Eager with engagement and a wedding around the corner, a man uproots his life, quits his job and moves to a new continent to build a life with his bride-to-be. Two weeks on the ground and an hour of intermediated conversation later and it’s over. Homeless, jobless and brideless, he’s left to bumble through tears and tuk-tuks, if-only’s and butting elbows, and the gag-inducing gulp of a new future.
Our paths crossed with this man, an old friend of one of my traveling companions, and a happen-stance dinner evolved into a three day adventure. One might argue that despite his tribulations, said man was quite lucky (not that type of lucky!) to be scooped up by three smart, cute and successful ladies with a stunning villa on a Thai island. We critiqued exquisite letters to the ex, filled downtime with rummy on the beach, and regaled each other with tales of our own woes and one-woman shows. Here are some of the pieces of advice we shared… Would love to hear yours as well!
Solid trunks make solid partners. I’ve been told that relationships are like trees growing side by side: each trunk must be strong and separate, but the roots and branches overlap. In my younger days, I had my share of vine-like relationships, where I was looking for a man to support me, or I attracted men who needed support. Unless both partners come from strong foundations and are growing in similar directions, the relationship can become unequal and ultimately unhealthy.
Love is a process. Growing up with Hollywood love-stories, and in a family where my grandmother saw my grandfather across a pier and exclaimed, “I’m going to marry that man!” (and did), I’ve always thought that you just need a bright spark to light the fire. However, my Indian friends in arranged marriages reminded me that there’s something to be said for the slow burn, the friendship that turns into companionship, and the partnership that fuels a deep satisfaction.
Love isn’t that initial flame; it flickers and roars and takes shape with the gusts of circumstance. If the relationship is strong enough, its flame will burn and deepen with the winds… If it’s too weak, circumstances will blow through and extinguish it. You can’t fight a blazing wind, no matter how hard you try.
Sometimes love isn’t enough. This is the hardest one to accept, because love should be enough. We’re not just connected to a partner through our souls and hearts, but through our lifestyles and daily routines. When making a decision to commit, factors like values and goals need to be as aligned as the stars. As my father once said, “relationships come down to three things: food, sex and money. If you’re not aligned on what you eat, how you spend and what happens in bed, daily life and decisions are always going to be a battle.”
Now, it’s hard enough to find love, and adding in these variables makes it feel almost impossible to find the right fit. Perhaps the solution is as simple as doing what makes you happy, and trusting that another satisfied soul who shares the same penchant for steak au poivre or zen living will stroll into your favorite haunt (and do let me know if you find said haunt!).
It should just fit. But not without certain struggles or strains. My mother has always said that “when a relationship is right, there’s nothing you can do that’s wrong. But if it’s wrong, there’s nothing that you can do that’s right.” All that time spent laboring over whether a text was moronic or a story was an over-share is time wasted. If it’s the right person, he or she will find the text cute and the story endearing. We’re all oddly shaped puzzle pieces, and perhaps a good relationship is just about finding the piece whose mis-shaped corners fit with your oddly-angled edges.
Action is karma. It’s easy to needle into the depths of a partner’s insecurity during challenging times, and natural to want to hurt when we feel hurt. But those actions are the ones that lead to that sinking guilt, an arms race of retaliation, and often a trip to the florist. As I’ve learned from my Buddhist friends, relationships are cycles of karma. If the motivation behind an action is to cause pain, sadness or anger, it’s going to boomerang and escalate. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t express frustration or anger, but before launching into a tirade, consider the driving motivation in the delivery. Are you trying to prove you’re right? Are you trying to make the other person feel guilty or sad? As they say (nicely): Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.
We all get duped and hurt, but we do learn from each experience. There really is no “failed” relationship or wasted decade, as each experience is just a stepping stone to the next and information to better understand what you want, both in your life and in a partner.
And there will be another partner. As one of my dearest friends, Anne, has lovingly reminded many a woeful single lady: “Look at all the people who get married… Almost everyone gets married. You’re not special enough to be single forever.”