Love is strange—sometimes confusing, sometimes certain.
Sometimes it inspires and sometimes it makes you want to eat brownies all day and cry on the phone with your (extremely patient) mother.
Speaking of, my mother raised me by herself for the majority of my life. So I’ve never been proximal to an example relationship to observe and learn from in my own household. Once I hit dating age, boys/men and relationships with them represented to me an enigmatic sea of questions that I had to navigate without a lighthouse.
I’ve screwed up in a lot of ways when it comes to ex-boyfriends. One of them actually wrote a rather cringe-worthy short story to prove it—a piece I might have considered beautifully written if it hadn’t been about, well, me.
I often ran into the critique of “being too independent” (a Freudian analysis might equate this to being raised by a particularly self-sufficient woman who seemed perfectly content doing her own thing, sans boyfriends). Other times, I was too DE-pendent (shout-out to my freshman-year-of-college boyfriend…we both know that was a rather tumultuous life moment).
In all this uncertainty, the only piece of relationship wisdom that’s ever really made sense to me jumps right out from the pages of Kalil Gibran’s The Prophet. It captures all at once the fulfillment and excitement that is the ‘journey together’ while also valuing independence and our own journey:
Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
I am floored by the idea of love as a “moving sea between the shores of your souls.” To me, it’s ideal; let me stand on my own shore, you stand on yours and we’ll swim to each other, often but not always.
To all my ex-boyfriends that were not in fact like the strings of my lute for our “quivering music”, I truly, from the bottom of my soul, wish you well. And when it comes to future men in my life, is “Wanna be the cypress to my oak?” an appropriate pick-up line?
We all know some people attach at the hip to significant others, which is great if it works for them. As for me, I like my space. And I probably like you if I’ve committed to seeing you more than once.
So here’s to Gibran, for writing this ode to the people who don’t want to change all of their pronouns to “we,” leaving room to breathe for a healthy “us.”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Catherine Monkman