5 Ways to Tell.
Here are some things to consider when trying to decide if s/he is “the one.”
1. Sex is hot
OK, this probably isn’t what most experts would tell you. Everyone knows sex isn’t the basis for a long-term relationship, right?
Or maybe it is. When you’re crazy attracted to a person, that means something. It’s not an accident. And though the heat is bound to be turned down at some point, the chemistry remains. When you simply like the way a person smells, this is good. When you like their touch, this is also good. This kind of thing tends to last. It marks a primal connection that goes beyond compatibility lists and can hold a relationship together through horrendous times. When skin loves skin, touch can trump almost any disagreement.
You should love this person’s flesh.
2. S/he is nice.
I know people make lists of qualities they desire in a prospective mate, and “nice” isn’t usually up there with the loftier qualities such as intelligent, funny, responsible, etc. But I’m telling you—“nice” is the most important quality there is. S/he can be the smartest, funniest, most industrious person on earth, but if s/he lacks common kindness, generosity, open-heartedness, and decency, those other qualities are bogus. Don’t be fooled by flash. Or cash.
S/he should be very, very nice.
3. There is some uncertainty
Whenever I hear someone say, “s/he’s perfect,” or “s/he is all I’ve ever dreamed of,” I become suspicious. Is this person living in a movie or a real life? Are they idealizing their loved one? In which case, they are having a relationship with themselves, not him/her.
Some uncertainty (Is s/he really right for me?) and everyday irritation (You hate the way s/he loads the dishwasher or always loses things) mean you’re in a relationship with an actual human, not a cartoon.
So s/he should bug you a little bit.
4. When it comes to the things you care about most, you can talk to him/her about those things.
It’s totally OK if you have nothing in common—as long as you can talk about what you do/believe/aspire to with him/her and s/he really listens. S/he doesn’t have to embrace your views as his/her own, s/he just has to care that you care about them.
S/he should make you feel that your beliefs and aspirations are of interest.
5. You can imagine loving him/her a little bit more than the relationship.
This is the kicker. This is the big one.
Once I lived in another country and was going out with someone I loved a lot. But I was young and thought I should probably go back to my own country for the long haul. When we talked about breaking up, he told me he supported my inclination to leave him, even though it made him really, really sad. Why? Because, he told me, I love you more than I love us.
What a guy.
This is the key to the whole thing, ladies and gentlemen. If you can always hold your love for him/her just slightly above your love of the relationship you have, you will be capable of creating a truly happy bond. Really. Try it.
Love him/her a little bit more than you love “us.”
Downtown Wichita in the rain
Beautiful & flat
Completely strange shopping mall with some kind of play area with gorilla. I cannot figure this out. But thought the gorilla looked pretty cool coming through the mist. Gorilla in the mist, Kansas-stylee.
Drive became extremely foggy at one point. Kind of cool.
Mountains rising up on the road to Boulder.
click on image to read entire article, which begins like this:
Sadly, and to my horror, I am divorcing. This was a 20-year partnership. My husband is a good man,
though he did travel 20 weeks a year for work. I am a 47-year-old woman whose commitment to
monogamy, at the very end, came unglued. This turn of events was a surprise.
It pisses me off for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. Nothing whatsoever to do with ethics or values. Something to do with how a person understands their own heart and the expectations they place on the heart of another.
I just learned that a friend friends of a friend are getting married. Congratulations, Ethan Kirsten and Kyle! This inspired me to look for an article I wrote for the Shambhala Sun. It’s about what we’re really committing to when we get into a relationship.
This past summer, I went to a meditation retreat center to practice for several weeks together with my community. At dinner on the first evening, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He looked to be in his early 60s and I found out that he was a longtime student of Buddhism. We told each other a bit about ourselves, including what we did for work, if either was married, had a family, etc. He was wondering about moving in with his new girlfriend—much younger than he, more enthusiastic about living together than he, hoping, he feared, for what we all eventually discover is impossible—to stabilize a relationship. He was also concerned about giving up his solitude and really didn’t know how long he would want the relationship to continue. Given all this, should they live together, could this work, he asked? I was totally ready with “I have no idea” when a voice popped into my head and said, “Of course it can work. As long as you don’t expect it to make you happy.” So I reported these words and we had a moment. We were kind of embarrassed—yes, Buddhists are supposed to know that craving creates suffering, but I guess we still secretly hoped that a relationship would make us happy, if only we could get the circumstances just right.
My new pal and I talked about this, how relationships can blind us to the dharma quicker than anything. As we said goodbye and I watched him walk away, I wanted to call out “don’t be afraid to tell yourself the truth about relationships.” And then I wondered, well what is the truth, exactly? Do I really believe they’re not supposed to make you happy? And when we long for a lasting relationship (as most people I know do), why do we forget that craving creates suffering?
When my husband and I began talking about getting married, we covered lots of topics: who would marry us, who to invite, what to wear, whether or not we would be able to convince our favorite Cajun band to learn “Hava Nagila.” (We were. Shout out to Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.)
Then the most important question came up: what would we say to each other to mark this commitment? What were our intentions and which words expressed them best?
We spent time reading various liturgies, Buddhist and otherwise, and talking about what we liked and disliked at other people’s weddings. As we read the words thousands and millions of other couples had spoken to each other, I became increasingly uncomfortable. Most of them ended with “I do.” I do…what? Marriage is a commitment to share love, have sex, and try to stay together with this one person, right?
Well maybe, but I couldn’t promise to do these things. I knew I couldn’t say, “I do” to love—feelings change and keep changing, and so on. I also knew I couldn’t say yes to wanting to have sex with him for the rest of my life—desire is unpredictable. And ask him to commit to me? Which me? I couldn’t commit to remaining the same me—I wouldn’t. So if you can’t say yes to love, sex, or remaining the one each fell in love with—what are you agreeing to when you commit to a relationship?
It’s just now, eight years later, that I’m finding out what—apparently—I said yes to.
I said yes to the unfolding, impenetrable arc of uncertainty. I guess I thought that finding love was an end point, that some kind of search was over and I would find home. We would leap over the threshold together into whatever we imagined our ideal cottage to be. But really we stepped through a crazy looking-glass. No matter how hard we tried, how madly in love we were, or how skillfully we planned our life together, there was complete uncertainty about what the connection would feel like from day to day. I could give all the love I had (with great joy) and get back a blank stare. I could wake up as my crankiest, most sullen and narcissistic self, roll over, and greet the face of unconditional acceptance. Or not. It’s like the weather: you can try to read the signs and guess about atmospheric conditions, but really there’s no telling. As far as I can see, this never changes; the relationship never stabilizes, ever. In which case you can’t actually promise each other anything. This is how it works. I have no idea why. But like when I’m listening to a meteorologist explain why it’s going to rain, I think, “Who cares? I’m just trying to figure out what outfit to wear today.”
It seems that I committed to a lifetime of delight and sadness, inseparable from each other. Every time I look into my dear one’s eyes and feel how deeply we’re connected, the moment disappears before I can actually hold it—and I have to watch it do so. It’s excruciating. It’s much easier to do this with your thoughts on a meditation cushion than with the feeling you get from his breath on your shoulder as you fall asleep. But now I get that I have to repeat this until the end of my life and that somehow this is love’s road.
I wish I had known that when you live with someone for a long time, there is continuous, mind-blowing irritation. (Okay I did know this, but I forgot.) Often the irritation arises when you try to replace your actual partner with a projection of a partner instead. They always figure out a way to tell you how unlike your projection they really are, which, once you pick yourself up, gives you yet another opportunity to choose between who this person is and who you sort of hoped he was. No matter how many times I prompt my husband with the correct lines for his role, he does not get into character. This irritates me. We have to throw away the script and just begin to improvise. You’re playing you and I’m playing me. Go.
I didn’t really understand that love does not arise, abide, or dissolve in connection with any particular feeling. It has almost nothing to do with feeling. (Nor does it seem to be a gesture, a commitment to stay, becoming best friends, or anything else I might have thought.) Love has become a container in which we live. Through time and riding mysterious waves of passion, aggression, and ignorance (and boredom), I think we began to live within love itself. At least I did. Each time I opened up, extended myself, accepted what was being offered to me, stepped beyond my comfort zone to embrace him, the structure was reinforced. I no longer have any idea if I love my husband or not. I can’t imagine what the feelings I have for him could be called. I’ve even given up trying to love him. Our relationship is what gives us love, not the other way around. This is how it is.
And of course you’re saying “I do” to goodbye. This bond will end. Hello can only mean goodbye, one way or another. Some relationships are just mistakes. Or people grow and change. Relationships can crater and nobody knows why. And if all else fails, certainly at death we will part. Saul Bellow once called this acknowledgment “the black backing on the mirror that allows us to see anything at all” and isn’t that just the key to the whole thing. The deeper our connection becomes, the more I know the reality of its ending, the more passionately I’m able to feel his touch. I know this even when I hate him (and he can really be an asshole—I’m not kidding) and when I love him so much that I plead for the opportunity to be married for all our lifetimes.
Each time my love expands by a molecule, it grows a same-sized molecule of sorrow. The more I love, the edgier it all feels, and the more courage is required. Where one gets this courage, I really don’t know. Surprisingly, it just seems to be there. And if you’re looking for a crucible in which to heat compassion, this is a really good one. Someone once told me that compassion is the ability to hold love and pain together in the same moment. So at least we’re learning something, which is what I tell myself. It sort of helps, but not really.
Maybe everything I’ve said is wrong; that’s totally possible. It’s just what I’ve learned. And here’s something else I’ve learned about a relationship: Okay, so it’s not what you think it’s going to be, the feelings are always changing, and you’re going to have to say goodbye someday. But when you find your true love, there is something inside that simply and inexplicably says hello to him. Yes to him. Of course to him. Certainly. Obviously, it’s you. There is no choice. I do.
Sorry I haven’t posted in so long! Have been toooo busy. I hate being busy. But between consulting work, revising new book, and hair appointments, haven’t had a moment.
A consulting gig has been taking me to the Bay Area every 10 days or so and while last there was on a local ABC show, discussing “The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say ‘I Do.’” Enjoy my awesome outfit.
Here are the phases as I see it…
1) The Break-up/Emotional Thrombosis/International Freak-out
Whatever, that’s like a month to 6 weeks of hell, panic, devastation. All you have to do is survive and lean on your friends and family as much as possible. I just felt like the world had kicked me out and I was all alone in Queens. Anyone willing to listen was truly a lifeboat for me.
So now you’re 2 months in and something has to motivate you to not react so hard to the outside world and what it’s throwing at you. Instead you do the opposite and drop inside of yourself to look for the answers. This is around the time I read your blog. It gave me that bit of altitude I needed to be like “Oh sad? Ok, I can do sad. I hate it, but I can do it.” But the key for me was really investigating the sadness. I was finally seeing the need to unbundle all of the stories and feelings, take what was valuable and release what wasn’t. That seemed freaking impossible, but that’s where meditation came in. I wasn’t doing Metta yet, but I do think I did my own weird versions. So much of the journaling was just notes to myself to freaking hang in there. I made a decision that whenever one of my cry-fests was about to come up, I wouldn’t push it down or just start in one of my re-run stories about what happened with us. I would drop whatever I was doing, get in my bed and cry my face off until it passed. I even left meetings at work to lay on my office floor for a few minutes and cry it out. Gosh, you basically have to develop a split personality for a bit to pull yourself through. Journaling is interesting here and I wonder if you’re right about the writer thing. Although I never consider it “Writing”. It was basically heart nonsense that needed some air. But I do know people who are opposed to journaling when a shrink has suggested it. It’s actually troubling for them. I think you should definitely recommend it, but make clear that it in no way needs to be valid “writing”. It should be there purely as a friend.
3) Take your heartbreak on the road. 4-6 months in and ongoing;-)
I think you eventually have to leave the cocoon you built for yourself, while being mindful that you’re in a fragile place. Your heart is sort of brand new if you’ve done the work right. I was at meditation classes and getting involved in charities. I went out on a date, (mehhh), but I went! Oh, I did your writers retreat. I started my blog. Got a trainer. It was a hard time, but this year has been the most in-touch with myself that I have ever been. I would have preferred to learn the lessons in a far less painful way, but what are you going to do. I’m reading this freaking awesome book, “The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”. The first line from one of the chapters is so perfect I can’t stand it, “It’s never the changes we want that change everything” Pfff, word. Welcome to break-ups;-)
Oh! remember when you sent me an email months ago about how to deal with my ex-boyfriend flare-ups. I was feeling so tight and angry, meditating felt impossible. You recommend that instead of focusing on the in and out, turn my attention to the actual feeling over and over. Let it burn itself up. That was soooo helpful Susan. I used that a lot to move in to my stage 3.
Anyway, this is way too much. But thank you for support and kind words. I think “groundless” is the word of choice when it comes to post break-up experiences. Somedays I feel all kinds of freedom and hope. The other days the groundlessness is just scary. But I really believe there is no other way. If I thought telling him off would work, believe me, I would have done it;-)
Keep the faith!
Photo by Ming
My beautiful friend Dana got married to the excellent Saxon and she asked me to say something during the ceremony. What could be a greater honor? And what can one possible say to mark something as momentously insanse and fabulous as getting married? Here is the poem I wrote:
For you, under an open sky without beginning or end, I rouse a mind of sadness and delight, inseparable from each other.
Taking refuge in the grace and gentleness of the father lineage, I hold your gaze fearlessly, knowing that in the moment love comes into focus, it also disappears. Still I hold your gaze. I do.
Emulating the openness and bounty of the mother lineage, I give myself completely, without really knowing how. You are playing you and I am playing me. Let’s go.
I offer you only a joyful mind, as infinite as the sky. Yes, I do. Like the sky, it can contain sunshine and storms, snowflakes and hail. Conditions are continually shifting but the sky is always the sky. It never gives up. From within it—Rejoice! The great sun rises in the east, the moon meets the tide and the circle is always complete.
Ki Ki! So So!