice little quiz that asks What is Your Love Based On? and proceeds to explain (if only in a short sentence) the main need that might be driving your relationship. The interesting part of this quiz is that it seems to acknowledge that each couple's love can be based on needs different than another couple's, and whether that need is friendship or passion, each has a chance of succeeding (or of failing).

But in reality do any of us have the definitive answer? It would seem that a couple like Jill and Kevin of the "Walk Down the Aisle" video fame in July of this year come into a marriage fully secure within themselves. They have a huge support group of friends and given all the best life will have to offer, probably will be doing a similar dance down the aisle at the renewal of their vows at their 50th Anniversary.

Is love based purely on Sheldon's definition of biological need in the episode on the Big Bang Theory.

The only thing I can be sure of is that it's important to be honest with yourself and understand what your love is based upon.

On second thought, forget all of this analysis! Let's just go with a passage from Emerson's essay on love and be done with it. It's much more fun:

"...no man ever forgot the visitations of that power to his heart and brain, which created all things new; which was the dawn in him of music, poetry, and art; which made the face of nature radiant with purple light, the morning and the night varied enchantments; when a single tone of one voice could make the heart bound, and the most trivial circumstance associated with one form is put in the amber of memory; when he became all eye when one was present, and all memory when one was gone; when the youth becomes a watcher of windows, and studious of a glove, a veil, a ribbon, or the wheels of a carriage; when no place is too solitary, and none too silent, for him who has richer company and sweeter conversation in his new thoughts, than any old friends, though best and purest, can give him; for the figures, the motions, the words of the beloved object are not like other images written in water, but, as Plutarch said, "enamelled in fire."

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