Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Person is a Universe . . . No Way is any Relationship Perfect!

By definition, the Universe per the Oxford Dictionary means, "all existing things; the whole creation;" For me, the concept of the Universe which for the purpose of this note,  I choose to approach from the perspective of the Maker/Creator,  evokes within me, a state of perfection, harmony, everything intrinsically good. At least my Christian faith taught me that the Maker/Creator made everything in a perfect state. Just thinking about the brain behind the universe always leaves me floored and in awe of the Creator/Maker. This article attempts to explore relationships generally and the reasons why it is very challenging for most of us. It also attempts to analyze the reason behind the breakup of relationships in record numbers and a principle that may go a long way towards ameliorating this disturbing trend .

Often times, marital and non-marital relationships alike involve unrealistic expectations from both parties within the relationship. The world with its general perception of" living happily ever after" perpetuates this expectation. Despite the staggering statistics of broken marriages and summer/spring relationships, we still want to cling helplessly to this age-old myth of "living happily ever after". 

Most people in western cultures engage in long courtships that may sometime span over a couple of years and yet, when it is called a "marriage", it becomes a lot more complicated and arduous and suddenly blows up in flames. People in other cultures while not really enjoying the luxury of the long courtship and dating, blame the lack of "a proper courtship" as the reason for the demise of their marriages. While I agree that a lack of courtship could very well lead to the demise of a marriage, I believe it is not all to be blamed; after all, people from the older generation seemed to have had longer, happier marriages than we are having today! These people from the older generation often times, have no dating and courtships  prior to their tying the knot. They do however, understand what most of us fail to get ~  that no one is a universe and as such, expecting to get a beautiful/handsome,  kind, smart, understanding, sexy, respectful, partner may be an unrealistic expectation! 

We are often times shaped by our past and present experiences both good and bad; and while some people are able to rise above and beyond adverse experiences that they lived through, most of us are still enslaved by those adverse experiences. The cumulative effect of this is that we bring into every relationship our past and present experiences and those in turn affect those relationships for good or for bad. 

If your partner lived in a home bereft of love; where fighting constantly was all that he/she knew, it will be harder for him/her to foster a loving relationship with you unless he/she consciously refuses to be enslaved by his past and makes a conscious effort to rise above that. On the other hand, if your partner grew up or lived through a home that Dad was always romantic, kind and loving towards mom; often times, these are reflected in the adult relationships that they foster.  

During my Law School  years in Nigeria, my Legal Methods Professor (Prof. Ibekwe of blessed memory) loved this Latin maxim; "Nemo dat quod non habet" Latin for, "You cannot give what we do not have".  Your partner can only give you what he/she has; what he/she knows about, and what he/she is capable of giving.

In my personal life, I have always been the hopeless romantic! I grew up reading all the romance novels that I could lay my hands on. I remember always hiding behind the blinds in our living room as a young teen where no one would discover me and devour all these romantic series of that time; (Do they even still write Harlequin Romance, Mills and Boon, etc). I would at that time dream of that perfect marital life where every minute of my life is punctuated with romance by my prince charming. 

Without question, I ended up marrying someone, I absolutely adored, (and still adore, thank God . . but only when he is not being his stubborn self:-).  I loved him immensely at first  but remembered wondering why I was not really experiencing all of those wonderful visceral reactions that I read about; those wonderful reactions that some of my friends would talk about . . . heart pumping so fast that you feel that you may pass out; sweaty palms, literally experiencing tornadoes and earthquakes when he stares into your eyes??? Seriously, I was asking myself whether or not I should keep waiting to get the guy that would evoke those reactions in me prior to tying the knot. THANK GOD I DID NOT WAIT!!! REALLY!!!!

Then I got married, and it got even more complicated. Why does he not cuddle me tightly in his arms whenever I cry like my dad would; why is he not as romantic as I want him to; why does he not let me win arguments;  . . .  there was just so many whys. As if all those were not enough, add my beautiful, precious babies to the mix and  . . . ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  . . . landslides of epic proportion! :-) The bickering and whining, and arguments would make a best seller any day:-) Of course, those were expected and were all part of a normal, vibrant and healthy relationship and the logical next step. The fun part of it being that because I am upset, i constantly failed woefully at communicating my feeling to him. I was not making any headway at all and neither was he. :-(  Alas, their goes my dream of that ideal relationship! There were constant back and forths and, did I mention I could be the poster child for "Cry me a River" :-). I allowed the world and experiences of friends to infiltrate and shape my own marital experiences. I should have known that no two people share the exact same experiences. I was not being very objective; I expected so much more from my relationship (which by the way I was not giving due to the intense negative energy constantly being channeled both our ways); I was instead seeing the relationship practically from my own angle. Selfish??, May be!

Then, one fateful day, I spoke to a friend of mine who was almost 60 years old and obviously from the older generation and little did he know the impact of these words he said to me amongst other things;  ". .  .Ogor you can never get a universe in a person" ; he had asked me to think carefully before answering the next question of whether or not I was perfect; and I did not need to think carefully at all because I knew what the answer was right away. I am so imperfect, I am no universe!! I was expecting him to be one. I come with my own set of baggage!! . . . hefty, hefty, hefty baggage. I come with such flaws that I cannot even describe because i am morbidly ashamed of them. I would want to be cut some slacks too! I may have been unfair to my partner with the constant whining  . . .  or have I? :-) (yes i have but . . . shhhhhh... so had he  . .  .)  I resolved that day to expect not the universe from my partner but a planet at a time. We were both works in progress. If each one person in a relationship uses a kinder set of lenses to look at the other party, BINGO! most of our relationships would have been blissful and viable! It does take two to tilt the scale!

I finally got it! JESUS LORD! I am no universe . . . , he is no universe . . . I can never get everything I want out of my relationship. Later on that evening, I put ink to paper and took stock of all the things about him that I LOVE . . .  and the result; Oh BOY!!!! I realized that I had in him, those core, unassailable, pristine qualities that I was not ready to compromise on. That was a huge realization for me! There are a lot of things that are solid about him! The fact that he does not show romance the way I want it shown to me does not mean that he does not love me nonetheless . .!.!! He is only showing it the way he knows how!! BINGO!

Those other things that are lacking from my universe, if they are really that important to me, I can get from close friends and relatives! Cultivating close friendships is so vital to every relationship, both marital and non-marital. (that is another lesson I learnt) Friendships outside of your relationship gives the relationship the desired air that it needs in order to thrive and flourish. Taking trips with your girlfriends or boyfriends are very therapeutics for relationships. (I love my girls' night out!)

In conclusion, ever since I realized that no person is a universe, I am literally having a time of my life in my relationship!  I am happier, partner is happier, kids are content; you infect other people you meet at work and in other random places with that same energy and everything is falling into place.

Is it easy? of course no way! But like Dolly Parton rightly stated in her song, "Make love work", we gotta try a little bit harder . . . and harder !
Enjoy this really inspiring piece with me.

Lovingly yours,