Relationships are tricky. Especially the ones we have built the modern world around. Monogamous. Long term. An equal partner in parenting and in professional pursuits. Oh and our partner is supposed to be our best friend too.
It’s a lot to ask of someone. Harder still when you throw in the craziness of kids and the current state of the world. But you deserve a partner like that, and they deserve a partner like you. We deserve happiness and fulfillment and love, together.
It just may well be, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes in Gift From The Sea, that the way to get it is by relaxing these standards a little bit. Not fully, but intermittently. “When you love someone,” she writes, “you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” To do so is completely unfair. It is to set yourself up for disappointment with your spouse.
“We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships,” she writes. “We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity–in freedom, in the sense that dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern. The only real security is not in owning or processing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even.”
We can imagine Anne struggling with this quite painfully not long after her beautiful book was published, when it was revealed that Charles, in addition to his inexcusable stances before the Second World War, had also secretly fathered several children outside their marriage. Still, the wisdom of her metaphor holds true. We can’t bind someone to us. We must let them change and grow, just as we are changing and growing. If we stay, we have to figure out how to forgive, how to accept. We must settle in for the long haul while also understanding that we are not in control of the destination. It’s a dance. One we must commit to fully…while embracing perpetual change.
Life is ever shifting and so are people. Some moments are great. Some are not. Don’t expect too much from any one of them or from any person in them. Don’t be rigid, don’t cling too tightly…or your hold will break, so will your relationship, and so will you.