Four Noble Truths of Relationships
Relationships are deeply uncomfortable.
Whether it’s your first date or tenth anniversary, there is simply an enormous amount of discomfort involved in relationships. We’re afraid of being hurt, disappointed, overtaxed, ignored. The interesting part is that all these things happen. This is just the way it is, even in happy relationships.
The thing no one tells you is that it’s impossible to stabilize a relationship. Yes, I really mean those italics. Impossible. The emotional exchange between two people shifts like grains of sand in the desert: some days you can see forever and some days you just have to take cover because something kicked up out of nowhere and now shit is flying all over the place. You can’t see two feet in front of you and it stings. On still other occasions, imperceptible winds cause little piles to slowly accumulate until, one day, a familiar path is altogether blocked. You just can’t tell what’s going to happen. And just like hiking in the desert, you have to be as absorbed in the present moment as you are attuned to atmospheric indicators. Woe to she whose attention to either lapses.
The bad news is you never get to where you thought you were going. You get somewhere else instead. The good news is that there’s basically no way to have a boring relationship.
Discomfort comes from trying to make the relationship comfortable.
At the root of the discomfort is the wish that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable, that we could eventually find the “right” person and relax. But the truth is that when you do find the (or a) right person, it’s anything but relaxing: your neuroses, their neuroses, and all the hopes and fears you’ve ever had about love flood your situation. Whether you bargained for it or not, you get introduced to your deepest self while someone else is trying to introduce you to their deepest self. It can get very confusing. But instead of wasting time trying to make it not confusing, better to dive right in and be really nice to each other as you consider the root of your own and his/her confusion. (Acting nice to each other in the midst of confusion is love. Shhh.) (PS Acting nice doesn’t always mean being all sweet and demure. But I digress.)
It’s the inability to create safety that plots the path to love.
True love seems to exist on some mysterious edge of its own. It can’t be controlled and when you try, it calcifies. To keep it alive, at some point you just have to let go and see what happens.
When you work with all this nuttiness, love becomes more than mere romance. It turns into something way better: intimacy. Romance has got to end, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. But intimacy? It has no end. You can’t be, “oh, intimacy, we’ve done that. What comes next?” Nothing comes next. That’s it. Discuss.
It is possible to work with the uncertainty skillfully.
Instead of flinging yourself kamikaze-like into the flame of love, you can train in working with the heat. As with anything you consider important (or life-threatening, for that matter), you don’t want to just show up and hope for the best. You want to play the odds.