Well, Valentines day is usually reserved for expressing love and affection for someone special, but I’d like to spend it reflecting on past relationships and the curious nature of Love. While love can be an empowering thing, I have found it can also be quite selfish sometimes. Dr. Henry Grayson talks about this in his book, “Mindful Loving“. He makes a distinction between empowering love and ego-based love. He defines ego, not in the Freudian sense, but as a false self and symbol of separation. See Mindful Loving vs. Negative Thoughts. It’s really quite a good book and he makes a great deal of sense in his philosophy. From my own personal perspective, I guess love is supposed to be something wonderful, when you spend some time with one person and everything works out as planned. I’ve not found this to be the case generally, and the reasons why it doesn’t, usually ends up being something ego-based. It’s how you view it maybe that makes the difference, something to empower you or to struggle with in ego based ways. Still, it does make for a topic and to wonder in relationship reflections…

The Ring

What’s the point, I think, sometimes, when you put all your effort into something that inevitably fails in the end?  There is a certain futility to it that has not escaped my notice. For me, personally, finding love that lasts has been a frustrating endeavor, and I don’t have the enthusiasm for it that I did in my youth. This is not to say I am no longer hopeful, but simply that the energy expended doesn’t always pay itself back. What I have put into my relationships I have generally not received back. Maybe there are expectations that go beyond what is possible or that couples fall into a habit of having a feeling of entitlement to behave any way they want regardless of how their partner feels. I have made my share of mistakes too and am not perfect, nor am I allowed to behave any way I feel. I just state for the sake of fairness that I understand women have needs, but men also have needs too. Sometimes this results in a competition of sorts and each wants their needs fulfilled. If my needs are not met I am less likely to try to meet my partners and vice versa. This is human nature. While love should be unconditional and altruistic, in reality it is often not.

It’s common to think men are simple, women are complex and there is some divide to overcome. This is a fiction. Men and women are more similar than dissimilar, and the artificial boundaries are in place for convenience of viewpoint. I don’t wish to elaborate on this subject too much, so here are some links to recent articles that discuss this topic if you find it an interesting one:

Get Over it: Men and Women Are from the Same Planet

Men and Women are Psychologically Very Similar

Well, I may not have good vision on this. I have had three long term relationships in my life that I consider meaningful and loving, two that involved love and affection but never blossomed into anything more, and a number that staggered and/or never made anything substantial. So, I have had some experience in relationships, but simply cannot attribute their failure to any innate differences between men and women. It must be due to basic human differences. Indeed, they have all failed for various different reasons too, making it complex to figure out.

I guess my last relationship may remain the most important one I learned something from. It started oh so nice and was really quite sweet. I found myself within a few months really thinking how much I might have lucked out to find such a woman. Long story short, and there was a botched trip to Italy early on in our romance and it was never really the same again. We argued about it for like 8 months or so and I don’t think we ever recovered from it after that. The circumstances, my finances, our demeanor, and our communication led me in a direction to believe it would be ok, and there would be time to travel later, but it was not like that at all. I felt punished for it and I guess I always resented it. I am sure I loved her, although I didn’t always show it. I am sure she loved me too, although I felt she didn’t always show it either. It wound up lasting 5 years, and while it has been over for a long time now, as I think back there were many good things about it, but some bad too. I had some problems telling the truth sometimes and she had some problems letting things go, like the botched Italy trip for example. This didn’t make either of us bad people, but prevented us from meeting in the middle and resolving our issues together. We argued a lot, sometimes about the important things, but often about stupid things too. I had done my best to be a better person, especially after my Mom died, which I have spoken about previously in my blogs, but it was too late then I think and she couldn’t let go of the past. I wanted a Tabula Rasa.

It was my desire, to start fresh again with a clean slate. The last time I saw her she accused me of lying about something, which was not true because in fact there was nothing to lie about. It was a nonissue (to me) since the premise of her assumption of what I was lying about did not exist. But that’s the situation I found myself in and I was not going to convince her otherwise. I don’t blame her for her accusations, but I wanted her to believe me. She didn’t and it hurt my feelings, but made me realize later that she was acting on her feelings too. I had corrected my faults long before this and had advanced to a new stage. I realized I needed no more lies to satisfy anybody. I think maybe she had just stopped listening to me long before this, and maybe I had stopped listening to her too. That’s my perspective and she may have a different one. That’s ok.  She also would say often enough that we were not right for each other, which didn’t inspire my confidence, but that is so generic a description. What does that really mean? I have a more specific thought and the expectations of life is more to the point. What she really meant, I think, is that her expectations of a relationship with me did not meet her needs. What I wanted was a woman who loved me for who I was, despite my faults, respected me and shared a vision of a life in partnership with traveling as a part of that vision. Despite our disagreements and failure to resolve our issues, I still think she is a good person deep down and had we showed each other more respect, kindness and understanding we might have worked through our problems. It takes two people to make a success, but both people are usually responsible for failure too. As it is often said, there’s his side, her side, and then there’s the truth. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that. I wish her the very best in life and happiness too. I usually think of her on my travels because I know she always had travel as a vision in her life too.

What have I really learned through my Relationship Reflections? Probably that while there are no substantial innate differences between men and women, there is a good deal that is different in approach to relationships. Women tend to be more in touch with their feelings, sharing them, talking about them, and working through issues in this way. Men tend to be more pragmatic and use various problem solving techniques (logic and reason) to work through issues. This, at least, seems true from my perspective. While logic and reason work for me, it doesn’t mean it works for my partner. So, I think I learned to make the effort to be more in touch with my feelings and listen to my partner better. I’ve also learned to be more honest with myself and my partner. I believe it is also very important to treat each other with kindness and respect, because when this dissolves a relationship can spiral out of control very quickly and never recover from the damage. I recently heard a radio program at Focus on the Family that resonated with me. Here is a link to the podcast of a conversation with Dr. Randy Carlson, author of the book “Starved for Affection“, that I can share here if you are inclined to listen:

Nurturing Affection in Your Marriage

Although it speaks about marriage specifically, I thought it applicable to any relationship really. Dr. Carlson’s book seems worth reading and the website for Focus on the Family seems a good resource too with lots of articles to read and podcasts of conversations to listen to. Although it has a somewhat religious overtone, it’s not of a dogmatic variety and it’s main objective it to aid families and relationships.

What I believe now is that all the Soap Opera, Peyton Place, and Distracting Drama has no place for people who really care for each other and want to give and receive affection in their relationships. The only thing that really matters is that two people see life together, share the same dreams, and communicate well. That’s what’s really important. To say two people are incompatible or not right for each other is a simplistic vision to me, and there is more in this world to share and more ways of what is right or wrong than can than can be imagined. That’s my perspective on that. When attitude and outlook differ, however, that is something substantial and the cause of many problems. Anyone who has read this far, I challenge you to think about that. I have loved and lost and am here to tell the tale. My best advice is to find what makes you happy. Seek freedom and become captive of your desires, seek discipline and find your liberty. Frank Herbert said that and it is a truism. One day we all feel love and loss, but it is relationship reflections that make you grow. If you cannot reflect and make a context in your life for the past, present and future, then it’s time to rethink how you live life, because otherwise you are doomed to repeat your mistakes over and over. Don’t find yourself in a prison with Strother Martin saying, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”. It’s not entirely relevant I guess, but that’s my ending to finish with a smile. Success to all in your relationships! May love, kindness, understanding, wisdom and relationship reflections guide you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson