Recipe for a loving relationship

Jonah Hall:

I am no expert, and I can’t tell you what works for a loving marriage, as I’ve never been married. But I can tell you what I’ve learned about sharing a life with someone over ten years. My partner and I have achieved something hard to define, but easy to feel. A kind of love that isn’t addictive or ephemeral, but that is sustaining and palpable.

Here’s a very brief explanation of how we’ve arrived at this kind of love:

Learning to shut off the part of yourself that always wants to win, to conquer, to prove, to have the final word, to feel dominant…especially when emotions are involved.

Learning to laugh instead of cry, but continuing to cry when you feel strong enough. Allowing all forms of art to move you, stories to touch you, humanity to overwhelm you, and balancing the serious with the silly

To find the absurdity in tense or desperate situations, rather than to allow anger to overcome you.

Attempting to articulate your thoughts in a way that shows you’re taking care of yourself without neglecting your partner.  For me, learning how to take care of myself is maybe the most important ingredient in the whole equation.  Each person needs to know their own self and depend upon that self first in order to fully support the other.

Learning to let your fears of the future float away.  It’s easy to let responsibilities overwhelm you and make you feel inadequate.  It’s easy to want to be a carefree child, without anxieties.  Except for me, I was a worried child, filled with self-consciousness.  After reading a book called Stumbling on Happiness, I thought more about how we can never know our future selves.  We think we do.  We believe we know who we are today, and thus, who we will become tomorrow.  And some of us don’t change all that much…but we never stay the same, either.  Next year is invisible to us, regardless of how much we plan and save and strategize and minimize the risks involved.  We can help ourselves get closer to “safe,” but there are larger forces which will alter our paths.  These might be economic, might be social, might be spiritual, might be creative, might be familial, might be the realization of our own multiple selves.  Whichever forces are involved, we have to accept that our path is yet to be determined.

That might sound too New-Age or Zen for some, but I have found it to be true, without any actual study of Zen philosophy and without much New-Age self-help.  I did recently read an interview in Tricycle where Spalding Grey interviewed the Dalai Lama (I just typed “Llama” and then googled it to make sure the holy man didn’t spell his name like the calm animal, though perhaps he should).  Read this interview for entertainment as well as enlightenment.

Ultimately, my relationship has survived because of one combination: patience/calmness, loyalty/stubbornness, humor/silliness and humanity/kindness. We have learned how to be patient with ourselves and each other and this keeps us calm. We are both extremely loyal which makes us stubborn and allows us to persevere and see things through. We both want to laugh with each other and at others which allows us to maintain silliness in spite of the seriousness of adulthood. We both value humanity and the kindness we see in the world which allows us to remain hopeful, despite our skepticisms.

If you follow most of these guidelines, you will last at least ten years.  I promise nothing more and nothing less.


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