Sunday, May 31, 2015

What We Can Be for Each Other

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a suggestion to encourage the linking of hearts.

Many failed relationships, I think, fail out of unmet expectations. 

We human beings, all of us, are annoying or aggravating or boring at times. We all have our flaws, and with prolonged exposure, flaws can so easily magnify themselves in the eyes of others. So as we move through the cycles of a relationship, it’s easy for the negatives we possess and the negatives of our partner to grow more obvious and less tolerable. 

And we all have our unique hungers, the needs and wants that help make us who we are, that drive us in the directions our lives are destined to go. Unless romantic fate is exceedingly kind to us, no partner will ever fulfill all of those needs. So again, over time, we often find greater and greater frustration in the portions of ourselves that our partners are unable to satisfy.

In combination, these two trends can easily turn a pinnacle of affection and attraction into a downward slope of irritation, resentment, and anger – until we find ourselves standing before a hungry void, the void of our neglected wants.

Once there, even a small unpleasantness can topple us over the edge.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can take our awareness of this phenomenon and make a few simple adjustments to avert that tumbling decline.

First, we must be honest with ourselves and know the importance of each yearning that drives us. How important is hand-holding, religion, political conversation, travel, sex, or bowling? There are things that we like but can do without, and there are things we must have to remain the people we are. Only by knowing which is which can we judge the real success of our partner in supporting our needs.

Next, we must communicate with one another. Our partner must be made aware of just how important any given need is to us, how critical its fulfillment is to our happiness. Without that awareness, she can’t be expected to read the cause of our discontent; he can’t be expected to make his greatest effort to satisfy our wants.

With that shared knowledge, two partners can know the limits of the bond they share – and can compromise around those limits. Most importantly, they can discard the misery of unmet expectations, because they will have openly agreed on what can and can’t be expected.

Having eliminated from our relationships the dead weight of pointless wanting, we can then focus on all the things we gain from the person we love, instead of all the ways we think they have failed us. In place of voids and holes, we can see strengths and supports. In place of resentment, we can feel appreciation.

By removing the power of hopeless expectations, we free ourselves to do what we can do for one another, to be what we can be for each other.

A crucial final element in this equation is what to do when one partner has a need that can’t be compromised and the other has a true inability to fulfill it. If love is to survive, it’s the obligation of both partners to make sure that need is being met outside of the relationship.

We should not expect our loved ones to suffer in hunger just because we do not have the particular food they need.

If one partner burns to share the great outdoors while the other is an agoraphobe ...

If one must dance and the other hates crowds and music ...

If one needs passionate arguments of the mind but the other can’t stand intellectualizing ...

Then it is our duty not just to offer but to insist on giving our partner the freedom to exercise their wants, their needs, their dreams. If it can’t happen within the bounds of the relationship, we must encourage it beyond ... and we must be happy to see our partner enjoy that freedom when they take it, knowing that our insistence on their liberty is the best means we have of giving them joy.

Real love is not a binding that restricts. It is the devotion to bestowing delight. It is the desire to free one's beloved from want. And it is the appreciation of all that one's beloved is, including all of his or her needs, both those we can meet and even – or especially – those we cannot.

Thank you, goddess of love, for the opportunity to be what we can, and the generosity to let go where we must.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee

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