In my last entry, I wrote about how I feel like I am in a more sustained process of discerning what’s next in my life. (In actuality, we’re continually discerning what’s next for us. … It’s just a matter of consciousness.) Inside of that inquiry, I am confronted with a question with which I have grappled in the past few therapy sessions: What do I want from someone who would be my lifelong partner? Or more crassly put: What is my ideal man like?
For the longest time, I would define this answer in the negative. Either, I would define my ideal man by what I would not want him to be. Or he would be in contradiction to the primary male figure in my life: my father.
In a more enlightened place, I think I can begin to articulate who my ideal lifelong partner is and what our life might be like. I want someone who is family-oriented, confident, ambitious, socially-conscious, emotionally expressive, and communicative. I see a life in which we are able to explore the world together, engaged in work that is fulfilling to us and which makes a difference for the world. I envision a life in which our extended family and friends see the warmth of the warmth of the home my partner and I have built together as the center for social activity. And yet, we also have a coveted space into which we might be able to retreat and connect with Source.
However, I’ve become quite clear about the ideal man: He doesn’t exist. … at least, as I want him to exist. When I can lower my expectations for a potential partner, and simply be with the imperfection that he is, therein lies the possibility for true partnership based on us seeing each other for who we really are, rather than what we wish the other were.
Lately, the question of how I realize my long-term goals has been coming up a lot. From my professional growth and development, to long-term financial goals, to what I desire for a lifelong romantic partnership, how do I get “there” from here in the present moment has been an active question in my life. And although I do not have any more clarity on most areas of my life, I do know a few things.
The circumstances of our lives feel like they have weight, because our ego takes our every action and thought and force-fits into the pre-existing frame (what Piaget calls “the schema”) in which we understand that situation. For example, if I have frame that says “I have trouble managing my money,” the tendency of the ego is to have my experience of money occur for me as challenging. If I have a frame that says “True happiness comes from having a lifelong romantic partner,” then my experience of romance will be one of seeking out someone to fill in the absence of happiness in my life rather than just to be with someone.
So what’s the point of all this psycho-babble? The point is the circumstances of our lives are self-reinforcing, and therefore, have inertia. You can’t get “there” – to the dream job, relationship, salary, lifestyle – if you’re trapped “here” by your own experience of your life. You can take new actions, but if those actions occur inside of the same, self-defeating frame, then it’s just more of the same.
Getting there from here takes being honest with ourselves and asking: What about how I think about this situation needs to change in order for my goal to even become a possibility in the future? Only when we break out of the trap of “here” can we even contemplate getting “there.”
I have always had a very special relationship to the full moon. As a fan of the Japanese anime, Sailor Moon, I have appreciated the magic of the silver moonlight to join romantic partners together, just as the moon joined Princess Serena to Prince Darian. One could look up into the night sky and know that their romantic partner was looking at the same moon, no matter where they are in the world. …
Yet, the moon, in and of itself, does not generate its own light. The full moon is merely a reflection into the night of the sun’s golden light. In the same way, we reflect the glorious light of the Divine into the dark night of our lives.
Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to confront the limits of the mis-belief, “I can convince others to do what I want.” It’s difficult to admit, because I think I’m a pretty kind person. But there is that part of me that has gotten pretty good at manipulation, at persuading others to see things my way. However, this is still about going at life on my own and making others do things that they might not otherwise do. … This is strong-arming life.
In the end, you can’t make your family do anything. You can’t make your romantic partner do anything. You can’t make coworkers or friends or anyone else do anything. What you can do is invite others to create with you. You create a big enough picture of the world as it could be that someone can see themselves in it. You, then, invite them: “Will you be my partner in creating this (relationship/project/family/etc.) with me?” This is creating a future that works for everybody.
I was having a fulfilling and eye-opening conversation with my cousin’s husband, Randy, about the concept of expectations. In particular, we talked about how differences in expectations between two people lead to disagreements, arguments and upset. Nowhere do expectations come up for me more than when I think about relationships. How many times have I gone into a relationship with the expectation that that man would be “the One”? And if he doesn’t meet that expectation, then there’s something wrong… with him, with me, with the relationship, or all of the above. The relationship ceases being a relationship and becomes an all-or-nothing proposition: Either this goes the way I want it to go, or we shouldn’t be together anymore.
Expectations won’t ever disappear. What there is to do is to bridge the gap between expectations, so that they don’t become either-or propositions. When we can accept the difference, … see the gap, … we can become partners in the adventure of bridging the gap together.
Donna and I were having a much-welcomed deep conversation about life last night. I was sharing with her some of what my therapist guided me to understand about my continuing process of working through what comes up for me around Aaron. Something he said for me suddenly clicked: I need to give my partner a reason to stay in the relationship.
I was committed to Aaron’s happiness and growth so much so that, like many people in my situation, I lost myself in the relationship. I put aside my own wants and needs. And yet in doing so, I have to wonder whether or not I projected not needing anyone. I wonder if I made room for my partner to contribute to me.
We all need to feel needed. We all need to feel like we’re making a difference for our partner. The place to start in doing that is to simply say, “I need you.”
I was watching UP last night with Jason and Jenna. Of course, I got really sad, because I thought of the Adventure Book that I made for Aaron.
As I continued watching, I became more appreciative of the deep commitment that the protagonists in the movie have for each other. In particular, I thought of the practice of “crossing your heart” as a metaphor for that promise you intend to keep no matter what.
I can’t help but think: For what did we Aaron and I cross our hearts? In what ways did we stand in “no matter what”?We crossed our hearts to stay fully engaged with each other and to work through things no matter how difficult they got. We crossed our hearts to support and encourage each other’s dreams and goals. We crossed our hearts to love each other through all the changes life might offer us.
What a difference it made for the love we shared to come from that “no matter what” space. …