“A true love story isn’t a fairy tale. It takes vulnerability and effort.”
Contentment versus misery. Peace versus malcontentment. Joy versus heartache.
What separates a life of the former from the life of the latter in each of these side-by-sides is knowing when to leave life up to chance and when to choose to invest purposely, intentionally and regularly.
To successfully reach the result we desire, as with any process, there is a particular order in which certain ingredients must be welcomed into the recipe. Just as with making an awakening cup of espresso, not only do the beans need to be of high quality, but the proper tools must be at-hand and the knowledge of how to use them properly understood. Equally important, the water used that filters through the ground beans must be of high quality, and then, after the necessary process has been tended to, then, the results we wished to see and experience with our own eyes and tastebuds will materialize and savored.
Understanding relationships, from the one we will have our entire lives – the one with ourselves, to the relationships we have with others, either platonic or romantic, and how healthy relationships work, and what they require of each of us is life-changing knowledge to possess.
“There are no directions. There are no checklists. There’s no “to do” when it comes to love, there’s only “to feel” and feeling cannot be predetermined, it cannot be forced. It arises when we move from our heads into our hearts, stay present, and let go; when we drop our typical millennial, achievement-driven style and instead, remember, the only thing truly in our control is our ability to surrender.” —Dr. Jordana Jacobs, in a recent article for We Are Doré
I recently received a question from a TSLL reader in her mid-to-late twenties, and I appreciated her candid and sincere question about relationships in which she inquired about how to not be envious of those already in relationships when she is not in one and would like to be. The question inquired about my approach most specifically as she had previously shared she appreciated the celebration and contentment I express of being single (for readers who may not know, I am 40) and enjoying my life. I have shared my response below.
“Great question. I honestly, after thoughtful observation of what I needed in my own life to flourish, have not been envious [of close friends who “get into” wonderful relationships]. But I do think my temperament is suited to my lifestyle. I think, especially if you wish to be in a relationship, that if you remain open, but do not focus on finding one, it will happen when you are living a life you love no matter what that involves. The universe can surprise you in the most amazing ways.”
I want to thank the TSLL reader who reached out with her question (I will keep her name private as this was a DM conversation) because I know she is not alone in her quandary. As good timing would have it, after reading this article regarding how currently the culture is approaching dating incorrectly, I found myself nodding in agreement profusely.
What I have realized upon reflection as to part of the reason my twenties were unnecessarily exhausting was the energy expended on doing what I thought I “had to do”. In this case, the idea that I was supposed to be dating or seeing or getting close to finding my life partner. My experience was less about being inspired by other couples and more a response of not wanting to feel like an outsider. However, it was in my thirties that I finally, as I shared in my books, fully invested my time (outside of my daily teaching job) into getting to know myself and invest in opportunities that my curiosities led me toward. More contentment had and has never been before experienced, and in my case, it all happened without a partner and solely due to my investment in the relationshp I have with myself.
Our life’s journey, as much as we would like them to be made clear, especially regarding our relationships with others, but vitally as important as the relationship we have with ourselves and where this knowledge will lead, cannot be made known before the opportunities cross our path.
When said opportunities cross our path, whether they hint where our passion could lead us or a person who we could not have described until we met them and spent time with them, if we are in tune with themselves, so thereby grounded, but also open to the unknown, that is when our lives begin to blossom.
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“Successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures, and small acts. A lifetime of love is created every single day you are together.” —Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, co-authors of Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
As much as our lives depends upon chance when it comes to relationships (with ourselves or with others), once chance has introduced us to the career that speaks our language in a way to offer the vehicle to express our talents and passions with the world or to the person who we mesh with more than we ever thought would be humanly possible, this is where chance steps aside (after all, it has put forth an immense amount of effort) and choice steps forward.
Even though the adage “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” has been stated as fact quite frequently, the fact of the matter is, the idea of “work” must be put into context. If “work” is seen as a having a negative connotation, then perhaps the quote is true as you are doing something you love doing, but if we look at “work” through its benign, literal definition, it involves effort, dedication, diligence and regular maintenance to ensure the career we so love having the opportunity to be a part of our lives keeps humming forward successfully.
When it comes to the latter interpretation of work, the same must be said, according to the co-authors, husband and wife, Dr. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman, of the new book Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love , for loving, healthy romantic relationships as well.
Too often, when a couple or a desired career path fails beyond the initial success or wedding day, it is because the choice and chance were flipped. In other words, the idea that technology and endless “dating” as a “to do” item in our planners would suggest we cannot leave our love lives to chance. But as scary as it might sound, if we wish to find a partner that sees us for who we are, respects us for what we do and desires to get to know us because of this truth, we must strengthen our relationshp with ourselves first and thus fall in love with our lives with or without a partner. In doing so, we are leaving our “finding” of a partner largely up to chance. It doesn’t mean we don’t put ourselves out there, but it does mean putting our phones and all of the seemingly amazingly helpful apps down.
Further, once chance has led us, no matter how long it has taken, to what we patiently hoped we would one day discover, we must then regularly make the choice to continue to invest. Both with our emotional vulnerability and our time. If we want our relationship to grow, deepen, strengthen and endure whether it be our relationship with ourselves or with another, we must choose to put the energy forward of our time, our priority and our courage of belief in what seemingly magically introduced itself into our lives and we bravely recognized it to be something that aligned with ourselves.
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At this moment, each of us are at a different point along our journeys whether in our career, or I would argue calling or the pursuit of our calling as well along the journey regarding relationships. Once we recognize where we are, we can discover the clarity of understanding how to proceed. With the right balance of being open to chance and embracing the responsiblity of choosing to invest, the discovery of unexpectedly awesome abundance and contentment will dance into and throughout our everyday lives.
~A big thank you to TSLL reader Sarah for finding a recipe to make your own: click here.
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