Thursday, October 13, 2016

As he or she really is

I’m not seeking to be understood anymore, I want to understand.
I’m not asking to be loved, I want to love.’
— Clare, in the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon

It seems sad, but I bet it is exactly the way God planned it, that when we are ‘ripe and ready’ for love, usually at an age between 15 and 25, we are as yet incapable of seeing others and loving one of them for who they really are.

All our crushes leading up to the one that we try to make permanent by the construct (or the sacrament) of marriage are formed by this inner ideal, the person who perfectly fits into this ideal. If we do marry them, the ‘honeymoon period’ lasts as long as the real person hidden in our idealized love remains hidden. As soon as they begin to actually be who they really are (and they may have been hiding this in order to better fit what they perceived to be the other’s ideal), the possibility of a real relationship begins to open up.

This is where we realize at some point that we married the wrong person or, if we have already begun to be wise, that we must now literally accept the other person, allow them to be integrated deeply into us, and that we must welcome change, both in ourselves and in the other person. This, of course, needs to happen in both partners in the marriage, and optimally at about the same moment, but sometimes one lags so far behind the other, that one becomes tired of waiting, and decides to leave. I have seen this in one or two couples that I’ve known, sometimes it’s the man who lags behind, other times it’s the woman. In either case, pain is the inevitable result for both.

The reason I said at first, that I bet it is exactly the way God planned it, is because ‘love and marriage’ is part of the journey to God for most people. I am now speaking as a Christian, of Christians, but it probably applies equally to persons of other faiths.

I sometimes say, though not meaning it categorically, that until a man marries and becomes a father, he isn’t a man, he’s still a boy. Well, I know one thing, and that, only about myself, that though I was married and am a father, I still am a boy in many ways, but what I no longer am, what happened to me from being married for forty years ‘come hell or high water’ is that I am no longer rigid, no longer self-defending, but willing to make room for others, to accept them as they are, and to love them and not just put up with them.

What starts out in young love as a search for the perfect soul mate ends up, if we are fortunate and supple, as the discovery that there is no ready-made, perfect counterpart to ourselves, that no one will ever completely match us and understand us as we are, but that this is how it must be, and that real love really is unconditional, and that the ‘spark’ that ignites not only us but God Himself, will come when we can love the other as he or she really is.

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