“It is very easy to think about love. It is very difficult to love. It is very easy to love the whole world. The real difficulty is to love a single human being.” ~ Osho
As I look back on a relationship that spanned almost two decades of my life, I’ve learned a few things worth thinking about before considering either tying or untying the knot.
It can be incredibly difficult to love a single human being.
And, staying with that imperfect person through that difficulty takes a type of courage, risk and vulnerability that is equal to, if not greater than, leaping out and going solo.
Here are a few things to consider before beginning or ending a relationship.
1. Stop looking for “The One.”
When I was 20, I set my mind to finding “The One.” He would be my soulmate. I had envisioned him as a package designed to meet all my needs. This way I would recognize “The One” when I saw him.
If I found him walking down the opposite side of the street, look out. He should be prepared for a football-style tackle.
So, when I was sitting on the bus and I saw “The One,” I quickly moved my stuff from the seat beside me. Of course, he sat down. He did, after all, fit my description.
But after spending enough time with anyone, the real person emerges.
The exaggerations we make to portray ourselves as desirable soon became apparent.
Our admiration, if we let it, wanes over the years. And with it wanes our passion and enthusiasm for our partner.
And some time into my relationship (which eventually became my marriage), I began to think,
“He’s not right. He doesn’t do the things he said he would. He isn’t the person I thought he was. He needs to change.”
Why did he need to change?
Because once I started to know him deeply, he didn’t fit my idea of “The One.”
He had faults. Limitations.
Seeing who he was in his weaknesses frightened me because I didn’t yet accept my own wholeness. My charisma, drive and intensity, sure, I embraced that. But I was raised in a home where the protestant work ethic dominated and the word “can’t” was forbidden.
Vulnerability and limitations? We don’t even say those words.
I thought “The One” would bring me the emotional, physical and intellectual stimulation I needed to feel whole in our relationship. I believed variations of that myth for the next decades as I searched for happiness through my partnership.
I kept a watchful eye on what was wrong, and that created relationship decay.
There is no perfect person, and there is only one person you can fix: yourself.
So, drop the idea of looking for “The One.” It’s a trap.
2. The relationship, by itself, will not make you happy.
You make you happy. Full stop.
Although let me modify number two. If any relationship is abusive, unsafe, lacks honesty or agreed upon fidelity, then we are likely best if we free ourselves from the pain and distortion it brings to our lives.
But if you have two people who hold respect for and commitment to each other, it’s workable.
Deep, raw work.
Work that takes staying still and turning towards each other even when you can’t stand one another.
Work that can feel sweaty and ugly and like your insides are spilling out around you.
Yes, it’s hard work, not jumping out of the relationship.
Don’t rely on any relationship to fill those gaps you feel in life. Understand that most of what we need is not something that can be fulfilled by any romantic relationship—not the one we are in nor the next one on the horizon.
So, stop looking at what you need the other person to do to make you happy in the relationship and start looking at what you can do to make you happy.
And most importantly, look at those things in the relationship for which you are grateful. Then work at it.
If you have kids, celebrate that (kids are great, I have three of them myself), but for heaven’s sake give them away on a weekend now and then and go away with your partner and love them up.
Because if your only together time is spent taking care of the kids, you’re headed for trouble.
Keep looking at what your partner does right, at all the goodness that is them. Celebrate it daily.
When the marriage feels long and dreary, step back into your private room, shake off those old ideas you’re holding about your partner and look at that person with fresh eyes.
Be grateful for the way he shuts the cupboard doors you always leave open, the way she wraps her legs around yours before you go to sleep, for his calloused hands, and how she kisses the kids, first on the forehead, then on the lips, each night before bed.
Just be grateful.
3. Get help.
I can quote Osho a thousand times and you can read a library of books to figure out the “right path,” but if you’re considering calling it quits, do yourself the justice of first committing to getting help.
For yourself, and together.
Because the impacts of divorce are hard: for you, your children, extended friends, family and community. After the first impact, it hits again, in waves.
So, unless you’ve braced for what can feel like a natural disaster, get help for your marriage before it hits bottom.
Don’t just tolerate a relationship that is hurting you, because that is also suffering.
Get help, or you may be left living as two separate entities who drift through life under the same roof, but without the delicious, warm bond of true companionship.
We can create intimacy, passion and a flourishing long term relationship, if we just do the work.
So, if you’re thinking of getting married or ending the marriage you have, ask yourself if you and your partner are, or will be, courageous enough to wade through the inevitable difficulty and messiness, to actively get help and to sweat it out in a way that a long term relationship calls for.
Because as Osho says, it’s easy just to think about love. The real challenge is here, in the doing.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Carla Poertner
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran