I’ve been trying to get sofamother to put together a list of her truisms for “This Much I Know”. My mother is a pretty shrewd cookie and usually doesn’t hesitate to share her opinion or wisdom. But on this she’s being uncharacteristically reticent. I don’t understand it, but as my psych lecturer used to remind us: “when you run into a wall, understand it was years in the building. And you’ll not break through it in a million sessions, unless your client wants you to. So don’t even try.”
I did manage to get a quick list out of her – and I won’t repeat it here in the hope that it matures into a full feature. But, one of the things she said was: “We’ve been blessed with 55 years of marriage because I am a saint”.
Not true, of course. My father was sitting next to her eating breakfast and just rolled his eyes. These two certainly butt heads, but I hear them chatting in their room next to mine in the mornings (they have just relocated to Cape Town and will be moving into their own place next week), and I can hear the years of affection in their shared sentences.
On Friday I read that Neil Young and his wife Pegi are to divorce. I worked with them both and would never have predicted this. They’ve been married for 36-years (a century in rock’n’roll) and they always seemed so solid/so together. No reason was given, and we have no right to expect one. But their split and my mom’s comment got me wondering “What does stop people divorcing? What does keep people together for 50 plus years?”
Chance (in the form of Facebook) responded will uncommon speed. A friend who is active in assuring LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) rights posted a piece by the author Dan Savage. Dan is the creator of the It Gets Better Project; an organization for young LGBT and bullied teens. One of his readers posed a question about romance deal-breakers and Savage’s response offers some of the smartest, most realistic and important relationship advice any of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, will ever get.
“There is no settling down without some settling for. There is no long-term relationship not just putting up with your partner’s flaws, but accepting them and then pretending they aren’t there. We like to call it in my house “paying the price of admission.” … You can’t have a long-term relationship with someone unless you’re willing to identify the prices of admission you’re willing to pay – and the ones you’re not. But the ones you’re not – the list of things you’re not willing to put up with – you really have to be able to count [them] on one hand…
People, when they’re young, have this idea… “There’s someone out there who’s perfect for me”… “The one.”
“The one” does not fucking exist. “The one” is a lie. But the beautiful part of the lie is that it’s a lie you can tell yourself. Any long-term relationship that’s successful is really a myth that two people create together … and myths are built of lies, and there’s usually some kernel of truth…
When you think about it, you meet somebody for the first time, and they’re not presenting their warts-and-all self to you – they’re presenting their idealized self to you, they’re leading with their best. And then, eventually, you’re farting in front of each other. Eventually, you get to see the person who is behind that facade of their best, and they get to see the person your facade, your lie-self – this lie that you presented to them about who you really are.
And what’s beautiful about a long-term relationship, and what can be transformative about it, is that I pretend every day that my boyfriend is the lie that I met when I first met him. And he does that same favor to me – he pretends that I’m that better person than I actually am. Even though he knows I’m not. Even though I know he’s not. And we then are obligated to live up to the lies we told each other about who we are – we are then forced to be better people than we actually are, because it’s expected of us by each other.
And you can, in a long-term relationship, really make your lie-self come true – if you’re smart, and you demand it of them, and you’re willing to give it to them… That’s the only way you become “the one” – it’s because somebody is willing to pretend you are. “The one” that they were waiting for, “the one” they wanted, their “one.” Because you’re not – nobody is. No two people are perfect for each other, ever, period – No two people are 100% sexually compatible, no two people are 100% emotionally compatible, no two people want the same things. And if you can’t reconcile yourself to that, you will have no relationships that last longer than two months.
And you know what? It’s not going to be their fault – it’s going to be your fault.”
(note: Dan Savage also wrote “American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics.” Provocative – and worth a read. Image of two boys on train – found in the public domain. Image of statue copyright Patrik Lindell.)