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  • Intimacy and Balance Both Needed

    • Posted on Feb 21, 2016

    Here is my Valentine's Day column, published last Sunday in the Courier.  Pondering what makes a relationship last and work--balance and intimacy, both.   


    Now in the middle of winter weariness and political nastiness, we could all use a pause.

    Time to reflect on hearts and flowers, romance and soul-mated-ness  That’s Valentine’s Day.   Who needs politics when you have love?       

    Actually, love and politics overlap.  They both require candidates, they both involve necessary support from family and friends, they both sometimes end in heartbreak.

    There the similarity ends.  Nothing in politics goes as deep or lasts as long or requires as much energy and attention as romantic love.  Presidents are remembered for love partners almost as much as their politics.  Think Mary Todd and Abe, Eleanor and Franklin, Bess and Harry, Mamie and Ike, Jackie and Jack, Rosalyn and Jimmie. Oh yes, Hillary and Bill.  

    Those powerful partnerships were formed well before their political successes and lasted well after.  

    Politics amount to the little leagues of human activity compared to love.  Romantic love, being the source of our deepest happiness and most long-lasting pleasures, deserves the constant attention it gets.

    What to say about love in this era of fear and loathing? 

    Two words:  intimacy and balance.  Lasting love brings both intimacy and balance, which contribute mightily to successful bonding.

    My last marriage—in both senses—is now going on two decades.  We’ve been up and down, out and around, endured losses of parents, siblings, close friends and colleagues. We’ve grieved long and hard together.  

    Through upheavals we’ve depended on our intimacy to regain perspective and return to life as we know it.

    The hardest part? Accepting each other’s obsessions, neuroses, scars, carbuncles, warts—clusters of imperfections that make us who we are. 

    We’ve learned to accept, not fix.

    At first I was annoyed by imperfections, then realized I wasn’t going to change hers, nor she mine.  Now I accept them as inevitable and endearing.  

    Along with intimacy goes balance, of necessity.    

    Without an intimate partner, people start taking their beliefs and themselves far too seriously.  Partners provide a sounding board for foolish notions that throw you off kilter. 

    As Gandhi said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”  And your destiny, if it’s true to who you are, requires balance all the way.   

    One example out of dozens:  Every time I fly, I convince myself that this time I’m going down.  I visualize the boom, the drop, the terrible fear ending in darkness.  I’m potentially a mess.  I’ve learned to blurt this fear out loud, and she just smiles, rubs my shoulder and says, “It’s real but not true.”  

    That reminder, which doesn’t work when I say it to myself, sets me straight.    

    Multiply that dozens of times for other fears and obsessions, and you have a more balanced, less fearful man. I do the same for her.  

    Without each other to offer trusted advice and support when we slip out of balance, we’d fall all over ourselves.  Close friends do the same, by the way, but they’re rare.  

    So Happy Valentine’s Day to long-term couples who’ve discovered intimacy with balance, and balance with intimacy.  

    It’s worth celebrating today—and every day.

                 

     

               

               

               

               

               

               

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Romance/Love
    • Holidays
  • What IS Real Love—A Valentine’s Day Question

    • Posted on Feb 10, 2012

    2-10-02 

     Everyone loves love, few actually love.  There’s a thought for Valentine's Day. 

     So what do we mean by "love"?  Ambrose Bierce, bless his caustic heart, defined it two ways in his "Devil's Dictionary." 

     LOVE, n.  "The folly of thinking much of another before one knows anything of oneself."   And "Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder." 

     Selfish, insane disorder.  That's Bierce's darkly cynical view of love. Truth be told, he has a point.  People who love the idea of love often fall victim to its ravages. People who truly love don't.  

     Romantic love, that love we celebrate this Thursday, causes as much pain as pleasure.  Maybe even more, since it's about "falling in love," meaning near-instant biological attraction.  That attraction brings floods of feel-good brain chemicals, but chemicals fade like summer dew.  

     Love grows old, waxes cold.  That's not real love.  It’s illusory, a projection of one's needs, a contract of sorts.  That's what most romantic love becomes after the chemicals wear off:  A contract to do something for someone as long as they do something in return. You scratch my back, honey, I’ll scratch yours.  

     No wonder a thousand country songs tell of lost love.   “If you can't be true, I'm gonna fall outa love with you.”  And “my love for you has died away like grass upon lawn, and tonight I wed another, Dear John.”   Hit the road, Jack.

     Therapists, counselors, mystics agree: real love requires discipline, sacrifice, and forgiveness.  It's not just romance, it's not giving in order to get, it's not full of fantasies and illusions.  And it's a huge challenge. 

     Now I’m not talking about spiritual love. I’m talking about a real connection between two humans who love each other. That’s what comes after the chemistry fades.  I know a few such lucky couples.  Not many.  

     Let me illustrate. Couple A fall in love, get married, and in five years feel nothing but contempt for one another.  He thinks she led him into marriage with false promises, she thinks he’s an insensitive jerk.  Convinced that marriage is vastly overrated, they divorce, and start a search for truer love.  

    Couple B fall in love, get married, and five years into the marriage spend most of their time trying to revive the romance they once felt. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not.  They both wonder if marriage isn’t too much work, and love is something you feel for your hobby rather than your partner.  They’re not considering divorce, but marriage feels more like Labor Day than the Fourth of July.  

     Couple C fall in love, get married, and in five years recognize that they’re different people in many ways than they were when they married.  He has taken up golf, she has to travel more than before.  They disagree now over politics, they like different TV shows, they don’t enjoy the same music, she goes to church, he doesn’t.  

    Yet they love each other far more than they did when they married. Why?  Because they didn’t take romance too seriously.  They didn’t feel the need to share everything, agree on everything, or provide universal, unconditional support.  

    They developed into two fully independent adults who choose to spend time together because they still find each other surprising and fascinating.  And they learn from each other, and aren’t afraid to give and take criticism when it’s genuinely needed.  

    They enjoy and respect their differences.  That’s the hard part.  That’s the love many find so difficult because the need for romantic chemistry leads people into become half-people, each completed by the other.  It’s a foolish and dangerous illusion fostered by romantic novels and TV shows.   

     Before their divorce, when Couple A fought they never resolved anything, and ended up not speaking for hours, even days.  

    When Couple B fight, they make up without resolving much.  

    When Couple C fight, they get it over with as quickly as possible, remembering that nothing will change their partnership.   No threats, no put-downs or dismissals. Only good-natured disagreements.  Good friends arguing.  

     And how do I know this?  Because I see all three such marriages around me in colleagues and friends, and have directly experienced them myself, though not quite as described. (Privacy rights can be as important as property rights.)  

     The challenge, this Valentine’s Day, is to go beyond loving the idea of love and actually love a real, fully adult person.  


      



     





    What is Real Love—A Valentine’s Day Question

    2-10-02

    759 wds

                Everyone loves love, few actually love.  There’s a thought for Valentine's Day.

                So what do we mean by "love"?  Ambrose Bierce, bless his caustic heart, defined it two ways in his "Devil's Dictionary."

                LOVE, n.  "The folly of thinking much of another before one knows anything of oneself."   And "Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder."

                Selfish, insane disorder.  That's Bierce's darkly cynical view of love. Truth be told, he has a point.  People who love the idea of love often fall victim to its ravages. People who truly love don't. 

                Romantic love, that love we celebrate this Thursday, causes as much pain as pleasure.  Maybe even more pain, since it's more about "falling in love," meaning near-instant biological attraction.  That attraction brings floods of feel-good brain chemicals, but chemicals fade like summer dew. 

                Love grows old, waxes cold.  That's not real love.  It’s illusory, a projection of one's needs, a contract of sorts.  That's what most romantic love becomes after the chemicals wear off:  A contract to do something for someone as long as they do something in return. You scratch my back, honey, I’ll scratch yours. 

                No wonder a thousand country songs tell of lost love.   “If you can't be true, I'm gonna fall outa love with you.”  And “my love for you has died away like grass upon lawn, and tonight I wed another, Dear John.”   Hit the road, Jack.

                Therapists, counselors, mystics agree: real love requires discipline, sacrifice, and forgiveness.  It's not just romance, it's not giving in order to get, it's not full of fantasies and illusions.  And it's a huge challenge.

                Now I’m not talking about spiritual love. I’m talking about a real connection between two humans who love each other. That’s what comes after the chemistry fades.  I know a few such lucky couples.  Not many. 

                Let me illustrate. Couple A fall in love, get married, and in five years feel nothing but contempt for one another.  He thinks she led him into marriage with false promises, she thinks he’s an insensitive jerk.  Convinced that marriage is vastly overrated, they divorce, and start a search for truer love. 

    Couple B fall in love, get married, and five years into the marriage spend most of their time trying to revive the romance they once felt. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not.  They both wonder if marriage isn’t too much work, and love is something you feel for your hobby rather than your partner.  They’re not considering divorce, but marriage feels more like Labor Day than the Fourth of July. 

                Couple C fall in love, get married, and in five years recognize that they’re different people in many ways than they were when they married.  He has taken up golf, she has to travel more than before.  They disagree now over politics, they like different TV shows, they don’t enjoy the same music, she goes to church, he doesn’t. 

                Yet they love each other far more than they did when they married. Why?  Because they didn’t take romance too seriously.  They didn’t feel the need to share everything, agree on everything, or provide universal, unconditional support. 

    They developed into two fully independent adults who choose to spend time together because they still find each other surprising and fascinating.  And they learn from each other, and aren’t afraid to give and take criticism when it’s genuinely needed. 

                They enjoy and respect their differences.  That’s the hard part.  That’s the love many find so difficult because the need for romantic chemistry leads people into become half-people, each completed by the other.  It’s a foolish and dangerous illusion fostered by romantic novels and TV shows.  

                Before their divorce, when Couple A fought they never resolved anything, and ended up not speaking for hours, even days.  When Couple B fight, they make up without resolving much.   When Couple C fight, they get it over with as quickly as possible, remembering that nothing will change their partnership.   No threats, no put-downs or dismissals. Only good-natured disagreements.  Good friends arguing. 

                And how do I know this?  Because I see all three such marriages around me in colleagues and friends, and have directly experienced them myself, though not quite as described. (Privacy rights can be as important as property rights.) 

                The challenge, this Valentine’s Day, is to go beyond loving the idea of love and actually love a real, fully adult person. 

               

     

               

               

               

     

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Romance/Love
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