“Let our scars fall in love.” ~Galway Kinnell
We all bring our own baggage to any relationship. I know that my past relationships have shaped my approach to love and romance. When we seek out that special someone to share our life, the disappointments of our past relationships tend to get in the way of new discoveries.
It’s human nature to size up a potential partner by drawing from past experience.
There are so many ways to catalog the possible flaws: He’s too short. She’s too tall. Too fat. Too thin. Not enough education. Too much education. Or you become judgmental about how much your date eats or drinks or how they interact with other people.
The perceived flaws get in the way of making a connection.
It’s like the three bears’ approach to dating, looking for that partner who is “just right.” Too often we make the mistake of looking for a mirror of ourselves in a partner.
After a while, I realized that the perfect mate doesn’t exist. There is no “right” person who has everything on my perfect mate checklist. And even if I found someone with everything I was looking for, wouldn’t that relationship become dull with time? They’d be too much like me.
I finally figured out that it’s better to seek out a partner who understands and shares my failings; someone who would complement my worst characteristics. To find my soul mate, I first needed to be able to look inside, examine my character defects, and change them or embrace them.
As I got older, I stopped trying so hard. I started to relax, be myself, and invite women to accept me for who I am, flaws and all.
I can be geeky. I can be arrogant. I can be aloof. I can be a real know-it-all. I can be selfish. I have any number of character defects. But by taking my own inventory and laying my faults on the table for all to see, I could invite someone to accept me for me.
I finally married at age fifty. It took me that long to figure out that I had to be true to myself in order to be true to a partner. And now I have a beautiful wife and two terrific stepchildren who love me for me—flaws and all.
Like any family, we have our fights. When we forget how to tolerate the other’s defects, my wife and I can get into a real shouting match. It’s at those moments that I have to remind myself to embrace our flaws and follow some simple rules:
I tend to live too much in my head, and when I listen to my own inner voices too long, I lose touch with what’s real and start imagining the worst. Good communication solves that problem.
My wife and I share our feelings, our anxieties, our hopes, and our dreams. We communicate, but we try not to take on each other’s problems as our own. Just simply saying “I’m having a bad day,” or “I don’t really want to talk about that now,” we can stay connected and leave the doors of communication open without getting into a fight.
2. Respect each other.
Even when we disagree I always try to give my wife the respect she deserves. When we do fight, we try to practice fair fighting, being respectful of the other party and hearing their side. If you are considerate of your partner, it’s easier to find a middle ground.
3. Respect each other’s space.
And we make sure we give each other space. We each have friends and activities we pursue on our own.
My wife will go out with her girlfriends to hear a local band or see a ballgame, and it’s understood that I’m not welcome. I also work at home and we have set ground rules around my hours and my workspace. For example, my wife keeps our house spotless and she knows that, even though I am a slob, my office is off-limits; it’s my space.
4. Rely on each other.
No matter what we are doing or how busy we get, we know we can count on each other for support.
I try to call on that support when I really need it, so I don’t take it for granted. And if my wife needs help with a technical problem or is worried about the kids, I make time to assist or lend a sympathetic ear.
As we have grown together we have become better at triaging crises; if a problem can wait, we set a time aside to deal with it when we can both give it our full attention.
5. Take your own pulse.
I try to stay in tune with my own moods and feelings to make sure my inner demons don’t affect my family.
When my inner voices start to whisper to me, I can start blaming my family for my own failings. It’s then that I pause, take a deep breath, and try to distinguish what is real and what is imagined. It eliminates a lot of family drama.
6. Keep the romance alive.
Despite busy schedules, my wife and I take time out for each other. Friday is date night and it’s sacrosanct. We go to dinner, take in a movie, or find some activity we can share and enjoy together. We also work to make time on weekends for joint activities, even if it’s grocery shopping or a trip the hardware store together.
After many years of self-examination and soul-searching I understand that I am the only constant in any relationship. When I found a partner willing to love me for my flaws as well as my good points, I knew I had found the right mate.
Even when I screw up, the foundation we have built tolerating and even celebrating each other’s faults and foibles, our humanness, is strong enough to withstand anything.
About Tom Woolf
This is Tom's first post on Tiny Buddha.