Shakespeare had it right.
The quest for true love is both comic and tragic – we can’t stop searching for our one true love, and we expect it to be a cosmic moment, love at first sight, the beginning of our own epic, romance. The truth, as Shakespeare knew, is that beautiful, joyous and passionate love, leads to mortal death as much as it does an actual relationship. Love is never certain, never smooth. Love is a balancing act, a lucky mix that turns chemical reactions into a relationship.
At 25, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on romantic relationships, but with a couples therapist and marriage counselor for a father, I’ve picked up more than a few helpful tips. At the very least, I know just how idiotic 99 percent of every listicle and GIF-based online relationship guide is (looking at you Elite Daily). Here are some actual insights based on more than just one person or couple, the kind of wisdom that 41 years working with couples has given my father and that have been the best guide to relationships.
1. “A measure of a good relationship is not just how well you get along, but how well you can resolve your differences.”
Nothing feels better than that initial chemistry with someone, it is a literal, physical high as good as any drug. One of the best ways for a couple to bond is to laugh together, and damn, doesn’t it feel good. The first time that you kiss, discover a shared love of the same movies or music, every first in fact, is all extremely exciting. But depth in a relationship means acknowledging your differences as well. Those differences are the spice of the relationship.
Not all relationships develop in the same way or have an equal chance of success. But be patient in resolving your differences because there is nothing greater than developing passionate attraction into true love.
2. “Love can only be given as a gift, never forced or demanded.”
We may feel the tendency to try to measure love, as relationships rarely feel 50-50. But love is not one-dimensional. How you want to be loved isn’t always the same for your partner.
Love should be a conscious decision every day. For me, somewhat geekily, it’s like fractals. Fractals are a single structure, replicated over and over, that can create a completely different final image, made up of the same fundamental pattern at every scale, the recursive nature of self-similarity. In love, little gestures create the larger picture, and making an effort to build a positive relationship starts small, but when you step back and look at the whole relationship, you’ll realize it’s the same shape. Embrace the infinity of possibilities that uncertainty has to offer, start from the ground up.
3. “Each of us is responsible for our own happiness.”
Life is unpredictable. Chance can cause turbulence, and we have to choose how much risk and vulnerability we are comfortable with. It’s scary to be vulnerable, and we have to decide how we wish to proceed. It’s our responsibility to make these decisions and to live with them. The process of maintaining a healthy relationship is thus centered on taking conscious responsibility of our own actions and thoughts.
Fearlessly choose the path that is your true purpose, in love as much as any other part of your life. Discover what makes you happy, what give your life meaning, and share it with the person that you love.
“If thou remember’st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into,
Thou hast not lov’d.”
-Shakespeare “As You Like It”