Frequently, I meet people in relationships - serious, long term, committed relationships - who are clearly not well-matched. They don't see eye-to-eye, rarely agree about anything important, and, frankly, just don't seem to understand or like each other very well at all. And I ask myself why. And often times I ask them why.
"Because I love him."
Okay, fair enough. But why?
"We've been through a lot together."
"You can't help who you love."
"I can't imagine my life without her."
"He loves me more than anyone ever has."
And that all sounds very sweet, but where is the passion? Where are the soul-inspiring epic declarations of unity?
And what the hell does "You can't help who you love" even mean?!
Yes you can.
Here's how I think this situation comes about:
Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl are lustily drawn together and become infatuated with one another. Often, Boy and Girl confuse infatuation with love and thus make bold declarations. After a time (3 months, one year), the infatuation receeds, leaving a comittment behind. Boy and Girl begin feeling restless and uneasy, start to bicker and have a few big fights. Now this is the time, in my humble opinion, at which a relationship should probably end. But it doesn't. Boy and Girl remember their earlier declarations of love and comittment and also remember past failed relationships as well as how lonely they were before they began dating. So they decide to "work through it."
"He loves me."
"I owe it to her."
"Relationships aren't easy."
So they buck up and, as is often stated, "make it work." Fast forward to two, three, four or more years down the road and we arrive at the beginning of the story. They've made it through so much: these fights, constant disagreements, clashing of personalities . . . forgiven one another and are still persisting in "making it work."
Oh, and along the way, they have grown to love each other.
This is not to say they are in love with each other. On the contrary; they have made up a cozy little room in their hearts for the other and have grown quite used to having it occupied. They love the idea of having a partner, a date for every holiday gathering, movie, and party. They live together and don't like to sleep alone. They are now financially dependant on the partnership. They have forgotten how to be alone.
But what about those huge character differences?
"He is trying."
"She has changed a lot since 'then.'"
"Nobody is perfect."
Sometimes Boy or Girl even blames it on him or her self, saying that he/she nags too much, expects too much, is too hard on the other, or deserves it due to something he/she has done in the past.
What about the fact that you feel like he/she just doesn't understand you? I ask.
What about your lack of passion? Don't you miss that excited, butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling?
"Everybody knows that doesn't last forever."
Really? Everybody knows that?
Occasionally, I do meet a couple who are clearly in love. They've been together for years, sometimes even decades. He/she steals kisses from and glances at the other, they can't help but sit close to each other or touch one another as they walk down the street. Laughter is abundant, and often times they needn't say anything at all because they are so in tune with the twinkle of their lovers' eyes that all is understood.
Do you ever fight? I ask.
"No. Not really. I mean, we disagree sometimes of course, but we always work it out."
"We talk about it. We communicate."
So you clearly understand one another.
"We are best friends." And they are typically answering me in unison!
Do you still get those butterflies when you see him?
"Of course!" and they share a kiss.
Was it love at first sight?
"For him it was," she might joke.
Or, "We pretty much knew right from the start."
So what is the difference? Why do so many people get it so wrong and so few get it so right?
My hypothesis is fear. We are afraid to admit we've made the wrong choice. We are afraid to leave someone we like well enough, someone whom we have grown to love - have taught ourselves to love - in search of the unknown "perfect" ONE.
So we settle. And because everyone else around us is also settling, we come to believe that's how it should be. That there is something wrong with us if we don't.
Sometimes either Boy or Girl decides to take a stand. Sometimes Boy or Girl decides to leave. But the other one convinces him/her to stay.
"Don't run away."
"We've come this far. We owe it to each other to try."
"I can change."
Love means never having to say "I will change." Love is unconditional. Love happens like lightning when two people are made perfectly for each other. They aren't perfect. No one is. But they are perfectly matched.
So what do we do?
I advocate honesty. Be honest with yourself. Demand butterflies. Seek love at first sight. Know that people don't change who they are. If something about the person you're seeing doesn't connect with you, do not wait it out.
Don't allow yourself to replace being in love with growing to love; if you do, you will find one day that you have settled, and, by that time, it will be so difficult to leave and start over that you will probably just stick it out.
And that is a tragedy.
Not only is it a tragedy for you, but it is also a tragedy for the soul mate for whom you are no longer available! And the example you are setting for your kids, your friends, and the world is that "good enough" is okay.
Take a stand against tragedy.
Even if it means getting back in "The Game." Even if it means hurting his or her feelings. Even if it means you will be broke, sleeping alone, homeless, lonely, a single mom or dad - whatever.
Because here's the big secret:
When you begin a path of truth, the entire universe conspires in your favor. Things start going right.
Love is just around the corner.