Perfect love is rare indeed – for to be a lover will require that
you continually have the subtlety of the very wise,
the flexibility of the child,
the sensitivity of the artist,
the understanding of the philosopher,
the acceptance of the saint,
the tolerance of the scholar and the fortitude of the certain.

Leo Buscaglia, Unknown Context

January 21. Monday.

This week, everyday if possible, I will be exposing a little of the relationship Nicole and I have built leading up to our anniversary on Saturday. It’s not so much to expose us as a couple, but more what has helped us get this far, so that our experiences may help others who long for the security and depth of feeling of a long term relationship. They say the first year is the hardest, I am not sure I would agree with that, but I would say that the first year the learning curve is the steepest. I will try to keep it light, try to keep the overt flattery to a minimum, and try to shed a little light on things from my perspective after a year that has provided so much happiness and so much growth to me.
So what makes a successful year together? Isn’t it really all about how much you can learn about one another and how you use that knowledge to build a solid foundation for the future? Or is it just the ability to put up with each other long enough and being able to stretch your tolerances far enough not to kill the person you are supposed to love. Some people say that love is the closest thing to hate, and that we always hurt those who are closest to us, but I am afraid that going along with that kind of thinking is going to get us nowhere. To clarify, some people are unable to determine within their own mind the difference between love and hate, they cannot understand their reactions on a visceral level and rely on their basest of instincts to help them react to their circumstances. However, part of what makes us human is our ability to control our urges, to understand our appetites and to judge the appropriateness of those feelings. You can probably tell that my personal take on the success of a relationship is not necessarily down to the chemistry between the two people involved but rather that a large portion of what makes a good relationship is the ability of those people to control whatever destructive thoughts and feelings they may have and to interpret them in a constructive way.
It may strike some of you as strange that I would take this approach to a relationship but I have been through enough shining examples of what happens when you let your ego get in the way of your feelings to know that finding a loving and wonderful partner is only half the story. Of course, there are many people out there who will throw away relationship after relationship searching for something that they will never find simply because they refuse to accept responsibility for their portion of the partnership.

The single biggest problem facing people today is their inability to commit to themselves and THEN to others. There is too little understanding about the difference between being selfish and being protective of oneself.

Sure, we all hear the statistics that 60% of marriages end in divorce, but how many people know that of those who divorce, over 80% state that divorcing was a mistake, that they should have worked through the problems and stayed together. That is what I call relationship insensitivity. Inside the relationship, things can tend to look bleak, it is easy to look outside and imagine how much better things might be with someone else or with someone extra or with no one at all, but the problem is that the comfort level that individual is at that makes him or her respond to their situation that way is being provided by the very relationship from which they are fantasizing an escape. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all situations, I mean to say that there are many times in short term relationships that it is appropriate to cut ties and move along, but the issue here is that the longer the relationship lasts, the more comfort develops and for some people, the more restless they become.
So what is the solution to this dilemma? What is the approach that faithful, committed people are so successful at implementing that gives them the strength and determination to succeed with each other. I think it’s pretty simple really, it is just a decision. The truly happy people on this planet decided that once they made a commitment to another person, that they would do everything in their power to make that relationship succeed. The common parts to that commitment include kindness, consideration, monogamy, sharing, encouragement, compassion and understanding. The uncommon parts to that commitment which are where most people fail include self-awareness, self-control, development of an appropriate behaviour pattern and the desire to share themselves without compromise. Far too many couples fall into the trap of becoming what they imagine the other person wants. This is far too often based on our own skewed image of the world and what we imagine to be desirable. Sharing yourself without compromise means being able to allow your partner to see you in a certain way, without shame or secrecy and to accept them in that same fashion. People do change, over time subtle changes are normal, but the radical personality disorders that surface during a relationship tug-of-war are borderline psychotic at times. One of the greatest values of being alone for long periods is that you get a concrete sense of self that helps you to understand how exactly you fit into the world without the pressure of a partner’s expectations. From this intimate knowledge of self we can determine what our core commitments are and what our basic expectations are. This is what the successful couple will often refer back to when faced with issues inside their relationship. In order to successfully be with someone else, we need to be able to hang on to an anchor of self that will keep us grounded during the storms and swells of our romance. Unless we can identify with the person we are and the person we want to be, how can we expect someone else to be able to rely on us for our strength, commitment and support?

That’s the theory anyway….

So what is our secret so far? I think a great deal of understanding, tolerance and friendship has seen us through. Even though we don’t tend to have ‘arguments’ in the traditional sense, we still have our ways of dealing with issues that arise. Largely, the issues are related to our interpretations of the other person’s actions, certain behaviours that we have learned to accept and some actions that without a thorough understanding of the person and a great deal of trust would have doomed previous relationships in a second.

No slamming doors so far…