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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Relationships Are Life

I've been thinking a lot over the last four nights. Sleep hasn't come easy or well. I got five hours one night over the last four days and that's been the max so far this week. My mind's stuck in multiple debates, none with any easy answers (or perhaps any answers at all) and I'm struggling to identify where the answers might be.

I know what set me off: Arlington. I visited that hallowed ground Sunday and witnessed some profound grief from those who were there to visit their friends and loved ones. So often in life we're reminded of what we take for granted in comparison of what someone else has lost.

In my case, I was reminded how easily I accept the relationships I have in my life and how easily they could come to an end. It doesn't take much to snuff out a human life. For all our technological and medical advances, we still don't understand death. We still don't understand why it occurs or what purpose it serves in the cosmic scheme of things. Sure, we understand how people died: finding the cause isn't the issue.

The issue is why did they die. What's the point?

I've been wrestling with this for days and I have come no closer to any definite conclusion. I've reached out to my favorite priest (though, admittedly, he's only one of three I know so it's not like it's a honorable title or anything) but he's been wicked busy this week and I don't foresee us meeting up so I can ask him questions.

I've turned to Catholic teaching, which there is plenty of on the Internet, but that has left me equally unfulfilled. The answer I'm looking for doesn't exist in this life.

But what does exist is our relationships with other people. Friends. Family. Boyfriends, Girlfriends, Husbands, Wives. I think, out of anything else on this planet (including ham and cheese, as well as cheesecake) I will miss that in the afterlife (whether heaven or hell or purgatory). I don't think the rules we know will all apply in the afterlife.

Certainly I don't think I'll be able to look down from heaven, drink wine, and snark with my best friend as we watch college-aged kids do college-aged kids stuff. Pretty sure that's not there.

So, with my mind obsessing over relationships and the many different ones that exist, the question came up (quite early on) about which one is the best. What's the best relationship you can have? For as many people as you ask this question, you'll probably get just as many answers.

But for me the answer is quite simple: a relationship between yourself and someone you're in love with (and who loves you in return). That is the founding principle on the greatest and toughest of things in this life, that of marriage (again, all of this is my opinion, but bear with me).

I'm not discounting other relationships as being less, but human beings want companionship and they want it in the form of a significant other/spouse. Being best friends with a person is one thing, but there are some barriers that cannot be crossed in that role. There are things I can't do (despite being confident I could do them) and aren't my place to do in my role as a friend.

But in one's role as a significant other/spouse, the barriers are practically nonexistent. I'm not nor have I ever been either of those things, so I don't know for sure what the key is or where the permission is given to exceed those barriers. I just know, from observation and the experiences relayed to me by others, that such barriers don't really exist.

Out of all the relationships that can exist, that kind has the fewest limits. You can go the distance and dive into another person at a level that can't be matched anywhere else. That's what makes it so appealing and so demanding. Becoming involved with a person in that manner is a commitment of significant resources on multiple fronts.

Which is why, I think, Arlington so messed me up. Those people there who looked upon the graves of their loved ones, a lot of them lost a significant other/spouse and I absolutely can't imagine how devastating that is. To give yourself so fully to another person and to have them do the same, only to lose them to never see them again ... it's inhuman in a lot of ways. To ask someone to carry on like that when such a large part of themselves is missing is hard.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably the most inexperienced person you could ask about this. But what I lack in experience I make up for, a little, in observation. I've seen relationships between significant others/spouses break down and end. Sometimes quickly, others time slowly and almost always badly.

Just two days ago a friend of mine, who had just gotten into another relationship after having her last one end badly after many years, posted this article on Facebook. I read it and came away surprised that these things had to even be said ... but then again, with the way people treat these types of relationships nowadays, maybe these things really needed to be restated again.

I'll list the qualities here and my thoughts on them (and how the qualities apply to myself) as we go along, but a lot of this seems fairly "no duh" to me.

1. Honesty -- but not too much of it.

Basically, be honest about everything in your life to your girl, except appearances (which the article recommends you just let lie about cause we all look horrible sometimes and I completely agree with this).

I don't know why lying to your girlfriend/wife ever seems like a good idea but it's more commonplace than I'd like to admit with my male peers. Somewhere along the line, fiction supplanted the truth as the thing to tell the person you're involved with. Not sure why, honestly, but lying to someone you're in a relationship with is the quickest way to wreck things, IMO.

2. Understanding -- that way she doesn't feel the need to explain herself.

Strive to understand her. I feel like this one is probably one that needs to be repeated more often and loudly. I know a lot of guys who are involved with their girls and don't have nearly the understanding of said girls that I do. Whether that speaks more to me and how observant I am, or to the guys and how clueless they are, I don't know. Some guys just don't want to put forth the effort to understand women because women are amazingly complicated.

That's what makes them so amazing to be around, IMO. Simple isn't sexy. More men need to put forth the effort to understand the ladies they're involved with. I think a lack of understanding, a lack of a deeper connection on an emotional level, is what ultimately brings down relationships involving significant others/spouses.

3. Caring -- she needs to know she matters to you.

Pretty straightforward, right? Not as straightforward as many would like to think. People communicate caring differently and in a relationship, I feel like both parties are going to have to figure out how the other communicates caring. For girls, caring usually means listening to her and giving her a shoulder to cry on ... showing her support unwavering at all times.

For guys, they perceive caring as taking some form of action -- usually something physical, kissing or touching or sex. Men aren't usually wired to sit and listen for hours on end, but there are a few out there (I'm one of them I think ... either that or I have a much better attention span than I've given myself credit for).

4. Strength -- both physical and mental.

Women want to be in the presence of guys they find attractive. Based on what I've seen (and the sentiments are echoed in the article), women find men who are intelligent AND in good physical shape attractive. They want to be able to hold a conversation with you where you'll actually talk instead of just sitting there and nodding along.

The physical stuff is pretty self-explanatory. I doubt a woman wants to be with a dude who couldn't defend her if it became necessary.

5. Compassion -- show her you're capable of loving.

I think this falls in the same category as caring and understanding. No one likes a hardass, even if you're a complete stud of one. Being a mean cuss isn't going to enthuse anyone. I agree that guys are taught that compassion is a weakness and that being tough is preferable, but acting like an ass gets you nothing.

High school and most of college proved that to me. I was an ass. I got nothing.

6. Security -- financial and literal.

This is probably the one I take the most issue with. Having the guy be the breadwinner and bring home all the money is an outdated idea: in this world, you're both likely working and you're both making money. Financial security is a team sport nowadays.

Admittedly, I take the most issue with this because this is a weakness of mine. I don't make a lot of money so being able to provide financial security ... that's not a qualification I meet. I don't know if it'll ever be a qualification I meet.

Literal security I can absolutely readily provide. I'm in the best shape of my life and my capacity to protect is high.

7. Blind loyalty -- she wants to be the only woman he has eyes for. 

As guys, we suffer from wandering eyes. We're visually stimulated and wired that way and we suck at ignoring that part of ourselves often. For as far as men have come in terms of being civilized, we always have eyes and those eyes can get us into trouble.

Self-control, however, is something that guys lack. It's encouraged by society and the media to not practice self-control: why deny yourself something you can have easily? Most people don't bother denying themselves and what ends up happening is that people get hurt.

Guys cheat. Girls get cheated on.

I believe firmly that if you have an understanding of the woman in your life, if you truly get her, then you're going to have blind loyalty. Because, though I can't claim to know for sure what being in love is (I believe I have been in one situation but how do you know for sure if it was never meant to be?) but based on my feelings and findings, you should only see the person you're in love with as the one for you.

Other people may be prettier. Other people may be skinnier. Other people may be younger.

But there can't be another like the one you're in love with. Being in love is more about loving the soul, the character, of the person in question more than anything else, IMO.

Which brings me back to relationships. They are life. Without them existence doesn't matter and they are the foundation of everything you do. Marriage can't survive without a relationship between husband and wife. Family can't survive without a relationship between parent and child.

The best things in life are based off relationships.

Remember those people who have lost their relationships. They had what you have and they will never have it again. Take care of your relationships and the people in your life. If you do that, you should be all right in the end.

Thanks for reading folks. God Bless.

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