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I fear that my generation has no tolerance for relational pain, no stomach for sacrifice. We have been raised with the illusion of unlimited choice, technology putting the world at our fingertips. We believe that if love doesn’t work with this person, there are millions more out there, all we need to do sign up for a dating site and trade in. We seek quick fixes and instant gratification rather than working on what we have. And you know what it really is we fear? Ourselves. Relationships show us our truest selves, and sometimes it’s hard facing the ugly inside.
As we try to relate to that special someone, we will bring all of our relationship experience to the table. And lets be honest, there’s a lot of dysfunction in our relationship history. Whether it was our parents, siblings, or friends – we’ve all been burned, and these experiences have shaped how we relate and love. When I imagine two people committing to love one another I imagine two worlds colliding. You hold an entire world in your being, a reality built with the bricks of your personal history. The person you choose to love and walk alongside will have their own world too, and up to the time of the two of you meeting, you were not a part of it. Now the two of you will attempt to combine your worlds and share your lived experience. It is a profound opportunity to grow, but some things will get lost in translation. There will be miscommunications. You will be challenged. Your emotional baggage will get unpacked. You might transfer years of neglect by your parents onto him, so the one time he forgets his phone at home you explode into a rant on how he doesn’t care enough about you to keep in touch. You will trigger deep emotional responses in one another as you dance about with your hearts on your sleeves. There is no hiding in romance.
But we don’t want to hide. Something in us so desperately wants to be seen in all our beautiful mess and chosen regardless. We want to be known.
Inevitably we will get hurt. That is the nature of vulnerability – you have no armor on. The person you commit to love with your life will wield the greatest potential to wound you. But if you chose right, that person will have the wisdom to know when to apologize, the character to seek reconciliation, and the strength to fight for your relationship.
The best romantic advice I’ve ever heard came from the mouth of an adorable elderly Japanese woman who was celebrating her 52nd wedding anniversary:
“Honey, I’ll tell you a secret… everybody has twenty percent bullshit. Everybody. So you find the one with the twenty percent you can live with. Then you be happy.”
Initially I was horribly let down. She didn’t speak with flowery language or share any surefire programs that would guarantee a happily-ever-after. In fact, all she guaranteed was bullshit. But now I see the wisdom in it. We’re all human. We all have our faults and will fall short of expectations. But you find the person who has the faults you can live with, the points you can compromise on, and then you choose to have joy even through the dark days.
Love is work.
Love is also a risky and requires personal sacrifice. But love is possibly the best thing we can experience this side of heaven, so I’d say it’s worth it.