Last week, we started our new series on love stories. In the intro, I talked about how stories influence your thinking and your actions, what you wish for in a relationship and whom you see as a good partner.
Love stories are the stories we tell ourselves about what love is—or should be. They are what we seek for our perfect relationship.
We all have stories, sometimes several of them, that we may seek. These stories tend to be long-lasting and relatively hard to change.
We do not view them as stories. We view them as what love is.
We currently have a list of 26 stories that are relatively common among people all over the world and that we’ve done research on. Today, let’s dive right into one of the stories to get a better sense of what they actually look like and how they work in real life.
The story I’ve chosen as our starting point is the Art Story.
The Art Story: Looking for Perfection in a Partner
Basically, someone with an art story is looking for a lover who is a work of art—in the extreme, perhaps even a god or goddess to us. The lover seeks perfection in beauty—someone whom they just want to look at, again and again and again, and for as long as they can.
Did you ever see a picture or a photo of someone, and you just fell in love with the person through the photo?
That’s what happened to New York City Detective Mark McPherson in the movie Laura.
Detective McPherson, played by actor Dana Andrews, saw a photo of Laura, played by actress Gene Tierney. McPherson believes Laura to have been murdered, but becomes infatuated nevertheless.
Later in the movie, while mooning over the “late” Laura in her own apartment while investigating the crime, McPherson is surprised when Laura enters the apartment—she is still very much alive.
Eventually, McPherson saves Laura from actually being murdered and the two are happily united.
Laura’s story turns out happily in the end—much more happily than Gene Tierny’s life, which was marked by one tragedy after another.
But in real life—as opposed to Hollywood movies—art stories tend to have more complex outcomes.
One Partner Admires and One Partner Is Admired
Generally, stories are not good or bad in themselves. The challenge is to find someone who matches your story. So, if you have an art story, you want to find someone else who does too. Usually, one partner will be the admirer (McPherson, in the case of the movie) and the other will be the object of admiration (Laura, in the movie).
Here's What to Look Out for If You Have an Art Story
But that’s the rub.
Falling in love with a fantasy
First, the admired person is sometimes just that—an object.
They are admired for their beauty, no for who they are as a person.
So, the risk is that one has fallen in love with a fantasized object rather than a real, living, breathing person.
Eventually, one is likely to find out that the perceived artistic perfection on the outside is not matched by perfection on the inside.
There just aren’t enough perfect people to go around, or to be exact, there aren’t any.
Second, people change.
So, if one falls in love with physical appearance, one better be prepared for that physical appearance to change—unless, of course, one marries Dorian Gray, which would be a terrible mistake because Dorian was such a terrible person.
The risk of an art story in a relationship is that as the object’s physical appearance changes, and, likely, deteriorates, at least over long periods of time, the basis for the love will vanish. The love will die slowly due to aging, or quickly due to an accident or some other sudden unhappy event.
There's more to a person than their looks
Third, you probably would not decide what car to buy solely on the basis of how sleek it looks. You would want as well to consider its comfort, its repair record, its engine power, it size, and so on.
Similarly, it is not a great idea to choose a partner, as McPherson found himself doing, solely on the basis of the person’s physical appearance.
Just as you don’t want a beautiful car that is always in the car shop, you don’t want a partner who looks great but does not function properly.
Your taste may change
Fourth, although one’s preference for the art story may be quite stable, the kinds of art one likes sometimes tend to change over time.
When I was younger, for example when I was in college, I was very attracted to what sometimes is called medieval art.
Today, I can’t quite figure out why I looked at it so much. My only point is that just as one’s taste in art may change, so may one’s taste in people who personify certain types of art.
The result is that the partner you see as ravishingly attractive at one point in time may not seem quite so attractive at another point in time.
Your passion may wane
Finally, the art story is very closely linked to the passion component of love. And we know one thing that is almost always true of the passion component: It is quick to emerge, but also relatively quick to deteriorate or even vanish.
Relationships built on passion tend not to last unless they have strong foundations in intimacy and commitment.
Enjoy with Care
Look, the art story is not all bad. If you find someone else who is into it, more power to you.
Maybe you will find your Aphrodite or your Adonis.
OK, I have a confession to make. I am a bit of a sucker for an art story. When I was in tenth grade, I fell madly in love--emphasis on "madly"---with a girl in my biology class. I thought she was so beautiful. Fortunately, it went nowhere. She was not at all for me, nor I for her. But although my dominant story with Karin is a fairy-tale story, I cannot say that the art story played no part. She sure was super-attractive to me! She still is! In the end, fortunately, the fairy-tale story predominated, because you can't easily build a great relationship just on someone's looks. Perhaps art stories work best when, sooner or later, another story predominates and essentially takes over!
It can be fun, the passion can be intense, and you may feel like you’ve found the partner of your dream.
Just be careful. Artwork, even when carefully preserved in a museum, can fade over time.
Make sure you find someone for whom your love will not fade, however the characteristics of your partner may change over time!