Apparently, after you make mistakes for a few decades, you earn a new tool called ‘wisdom’ to utilize for however many days you have left. Better late than never, but I’ve not thought about sharing much of this newfound life experience with anyone until now.
So many fellow writers and bloggers discussing the never-ending highs and lows of love, most of them sharing unpleasant results in this modern day. I felt inspired to join the virtual reality conversation. That and I’m zooming toward a 28-years of marriage anniversary this summer. Since we’re nearing three decades of being hitched, some have inquired about our relationship longevity. The subject line reveals my premise, as I absolutely believe love can conquer all. Sometimes it can take a while to get the hang of it.
Last month while shopping, a salesperson, going for that customer bonding moment, asked my wife about our ‘success’. As she is an engineer, a quick graph drawn in the air is the easiest path to succinct information exchange. The graph she displayed looked like a “U” – high point to start, a huge dip and then arcing upward. Luckily for me, the last bit of the arrow on the current side of the graph was displayed as still going up.
As usual, she was spot on.
Of course, a bunch of relationships have similar graphs, and the lines aren’t all smooth and straight. The key to my available wisdom today is I can explain a way to either avoid that valley, or if you’re there right now, a path to get out. And yes, I’m borrowing heavily from folks far smarter and wiser than me, I’m just at a point where I understand what they have been saying all along.
1. Ignore the Fairy Tales – Society tells us through our stories, our structure that all things point towards a grand life plan. You’re born, you go to school, get a job, meet a nice woman, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. The modern message hasn’t changed much. Instead of the princess being saved by her prince, our romantic comedies throw in the one adverse moment now, and then they get the happy ending. Unrealistic expectations created by the very fiction we create and read are the enemy of real relationships. Expectations quickly erode into a “what’s in it for me?” vial of poison that turns teammates into competitors.
2. Don’t Compromise – This is a big one. It sounds weird, but I had it wrong for years. I assumed you had to compromise, to sacrifice, and surrender in order to grind it out and work through it. Yes, it can be as horrible as the last sentence sounds. Now, I give instead. It seems like a subtle difference, but there is no sacrifice this way. I decide to give versus giving up. This many years in, I really don’t always have to ask, I know many of my partner’s needs. The old method was, I felt obligated – I had to give up my time to shop with her. Now I give or gift my time and it is a far more rewarding perspective. If you love, then giving should be a joyous effort in order to make her feel that love. A free hint for guys here too, watching a beautiful woman try on dresses is pretty hot. I’m not certain how shopping got a bad rep in the first place.
3. Always Be Dating – Borrowing a bit from the film Glengarry Glen Ross, and the rally cry of a heartless boss played by Alec Baldwin, “Always be closing!” That aside, there is no reason to stop chasing after the love of your life, like she is indeed the love of your life. Movies, dinners, travel, walks, sports, family events and seeking out new adventures is something one would do when they meet someone, the key, as it turns out, is not to stop. Single or married, life can get into patterns and patterns can get a little boring. It doesn’t mean you have to climb Mount Everest to shake things up, but it sure is a blast exploring around to find the next fun or unique step to take. The middle aged couple date includes puzzles now. Puzzles are not exactly adrenaline rush central, although the quiet sense of working to build something together is fun.
4. Traditional Gender Roles Need an Update – It starts as mockery, the moment when the friends tease a pal about being “whipped.” The first of many stereotypes that are hammered in regarding traditional gender roles. The dreaded ancient code about how a man is “supposed to be.” The stick to your guns, don’t cave in, don’t be ‘weak’ versus your woman in your resolve. I’ve also discovered logic is not king (i.e., well, if we fixed our relationship this way once, it should logically work that way every time). Projecting one’s will on another or fixing problems she didn’t ask to be fixed are a fast path to the unpleasant valley. Listening to your partner’s needs and trying to address them is not being whipped or giving up one’s man card. Caring is cool. Learning how to listen is even better.
5. I’d Rather Be Kind Than Right – Yes, this is the fastest growing cliche in western civilization. As a natural extension of the Golden Rule it’s absolutely true. And not as easy as it sounds, I mean, who doesn’t like to be right? I used to enjoy being correct in my assessment of any situation. However, no one “wins” a disagreement in a relationship. People feel how they feel, and the only way out of a difference of perspective is understanding and kindness.
6. It Is What You Make It – I will fight for the rest of my days against the “It is what it is” mantra of the modern world. I understand it. The phrase is a simple rationalization to shrug off difficult moments, an attempt to accept the ills of life. I think the healthier selection is not to accept, but embrace and modify adversity. By appearances, it seems like a slight perception adjustment. However the “It is what it is” world equates to a life of indifference. In that mode I gave myself permission to be absolutely miserable. In turn, everyone in my life shared that misery. Instead, life is what I choose it to be. For example, losing someone I love is horrific, yet, I choose to focus on the love and gifts they shared with me. Sad and bad happens every day. I can hold onto anger and fear or create the next happier moment.
Ultimately, neither of us is perfect, darn this whole humanity thing, but she is perfection to me. I imagine our graph may move around on us again too. I like our odds when it happens, due to the wisdom gained along our adventurous path.
Love can conquer all. And my heart is truly conquered.
As it turns out, her “air graph” is a much faster way to explain us.
Somehow, she she chose not to change the locks on the door, even at the very lowest part of our graph. I’m thankful Dena chose to climb out of that canyon with me. All unsolicited advice set aside, luck is clearly a factor. I should know, I’m truly the most blessed, most fortunate man on the planet. I get to hang out with the most fun, beautiful, brilliant, and kindest person I know.
See? So conquered. Not whipped at all though…