Family, Relationships

Love Illuminated

Daniel Jones, the editor of the New York Times’ Modern Love column has read about 50,000 essays on love, and written a book  called Love Illuminated — Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject about what he’s learned.

love illuminated

When Jones talked to Katie Couric about the book, she said she thinks if you want to find someone, you need to put out an APB to everyone you know.

The hazard in doing that, according to Jones, is that you have to know what you want before you send out that APB or it won’t make a difference — and, most people don’t know what they want.

They think they do, but they really don’t.

I believe there’s some truth in that.

Before I married Doug, I thought I knew, but looking back, I didn’t have a clue.

Does anyone, really?

We might be able to list certain characteristics and values, but is it possible or even practical to suppose that we can really know who we will love (or who we can love) by just analyzing ourselves, our needs, and wants?

How do we know who or even what type of person we can build a life with before we actually meet and get to know that person?

I’ve always envied people who found love quickly and easily without ever having to even wonder about things like this.

One of life’s most mystifying subjects to me is why some people find love easily and early in life; some find it much later; some never find it at all; and some find it; and then, heartbreakingly, lose it.

Daniel Jones told Katie three things he’s learned about love:

  1. You can’t hurry up fate. You can’t find someone fast AND have it be destiny. The two are incompatible.
  2. You can’t get married and stay single. You  have to give something up for marriage to succeed.
  3. You can’t have love without the possibility of loss. You have to love fully, knowing it will end.

These are interesting conclusions.

 

On the first point, I agree that you can’t hurry fate. Sometimes two parallel universes need to be aligned and sometimes, that takes time, a lot of time.

But is love always the result of fate? Can love be a choice?

Not to take all the fun and romance out of it, but what if love could also be an investment, like a savings account you decide to open and build with regular, constant deposits to make it grow and thrive?

At first, I dismissed the second point because it seems so obvious — you can’t get married and stay single. But, one thing Doug and I have learned as “empty nesters,” (I hate that term…) is that without our kids to bring us together for games, concerts or family meals, we can easily go to our separate corners of the house, pursuing our own “single” activities, and quickly lose our points of connection.

He travels frequently and when he’s home, I might have evening meetings, dinners with friends, or be involved in projects of my own. We watch different television programs; read different books; and prefer different bedtimes. If we let that go on for very long, we start to feel more like roommates than husband and wife.

We’re consciously making more efforts to connect– like me joining him on an occasional business trip or me watching his mind-numbing TV shows.  (In fairness, he says the same thing about mine. Take last night, for example, I wanted to watch Parenthood. He hates Parenthood because he thinks the characters always talk over each other. He wanted to watch endless CNN political talk shows, where they never talk over each other…)

But, back to writing about love…

In love, like most important things in life, there is no neutral. You are either moving forward or drifting backward.

Without effort, all relationships go adrift, and become purposeless. Unanchored, unmoored relationships cannot last; or at least, can’t be very fulfilling or satisfying. You need a destination, and you need to paddle.

To the third point, this one makes me sad, and would deter me from ever loving.

Except for two things:

1) You have to believe the relationship will be worth it. I remember when my dad died and the grieving was brutal. My mom said my grief was a testament to my love for him. “Would you have loved him less if you knew it would hurt this much to lose him?” Of course not. The love, the relationship was worth it.

2) Not all relationships have to end. 

Some will end because one person may care more than another, or for a million other reasons, but I think we have to look for, invest in, and believe in lasting love.

Life ends, but relationships don’t.

Yes, there will be separations. One person will most likely die before another.

“I am satisfied that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come”
“I am satisfied that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come” Gordon B. Hinckley

But, one of my core beliefs is that relationships don’t end when life ends.

Clearly, some relationships have to end for the well-being of one or both partners, but going into a marriage with the idea that it is temporary, automatically limits its success, depth, and potential for happiness.

Turns out I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and will likely follow up with my own ideas about love.

But, I’d like your ideas too.

Do you agree with Jones’ findings?

Are you paddling or drifting in your relationships?

Please share with me and help me illuminate this subject even more.

Uncategorized

How Do I Love Thee?

Cover of "Valentine"

Let me start by confessing that I am not the most romantic woman in the world.

When Sara was a little girl, she called me “pathetic” because I couldn’t think of anything romantic to give Doug for Valentines.

I guess she thought my red toolbox didn’t cut it.

Tool Box
(Photo credit: pferriola)

I am a practical gift giver.

I try to be a frivolous giver but it’s just not in my personality.

Sometimes I say, “Let’s not give each other Valentines this year. We know we love each other.”

I say that to save me the trouble of trying to think of a romantic gift.

Even when he agrees to the no-gift idea, he still sends me gorgeous, generous bouquets of flowers.

IMG_0956

He can’t help himself.

He is a romantic.

In Myers Briggs language, he is a strong “feeler.”

I am a strong “thinker.”

The way you know which one you are is by considering what is most important to you when you make a decision. If you prefer to make decisions based on objective principles like what makes sense or is logical, you are probably a thinker.

If you put more weight on personal concerns like what is best for the people involved, and what will make them happy, you are probably a feeler.

Thinkers like to analyze pros and cons. Feelers like to create harmony and are motivated by what seems most caring and warm.

This is why I give Doug gifts like red toolboxes and why he gives me luxurious flowers and other impractical, but loving gifts.

I’ve mentioned before that Doug and I took the Myers Briggs test before we got married, and it was very educational. It helped us understand each other better.

When we went house hunting for our first home, we walked into the top-of-the-line builder’s model, called the “Laurel,” a large townhouse with a sweeping spiral staircase in the entry way. The salesman told us it was the most popular model because it also had a garage. (Actually he said it had a “Gar-Arge,” which we forever after enjoyed mimicking.)

Doug immediately said, “This is it! This is the one. We don’t need to look at the other models.”

I immediately said, “We don’t need that staircase and we can’t afford a Gar-Arge.”

“But it’s so pretty,” the feeler husband said.

“And so impractical,” the thinker wife replied.

These types of thinker-feeler discussions are integral to our marriage.

When we stopped at the outlets on the way home from the beach one summer, the girls wanted to buy school clothes.

We went into the Ralph Lauren store and they grabbed arm-loads of clothing to try on.

girls

All of them looked adorable.

“Which one should I choose?” they asked.

“Which one will you wear the most?” I asked.

“Why are you even trying to choose?” Doug questioned. “Why not get them all if you like them?”

The thinker in me could not be silent. “Doug, they do not need all those clothes.”

The feeler in him said, “But they like them!”

The negotiations went on, and since he had the money, he won.

(Obviously, our kids have always loved shopping with Doug. We are just lucky he doesn’t go very often because it’s about his least favorite thing to do.)

So, as Valentines Day approaches, I’m back at wanting to say, “Doug, my darling stud muffin of a Valentine, how about if we forget gifts this year?”

He might say yes to please me because, of course, he is a major feeler, and he wants me to be happy, and for our marriage to be harmonious.

But, I know he will never forget Valentines Day.

Never.

He will do something lovely, thoughtful, and sweet, and all I can think of is to give him a new Nats baseball hat and some game tickets because, of course, they are practical…and red. (And he already knows I bought them.)

Last year, I outdid myself.

love

I wrote love notes on red hearts and taped them all over the inside of his car after he went to bed so that he would be surprised by my tenderness on Valentines Day.

I don’t know how to top that.

He already has a red toolbox and a red tool cabinet.

I am desperate for romantic ideas.

Please send them my way… but only if they make sense and seem practical. At times like this, it’s so much better to be a feeler.

Family, Relationships

Judger vs. Perceiver

Myers-Briggs Frequency visualization
Myers-Briggs Frequency visualization (Photo credit: Peter Forret)

When Doug and I were dating he was doing a lot of professional work involving the Myers Briggs personality type test — a test that determines your personality preferences.

Family

Match.com — Finding What You Weren’t Even Looking For

Today, one of my friends told me she decided to try match.com

After a recent divorce, she wanted companionship.

More than that though, after growing up with an unkind dad and then marrying an emotionally distant man, she wanted to find out if there are nice guys in the world.

She was worried that I have the only one.

My sister, niece, and several other friends wonder the same thing.

My sister always asks, “Where’s my Doug?”

I wish I knew where to find more Dougs so that I could share them with all these wonderful women.

When Sara was a little girl, she said she felt sorry for a lady at church who didn’t have a husband.

“Can we share Dad with her?” she asked.

“No.  We don’t share husbands,” I told her.

But there have been times I’ve wished I could manufacture a few men that are compatible with my single female friends and family.

When my friend tried out match.com, she approached it like a business with goals, carefully outlining what she wanted and needed and then detailing how each date fared in all of her important categories.

He had to be tall, thin, and have dark eyes.  She wanted someone interested in writing, journalism, families, going out to dinner, and just having fun.

I admire her courage and willingness to put herself out there in a line-up, online world where so many scary men seem to dwell.

As she told me about her approach to this dating endeavor, I thought, “If anyone can do this, she can.  She’s strong, outspoken, and knows what she wants.”  I couldn’t imagine her being anyone’s victim.

After she posted her profile and did whatever you do to start getting dates on that site, she got flooded with eager men trying to impress her.

I think she called them “the creepy men.”

They sent pictures of themselves posing in front of their macho cars and manly motorcycles half-naked with puffed up chests and flexed muscles.

She almost gave up on the man search after that.

But once she turned away all the narcissists, more interesting and seemingly decent men started to appear, and one of them unexpectedly captured her attention.

The only problem was that he didn’t fit her ideal man profile.

He was short and blue-eyed.

She was sure he wouldn’t be her type, but she gave him a chance, and she liked him.

Now, they’ve been dating for a few months and she’s having a great time.  She’s even noticed that he isn’t that short, and his eyes are actually dark blue. Luckily, he likes journalism, families, and having fun.

I don’t know whether she’s found her Doug, but she’s found a man that interests her even though he’s not the man she thought she wanted.

Sometimes what we get is better than what we wanted.

I know Doug is better in every way than what I thought I deserved or wanted.

But if I’d created a list as specific and narrow as the color of his eyes, for example, I would have missed all the amazing and wonderful things I didn’t even know I wanted!

My friend’s experience with match.com reminds me that we have to be open to discovering the good in people.

Sometimes that requires us to loosen the grip on what we think we must have so that we can find out what’s out there waiting for us.

What’s waiting for us might actually astound us with its unexpected goodness and beauty.

The key is to let the unexpected have a chance to happen.