Well, that was quite the break, wasn't it? I wish I could tell you I've been overwhelmed returning phone calls to publishers banging on my voice mail or consulting financial planners on how to spend my lottery winnings, but alas, I've just been too damn busy at work to get to this thing.
Big sigh of relief that my busy season has just about passed. All of my aforementioned MSPE's have been transmitted, my email in-box at work has become relatively sedate, and for the first time in six years, I'm actually getting to enjoy some of October, my favorite month.
Okay then. On to business!
I'm no self-help guru, and I'm a far cry from perfect, but having recently passed my 14 year anniversary, I feel at least relatively qualified to discourse on relationships.
Despite my largely reserved demeanor, I consider myself a pretty passionate guy. I'm a strong believer in the power of monogamous relationships. I think love is a rare and remarkable thing that you only catch onto a few precious times in your life. I think that when you find it, love can be life-changing. It can overcome many obstacles, make you more than you are.
But it's not enough.
Life, like love, is beautiful. It is awe-inspiring, fascinating, filled with wonder and possibility. That these things are true does not preclude the fact that Life is nonetheless formidable. It can be challenging, vexing, unjust, even merciless. Though there are times when all the pieces click into place with the elegant simplicity of a final jigsaw puzzle piece, most times, like that stalwart cognitive and perceptual challenge, it requires tenacity, patience, and planning, with healthy doses of audacity and instinct tossed into the mix.
As hard as Life is for one person to get right, aligning two souls on the same path is, as you might imagine, vastly more difficult. Given this, telling someone you love them, regardless of the passion and sincerity with which you do so, is not sufficient. At the end of the day, those marvelous words are only that. It is through action that love is truly expressed. It means having the wherewithal to determine what you want your life together to be and to come up with at least a basic plan on how you're going to get there. It means having a vision for the future, a willingness and understanding that it's going to take a great deal of effort, maintenance, compromise, negotiation, and sacrifice to get there.
Here's a newsflash, my friends: Relationships are not for the meek. They can be hard. Really, really hard. Once the honeymoon phase is over, the pragmatic aspects of life settle in. If kids enter the picture, it gets even tougher. You get caught up in the maintenance of life, paying the bills, taking care of the house or apartment, being a parent. You become more of a team than a couple. The fireworks die down (to varying degrees), the endorphins run lower (and you'd better have something to talk about when they do).
If we make up a pie chart of a successful long-term relationship, around 70% will be good or great, 10% or so will be absolutely amazing, another 10% or so will be quite difficult, and the remaining 10% or so will suck so badly that no matter how much you love the person, you'll wonder why you bothered hooking up with them in the first place.
Every now and then you have to go through your relationship ledger and determine: are the pluses outnumbering the negatives by a good margin? If the answer is no, is there anything you and your significant other (aka SO) as individuals and/or as a couple are able and/or willing to do to address all those negatives? If the answer to that question is no, where do you go from there? The answer may well be that you shake hands and part as equitably as you can. If the answer is yes, you may have some hard miles to travel to make things right again, but I believe ultimately, it will be worth the effort.
Well, that doesn't sound like much fun, does it? In fact, reading this over, a lot of it sounds like top shelf, grade A buzzkill.
But that's just the half-full glass. It's an unfortunate proclivity of the human psyche to veer toward the negative. You have to consciously focus on the good stuff, and there's plenty of it there if you look for it. So, while you probably don't have sex on the kitchen floor as often as you used to, what you get in return is something richer and more meaningful.
There is a profound sense of security in being with someone who knows your quirks, idiosyncrasies , and flaws, and is willing to deal with them (to a point), someone who is going to be there when you need them, someone you want to be there for when they need you. (In the case of marriage, there's a certain security in knowing your SO is for all intents and purposes, legally required to be there :) ). There is inherent value in knowing you can trust that person and they can trust you. It can bring enormous peace of mind to know you don't have to explain or define yourself to someone. They get it. Or can effectively anticipate it.
I think love remains beyond true understanding. It is possessed of near countless facets and shades. And though I believe it is essential to the continuity of any long term relationship, the fact remains...
Orkin’s Law of Realistic Romanticism: Love is not enough.
Thanks for reading.*
*Note: I sense I have more to say on this matter (maybe a lot more) but it's been far too long since I've posted. You may safely consider this topic 'To be continued...'