When I was a much younger “me,” I was blessed by a wise woman; a mentor and friend, named “Becky.”* We met on a summer evening at one of our community concerts and I think we just recognized a kindred spirit in the other—a special friend for each of us. For her, I was someone she could share her great insights and, for me, she gained an eager learner.
As our friendship blossomed and we got to know each other, she shared that she married her high school sweetheart much later in life. They had some silly ‘tiff’ after graduation—and were so angry at the other that they each married different people. Soon, both realized their enormous, prideful twin mistakes and spent years living out of guilt, shame and obligation. Finally, their souls emerged and they created a path back to each other.
She explained to me what she learned over this personal journey; the key to a life-long love was that, together, a couple needed to share equivalent parts of “like,” “love” and “lust”. By marrying other people, she and her high school sweetheart learned, very well, a very real truism. Try-as-you-might, if you and your partner don’t share a magical and equal mix of abundant respect, affection and passion, it is not a match for a lifetime.
So, after finding their way, again, to one another, the couple restored their love and life, together. They married in a simple ceremony in their backyard. All became right in their world.
Becky’s experiences, as she described them, became a guiding light to me. I was, myself, a fresh-faced, recent divorcee’ who had once married the not-right-for-me person. We most certainly didn’t share the attributes that made up this charmed, proverbial three-legged stool—like-love-lust. So, I held Becky’s lesson up as my new “Gold” standard for which all romantic relationships would be measured against.
You know where this is going, right?
More life lessons and further insights to shift all that I thought I knew.
And, of course, yet another reason to belly up to the bar for more Day Drinking on a Monday.
Over time, I was offered precious insight and a gift. A couple of them, in fact. Allow me to unpack each, one at a time.
Becky’s story underscored what happens when we put someone in place of…whatever it is, for whatever reason. We may feel it’s the “right time” or “we’re lonely” or “finally successful” or our “biological clock is winding down.” Then as is inevitably the case, we meet Mister or Missus Almost Right. Sometimes we meet the person who fits us at the moment but then we go through a transformation, whether following a sentinel event or a personal vision quest. After that, no matter how hard we try, our vision and vibration just no longer matches the other person. They are simply Almost Right or may even become totally wrong for us.
Some people carry on this way for years—enduring each other. Or, they find a peaceful (or otherwise) way for co-existence. You’ve met those couples. Some even really portray themselves as happy and maybe they are. They can also be the couples, however, who live double lives—as swingers or with active Grindr accounts…but that is a whole other chapter.
Typically, the disconnect stands there as a light post. Every time some major event happens, every time some glorious insight or discovery is made, some thought or another comes to mind that leads down a certain path. In Becky’s case it led her, always, to her heart and then her heart took her by the hand and led her to thoughts of her high school sweetheart.
Maybe there isn’t someone who got away. Maybe it’s just that feeling of knowing you are not equally yoked. Or, maybe you are so afraid of rejection and abandonment that you just always become disillusioned with your partners about the time you fear they will leave you—because you always sabotage things.
Whatever the reason you feel a person is Almost Right, take some time to figure it the fuck out. Don’t go rashly caterwauling off to Jamaica with your online match or someone you’ve been keeping on the back burner for an easy escape. Find a trusted, licensed masters- or doctoral-level therapist to explore the “why” of your discontent. Be courageous. Be bold. This path will always, always lead to self-awareness, personal growth and enriched relationships. Even if your marriage ends, you will inevitably do so with far more grace and dignity and in a way that allows for a thoughtful conclusion and transition for everyone involved.
Along the way, I was given a second gracious gift. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a fourth pillar emerged. This powerful lesson taught me the very real truism that while a lifelong match must be one with whom you share lust, love and like—meaning you share equal parts passion, affection and mutual respect—there is a fourth essential element, loyalty.
Now, it would be simple and trite to reflect this pillar as being just about sexual and emotional fidelity. And while it is, indeed, about those things, it is also about developing such an abiding sense of faithfulness to the other person that the thought of betraying their trust at any level is wrong.
In your blended family, are you sliding money to your biological (grown) children to keep them afloat after promising your partner that the last time was the last time?
You are being disloyal.
Have you just swapped one addiction—alcohol—for another—porn, or shopping, or, collecting whatjamacallits...or just whatever...?!
Kahlil Gibran, one of my favorite philosophers and poets, proposed that the best partners are the guardians of the others’ solitude. That is true, however, what is also true is that your partner is not your parent…or your child.
Each of us is responsible, as grown-ass-people, to show up, maybe bruised and battered from past emotional encounters but wholly present and accounted for. A proverbial life jacket may be offered but we have to put that fucker on—or keep it on, as the case may be.
You cannot save another or, literally, be saved from your own burning platform. That is especially true if you happen to be the one constantly setting fire to it yourself. It just makes you an emotional arsonist.
Anyone who has gotten to recovery, whether as an addict or codependent, will tell you, first hand, that true healing comes from taking responsibility for healing one’s self from within.
We can and should ask for help. Conversely, we should offer affection, kindness and encouragement to each other. But true inspiration to make a lasting, sentinel shift comes from within.
So as the importance of loyalty—and its essential role in lifelong partnerships—emerged for me, I thought back to Becky’s story. This pillar existed for her, too. She and her high school sweetheart were both disloyal to their former spouses, for a time, with one another. Both realized it and took time to step away from each other. They took separate, introspective paths. Later, one spouse died from cancer and the other divorced.
After a period of therapy and contemplation, Becky and her high school sweetheart reconnected. They began once again, this time free and open, full of lust, love, like and loyalty to one another and the life they would create, together.
These four essential pillars—my prayer is that you discover them for yourselves. I pray that you never settle for Almost Right. That you hold out, trusting that you are meant to be blessed with lifelong, lasting love, and live every day as though you already have all that you need.
What a gift, indeed.