Love without feelings

February 14th, 2021

Sunday

48 days until deadline

Coming across State of the Union(2019) in the ARD Mediathek a day before Valentine’s day seemed to be an omen. A story about a couple dealing with a marital crisis sounds like just the right kind of thing to watch for this tortuous holiday. All self-pitying jokes aside, I have watched and enjoyed this series the year it came out. Rewatching it two years later is even more interesting.

I was really fascinated by how memory works and what do we remember in the end. Two years later, I have forgotten a lot about the details of their dialogues, but my feelings for the nature of their relationship mostly stayed the same. Even though this couple is in a marital crisis, the fact that they are still on speaking terms, willing to see a marriage consoler, and still able to catch each other’s jokes are just so heartwarming. If you can still have a conversation, it means your marriage is not over.

At the core of the narrative is the realisation that marriage isn’t perfect. Trying to remain in a marriage after fixing the hurt of affairs is not unlike going to AA meetings even after you quit drinking.

Our names are Tom and Louise, and we are in a permanent marital crisis, even though we live together and have sex.

State of the Union S1E10

They start the season trying to solve their lack of sex. By the end of the season, they have solved the problem, but the issue is far from over. The crisis is permanent even after the root causes have been closely examined. Falling in love wasn’t the hard part, it was staying in love. And they have decided to love without feelings, to transform the feelings they experienced in their youth into something mundane, so that they could fight mundaneness with itself.

I have always wondered why my parents did not get a divorce when I was younger. Their marriage is deeply flawed, and it felt like the house would collapse at any moment. Yet their sheer will of not willing to give up held the house together. It was only after I went to America that I noticed what their marriage was built on, this love without feelings. A mundane existence that celebrates its uneventfulness. Perhaps their mutual fear of the unknown is stronger than the desire to leave. I shall never know. But I do wish that they found joy in their arrangement other than trying to raise me. A child can always grow up, yet youth can never be reclaimed. I wonder if they knew what they were giving up, or were they so caught up in this perpetual crisis that it never occurred to them that they do have agency, and they could be happy, if only they allowed themselves to be. I don’t want their marriage, yet I fear what I want and what I need are two different things. Everybody wants an earthshaking love that could last a lifetime. But more often than not we settle for less. They made a death pact, so they don’t have to die alone. What they needed was a home where death won’t seem so scary when it comes.

Marriage as an institution is simply not the way it was. It used to be that kids, sex, and love are a packaged deal. Now you can get them separately. How funny it is that once people started to marry for love, the divorce rate went through the roof. If love is meant to disappear, what is the point of commitment, and do we understand exactly what it is that we are promising each other? What are we trying to defend, if not marriage itself as an institution?

Don’t ask stupid questions. When you love, you will understand.


The more a person expresses his love, the more people love him; and the more people love him, the easier it is for him to love others. In this way, love is eternal.

– Leo Tolstoy


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