Scarlett still ranks as the author of our most popular guest post (logical, considering it was about why it sucks to be single, female and smart!, which seems to be a popular topic among many of our readers!), so we are delighted to welcome her back! Today, she continues to explore the joys and pitfalls of modern love in her own inimitable and realistic way…
Tale as old as time: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, they start dating, they enjoy their time together, they start liking each other even more, but after a few dates one of them becomes distant. Nine times out of ten, this ends in a premature breakup, and that, for me, is a shame. Maybe it’s my engineering background speaking, but don’t you hate it when an opportunity goes to waste?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that when it comes to relationships not all people you meet will stay in your life, and that’s all right. Sometimes there is something about the other person we just do not like, and that is strong enough for us to decide we don’t want them in our lives. However, what is a shame is that sometimes we dismiss people or people dismiss us before actually knowing if something better can come along between us, if we can evolve, if we can move past our differences.
Let me put it this way, there’s a line from Matrix Reloaded that I simply adore: “You do not truly know someone until you fight them” (says Seraph, when Neo meets him, looking for the Oracle). This is so overridingly true! If you think about all the people you know and love today, and you look back in time, certainly, in more than one case, you will have gone through conflict and overcame it, and that made your relationship and your connection even stronger.
My point is that relationships involve a process, and when we are in the beginning, we don’t truly know who we are with. Actually, the first time we hit a difference or a conflict with other people is the first opportunity we have to understand more deeply who they are, and at the same time learn a bit more about ourselves.
Now going back to couples, being in a relationship is sometimes hard, as is being single. No relationship situation you choose to live in life will be 100% painless (or 100% painful for that matter). You just have to ask yourself what kind of pain you are willing to put up with to have a happy life. Of course, the painful moments would have to be a small price to pay in exchange for all the great things tagged along with your choice.
Having said that, why is it so hard for so many people to deal with conflict? Moreover, why is it that the moment we start feeling intensely for someone else, so many people feel compelled to run away? I will not attach this pattern to either men or women, because I have seen it happen in both genders, almost equally.
As the years go by, every time I see a couple in harmony together I say to myself: this is one of life’s miracles, there are and will always be people who manage to find each other, overcome their fears, and selfishness and decide to continue their lives’ journey together. Of course, I am simplifying and generalizing, not all couples are healthy, not all couples are happy, and not all couples are selfless and loving to each other. You cannot really tell what is going on in the intimacy of a couple. However, the point I want to make here is about the beginning part where they decide to be a couple, and keep dating and so on.
This part of a relationship is so fragile that the smallest fracture in your train of thought or feeling can generate in either part the decision / reaction to stop seeing the other person. When I become aware of this fragility is when I appreciate even more deeply the miracle of overcoming it and staying together.
To know if someone is the right person for you or not is very personal, there is not one right answer. Moreover, I would be inclined to say that the answers lie within each person, so the journey to know who is right for you has to start with an inner journey. That is where I think the problem begins. How many people actually embark in this inner journey nowadays? First, let us define this so-called inner journey: to get to know yourself to the point of seeing yourself for who you are, with the fewest distortions possible, which means getting in touch with the less obvious parts of your inner self. Second, I would include in this journey the following experiences:
- To admit your dark side, acknowledge your low points and your weaknesses and forgive yourself, because after all, we are only human and we are entitled to a dark side (i.e., acknowledging the times you were either selfish, or mean, or manipulative, or envious, etc.).
- To hit your deepest self and connect with the fundamental questions of your life, i.e. how do you want to live your life, what are your ultimate goals or what do you want to leave behind when you die.
- For some people it could also involve the vocational or development journey: what is my calling, what makes me feel that I am contributing to this world, and at the same time I am expanding my full potential.
- To heal wounds from the past: to let go of resentment for people who hurt you, to overcome losses and to forgive (people who hurt you in particular, and life in general for the situations you had to go through).
So, going back to my initial point, if you meet someone and you like that someone, and you start sharing time, experiences and intimacy with that someone, eventually you will encounter conflict and/or vulnerability for either or both. That is exactly when we start having the wide variety of reactions we usually see, the extremes being some people choose to stay and work it out, and learn and grow through the process, while some people choose to run away and go somewhere where they can feel safer, less exposed, back to comfort zone – being alone again or meeting someone new.
I believe that if we truly want to experience a deep and meaningful relationship, we need to take a leap of faith and face the fear of feeling vulnerable. If you are familiar with the movie “Must love dogs”, there’s a scene where John Cusack is on a first date with Diane Lane, and he suggests skipping all the nonsense and small talk of a typical first date and spill their guts to each other. I confess I liked that idea, inverting the process and start by telling each other our low points, our fears, our dark side. Only when we know who we are, we can feel comfortable enough to share it with someone else of our choice, and when we are true to ourselves and others we have more authentic and meaningful human experiences. Therefore, being genuine will increase our chances of finding someone who will love and accept us for who we truly are, dark side included, for as long as it lasts. That way the difficult moments that relationships sometimes bring will make sense, because we will be on our way to something significant: a deep connection with another human being. I have always been fond of Saint Exupery’s definition of being “domesticated” in his Little Prince. As the Fox beautifully describes it, when we are domesticated “we stop being one person just like the next person, to someone else”.
Unfortunately, not every person we meet will be in agreement with these concepts. Some people will not want to be all in. And it’s alright, not everyone has to be an all in kind of person. We only need to understand and respect the differences we have on this fundamental perspective, and avoid the unnecessary conflict of expecting an all in relationship with people who are not up for it.
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