“How are you feeling? What problems are you facing? How can I help you solve those problems? That’s the kind of conversation that helps married couples stay in love with each other. Or it leads people into affairs when it’s done outside of marriage and with someone of the opposite sex. It’s intimate conversation.” ― Willard F. Harley Jr., His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage
Nothing you become will disappoint me; I have no preconception that I’d like to see you be or do. I have no desire to foresee you, only to discover you. You can’t disappoint me.
Seeing beyond duality
The reason why we feel lack when experiencing someone else’s abundance is because we see relationships in terms of duality.
However, it’s possible to leave that paradigm. Here’s what happens when you do:
- You stop thinking about love in quantifiable terms (The question of “do you love her more than me?” stops existing, and hierarchization tendencies might stop making sense);
- You stop treating love as a zero-sum game, where someone loving someone else makes them love you any less;
- You no longer let your emotions affect your logical thinking (“Just because I feel hurt, it doesn’t mean that I am less than I was before — it actually makes me stronger”);
- You start seeing your relationships as opportunities to create, rather than obsessively trying to “fix” things;
- You love every single bit of life all the same — pleasant or unpleasant, big or small, unexpected or certain.
The way to escape non-duality in your relationships is by practicing gratitude for everything that you already have in your partner as an individual, and in the relationship you have created together.
The best relationship book I know, hands down, is A Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. It’s phenomenal. Schnarch defines self-differentiation as the ability to “maintain who you are while you’re close to the people important to you.” I think this is something that always everyone who tends towards insecure attachment misses: they long for either emotional fusion or avoid their loved ones as a way of defending themselves against engulfment. But if you’re sufficiently differentiated, you don’t need to fuse to feel safe, and you don’t need to hide to maintain your own individuality.
You don’t succeed at relationships by depriving people, you succeed by giving. But you have to know how to give without hurting yourself. A good test for this: can you maintain boundaries when you’re around people you love? Do you behave in a way you feel happy with, or do you betray yourself?
"To love purely is to consent to distance, it is to adore the distance between ourselves and that which we love."
–Simone Weil, Gravity & Grace
Here’s the principle I live by: love the people who choose you. That’s how you prove to yourself that you care about being chosen. I write all the time on this Substack that the point of life is love. And love is not a theoretical thing, it’s something that we live out. If someone says they love me and then they vanish, I don’t think they’re a bad person, but I know they don’t love me because they’re not acting like they love me, lol. Choose someone who values you and shows it.
We can live without anyone, Bear. Humans are very resilient. We lose parents and children and spouses and we keep on breathing. When someone says “I need you to live,” that’s not flattering, that’s fiction. I think what makes love special is the very act of choice: I don’t love you because I need you, I love you because I see something in you that makes everything seem brighter. I prove my love by choosing you every day, over and over again. My love is in my repetition and my love is in my faith. You don’t need to manipulate or coax someone into loving you. Games like that aren’t worth playing—people play those games when they don’t believe that there’s a light in them that someone else will see. There is a light in you, Bear, and you’ll thrive when you tend to it carefully.
Remember: we trap ourselves in the present when we refuse to let go of it. So let go. The future will find you.