I spend a lot of time thinking about relationships and how to make them work. I stumbled upon this NYT article at the end of May and below is a summary of the nuggets it contains as a reflection about commitment, love and relationships.
Nobody’s perfect. We only seem normal to those who don’t know us very well. The problem is that before commiting to a person, our true selves rarely show. As for our friends, they seldom – if ever – do the hard work of enlightening us: it’s a thankless task, that requires tremendous kindness and patience. Few people pick confrontation for the selfless interest of helping a fellow human. Besides, it requires an outward, caring sort of self-confidence.
The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, lacking the confidence to share one’s feelings. This directs us towards choosing the wrong partners because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.
Moreover, we only accept the love we think we deserve.
We also make mistakes because we are so lonely, and remaining single feels unbearable.
Finally, we commit to make a nice feeling permanent. We imagine that this union will help us bottle the joy we felt when the thought of being together forever first came to us.
The hard works comes when the first years’ feelings evolve into deeper ones. It’s not just dates and parties anymore. Laundry, dishes in the sink and empty toilet rolls take over the butterflies in your stomach. The butterflies go deeper, yet we think they’re gone.
We must abandon the founding romantic idea upon which the western understanding of marriage has been based the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.
We need to swap this view for the awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us at various times — and that we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness; none of this is unusual or grounds for separation.
The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste, but the one who is good at disagreement. Compatibility is an achievement of love not its precondition.
Romanticism has been unhelpful to us. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is abnormal. Hollywood and superficial magazines fill our heads with utterly unrealistic expectations. Loving someone is a hard choice, much harder than breaking up when things get tough, despite the appearances. We should always strive to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kind perspective.
Love and compassion, first and foremost. Love and compassion, always.