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Revisit your past now to find peace, grace, and future relationship bliss.
If you're trying to improve your love life during the pandemic, protests, and riots, it can feel like dating during World War III. Some celebrities have even eschewed dating entirely and proclaimed themselves on a "date cleanse" to focus on their interior lives during this time.
Regardless of whether you choose to virtually date, continue a relationship, or fast from dating completely, times of trial force people to introspect and examine their past choices.
I recently finished Evelyn Waugh’s controversial novel, Brideshead Revisited. Published in 1945, it reveals a man’s discovery of meaning in his love life during World War II.
I realized how much his story resonates with relationships today, and how you can revisit your past now to find peace, grace, and future relationship bliss.
This novel holds a lot of helpful information on how you can improve your love and dating life when you're in a similar situation.
Here are 12 ways you can "upgrade" your love life during a crisis, based on Brideshead Revisited.
1. Stop in your tracks.
Throughout the novel the narrator and protagonist, Charles, has it all but is still unhappy. Despite wealth, his excellent education, a lucrative career, and a wife and children who care for him, he takes it all for granted.
Only his process of reassessing his past reanimates him to serve his purpose during wartime and protect England from the evils of Nazism.
Crises refocus people.
Formerly, Charles was a famous architecture artist whose paintings, though aesthetically pleasing, possessed little meaning. Despite his attempts to imbue depth in his work with an adventurous trip to South America, his art, even in rugged jungles, mirrors his life: ornamental but vapid.
3. Refuse to play the victim.
Before the war, Charles blames his wife for his depravity and takes on a victim mentality. His wife acts as an art agent for him, but in return, he resents her efforts and ends up cheating on her.
The marriage had a problematic start to begin; Charles marries her as a convention rather than an understanding of the sacrament.
Additionally, before the war, he consumes himself with his desires and spends as little time as possible with his children.
4. Take responsibility.
At the end of the novel, Charles realizes his actions ruined his relationships. After his divorce, he takes responsibility for losing the relationship with his children.
He and his friends at Oxford drink their studies away and take their education for granted. Like Charles, you must take responsibility for your choices and part in a relationship.
5. Modify destructive behaviors.
Although the hedonistic lifestyle Charles chases seems to promise constant self-gratification, it only succeeds in deepening his misery.
Today, the desire to get everything that you want whenever you want it permeates the "on demand" culture. Even before the pandemic, people self-isolated themselves with destructive and addictive behaviors.
Even seemingly innocuous habits like watching too much television (or Netflix!) and working too much increase isolation. These habits point to how everyone searches for meaning in their lives, like Charles.
Charles and Sebastian’s lust for pleasure and the demise of their friendship showcases the impossibility of trying to find happiness without God. It leads to self-destructive behavior that, if unchecked, can ruin your life.
6. Reassess your material desires.
When Charles first arrives at Brideshead, he thinks that he has found his “enchanted garden.”
However, he soon learns that although paradisiacal, even Brideshead’s ebullient landscape and luxurious mansion fail to provide his desired escape from reality, morality, and responsibility.
What you think you want may not be what you need. This time of crisis is a good period to reassess your materialism.
7. Change for the better.
Thankfully for him, Charles does change his behavior.
He and his mistress break off their affair after her father dies. Her father’s slow death-bed conversion serves as a "memento mori," or reminder of their own eventual death, and prompts them to consider the present, and eternal, consequences of their actions.
Although Charles neglects to admit it at the time, despite pockets of momentary bliss with Julia, neither feel at peace.
If you want happiness and love in your life, start with yourself.
8. Examine your conscience.
Julia yearns for the peace that she lacks in her adulterous relationship with Charles.
Amidst the radiant sunset scenery, she tells him that she wants to marry him for “a day or two of real peace.”
Later that evening, she breaks down in tears over the life of sin that has plagued her.
After her fit, Julia tries to go back to her "normal" life. She catches a glimpse of freedom in her breakdown, but in fear, cowers back to the way that she has lived.
She calls her former breakthrough “a fit of hysteria.” Yet, her facade only lasts for a few more months.
If you're not comfortable with the choices you're making in your relationship, now is the time to take a good hard look and change them.
9. Find peace.
Charles achieves peace at the end of the novel when he owns up to his mistakes.
Ironically, amid a terrifying war, he places himself in the hands of God.
Though “homeless, childless, middle-aged, loveless,” he embraces his simplified but enriched life.
In giving Charles up, Julia also embarks on a journey where she puts her life in order.
Both she and Charles learn to surrender their selfish ideas and obsessions of what they think will make them happy for God’s plan for their lives, the only thing that provides them with true joy.
They need to get right with God before finding joy themselves.
10. Move past your past.
At the end of the novel, the British Armed Forces station Charles at the Brideshead estate.
Charles muses on how the military uses the house for purposes other than the builders intended.
He quotes the book of Ecclesiastes and remembers his past. He pursued “vanity” in his former life, but that life has died. Like Charles, you must come to terms with your past to move on to your future.
11. Discover the true meaning of life.
Charles visits the chapel that the British army has restored to its rightful purpose.
The chapel had fallen into disuse with the Marchmain family who owned the Brideshead property.
Charles notices a lit lamp, which reveals the presence of the Eucharist for the private worship of the soldiers. He prays and then walks back to his regiment, happy for the first time in the novel. Even an officer remarks on his cheerfulness.
Formerly only one family occupied the expansive Brideshead estate. Now, the soldiers use it to train and fight a great evil.
Use this time to discover what it is you're really seeking in life. What's important to you? You must know this to truly connect with someone else who values the same.
12. Be surprised by joy.
In a culture that loves happy romantic endings, Brideshead Revisited can, at first, feel unsatisfying, but a deeper look reveals the fulfilling joy at the end.
The book highlights the choice of either living on the surface, almost impossible during a war, or to look within and set off on a life of adventure.
Waugh asserts that conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a looking-glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.
Charles’ and Julia’s initial “looking-glass” worlds, although beautiful on the outside, are one-dimensional and vain, self-reflecting rather than God-reflecting.
The characters’ stories reveal that only sacrifice brings true happiness.
Open yourself to the possibility of joy in life, and you will reflect that same joy in your love life as well.
Trying to learn how to improve your love life during a crisis is hard, but not impossible.
By following these steps, you can embrace happiness even in hard times and learn to love better than ever.