For the past couple months, I have been observing two different relationships. Both in entirely different stages - one just beginning, one already past a year. They are marked by more differences than similarities despite the common ground shared in each.
The older relationship is based on interests and physical attraction. Both people enjoy the same movies, music, television shows. They agree on a majority of beliefs and desires, though the most glaring discrepancy may be the definition of their relationship. Of course, I can not crawl inside the heads of these two people and my observation is little more than speculation, but it seems quite clear that while they both have agreed to a particular format, one partner is unsatisfied and thus insecure due to the other's lack of commitment. For fear of losing them, their perfect hands and lithe frame, they claim they are content. Yet the facade is dropped each time they get too inebriated to filter themselves.
The newly blossoming relationship lacks a majority of the common ground the previous one shares - though like all other pairings, still consists of attraction (though somewhat less focused on the physicality and more so on the emotional and chemical magneticism). Tastes in music are different, movies and other media consumed only rarely overlapping. Though it is too early to truly analyze the two together, separately they share core values and beliefs, which are a defining factor in a successful relationship. As of yet, the relationship is loose and undefined but both parties are seeking the same thing. A meaningful connection. Where they decide to take it from there will determine their longevity.
I have been in partnerships like both of the ones I described. In the former, I was miserable but kept pursuing the guy because he was "perfect". I now think that there's no such thing as a "perfect" guy who isn't willing to do whatever it takes to make me feel comfortable and happy. Real love is fearful yet brave, knowing that the leap is not dangerous but rewarding, often crazy yet the most logical course of action when you feel so deeply for another person. Appearance helps initial attraction but it means nothing in the long term. As you begin to see the contents of a person's soul, they appear beautiful no matter what shell contains them.
The relationships I have had that resemble the first one were unsuccessful and the most disappointing. I had thought our similarities in interests and the way our bodies clicked together meant everything. Of course, there is more to it than that and I can only see the surface yet watching a strong, confident woman crumble into an insecure, overly aggressive girl whenever we drink or her "perfect" man comes around, I can't help but hurt for her and hope somehow this love she has turns out the way she's so desperately hoping it will in her head.
On the flip side, the second pairing I described is in many ways very much like my marriage. My husband loves Tom Cruise and a whole parade of terrible eighties movies while I can't watch any plot that can be easily summarized in a single sentence (aka Tommy boy's entire body of work, though I admit weirdly enjoying Top Gun). Half of his playlist is made up of songs he's been listening to since we met - utter rubbish like Megadeth and the worst classic rock imaginable - while I rotate between a handful of different Pandora stations because I can't stand to listen to the same stuff over and over. He would rather watch a movie than a television show, while I can't stand to sit for an hour and a half of one thing but love to watch three hours of twenty minute episodes. He is more interested in staying indoors where I crave being outside when it's not freezing balls.
Despite all this, we still share common ground. Gaming has always been our link, starting with tabletop and card games then leading into playing video games together. Some shared interests are important to tie you together, giving you an activity both will enjoy doing to relax and ground your partnership. I have found that our differences are just as important, if not more, than our similarities however. Being with someone who liked all the same things as me ended up in me being bored. This is by far from necessary for all people, since I am a person who very easily loses interest in things. Some may thrive with someone who mirrors themselves but in the long term, it has been exciting to drag each other along when it comes to doing something usually out of our wheelhouse.
Every observation is made with personal bias and there are many wonderful aspects of the first relationship I glazed over. Their different methods of communication force them to think outside of themselves and be more considerate, for example. The depth of care courses through each of them like a mighty river and their passion is ever increasing. In the other hand, the just blossoming relationship I'm watching has great potential for collaboration and creativity in the shared interests that do exist. Finding a way to meet in the middle, however, will likely be the challenge.
When it comes to love and lust, there are few universal guidelines. Like each person, each intertwining is unique and comes with it's own set of rules. They change and evolve with age, much like we do, while remaining true to a few core truths. The following focuses on my own experiences with love, since that is what I can reliably make conclusions upon. Whether or not it is helpful is for you to decide.
Honesty is constantly underrated. I have found following an open heart code to be integral to my romantic success and have seen it either reinforce or destroy others. If you can not be free with your true thoughts and feelings with the person who shares your bed, though, who can you be entirely open with? And if concealing pieces of your heart and mind determines whether or not your love will fail, is it a healthy love?
The saying that you must love yourself before others can love you is completely right. For when you do not love yourself, you compromise to please others and end up letting little pieces of yourself be slowly chipped away with each day you neglect self-love. I was inexpressibly fortunate to have a magnificent man help me learn this lesson, though it was through his absence that I learned the most. When two people fit, compromises don't hurt. They don't make you want to drown yourself and lash out at those who speak frankly out of concern. Those compromises, while not always easy, make it easier to love not only the one your with but yourself. Honesty ties into every piece of fabric that is woven into the quilt of romance. Without it, unsure hands create shoddy needlework and before long you find small holes where pieces of yourself once belonged.
Nothing is ever sure. We can only listen intently to the signals our subconscious sends to us and follow it's instructions to happiness. Sometimes letting go is just as important as holding on tight. There will always be difficult times but a great partnership takes them on together, always fighting not just for their own bliss but their lover's as well. For every period of uneven footing, there is triple fold smooth sailing. Sex and work and play are all met evenly, with constant vigor, and there is no fear in being comfortable.
People often say that when you meet that "special someone", you know. Like all vague sayings, I wasn't positive what it was I was supposed to "know". I didn't know if we were forever but I did know I wanted us to be more than anything. I didn't know if he was my "soul mate" or if such a thing even existed but I did know that being with him felt right, like every person I had shared myself with before had just been practice for the real thing. I didn't know if we were meant to be together but I did know I couldn't stand the thought of us being apart. As a student of logic, I knew that what we humans call love is the conception of lots of pleasurable chemicals running amok in our minds. I knew that many marriages end in divorce, that humans by nature seek novelty and easy thrills, which leads many a spouse to infidelity. I knew that we were poor, uneducated, and would struggle for a long time, maybe even forever. I also knew that I didn't care about any of that. I knew I wanted him with me more than I've ever wanted anything else.
So the old saying isn't really far off the mark, even if it took three years of the man trying to persuade me to date him for me to figure it out instead of it being the moment we met (though like most of the incredibly important people I've met in my life, I do remember that moment with great clarity). I did know. And in a world where sometimes I'm not even convinced that I'm actually alive or experiencing reality, it is a wonderful feeling to be so certain of something. As for others, what they "know" may be different. But if you can sit quietly in the dark and ask yourself "is this what I want?" and say "yes" without unreasonable doubt squirming under your eyelids, it's likely you've known all along.
Let go of fear - whether it's fear of becoming dependent on someone or being alone - and hold on to love. Even if it means simply loving yourself.