Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lasting Love

"On the Path Together"

A local TV commercial always gives me a little chuckle with one manufacturer's promise that  you "will melt the fat away" by taking their doctor-approved "magic pills."  Whenever I see that ad I think to myself, "Great, I won't have to go to the gym anymore." But of course I will  have to continue the drudgery of my daily workout if I expect to lose weight and stay relatively healthy- there are no "magic pills" that can make that happen.

We live in a culture of instant gratification where we look for and expect quick fixes and easy answers in life; but as I see it, for the most part there are rarely quick fixes and hardly ever easy answers anywhere, and this especially when it comes to being in "love." Establishing and maintaining long-lasting relationships with other people always demands hard work and sacrifice.  

Yesterday I came across a newly published study about long-lasting relationships. People involved in the study were asked if they saw "love" as the "union of two people who were destined to be together," or if love is more of a "journey you undertake through life?"  I thought the question was fascinating and the results of the study were very insightful. 

Many people today have very romantic notions about "being in love" -"falling in love." Maybe we have all seen too many Hollywood movies in which two starstruck strangers meet on the street and realize that they are and always have been soul mates-destined to be together for all time.  But as psychologist, Benjamin Lee reports in the study I read yesterday:

Believing in soul mates - or destiny, or the idea that there is exactly one person that you were absolutely put on this earth to find  -- can and probably will backfire.

The research shows that people who believe in 'destiny' put less effort into working through relationship conflict. The idea here is that if we are soul mates, then nothing will go wrong in our relationship, and it will be easy. A conflict makes a destiny-believer question whether the current partner is actually their soul mate, and then they give up working on it.

As I see it, no relationship of any kind is ever easy - this is especially true for people who are married or in committed relationships. We are all a wondrous blend of beauty and beast, we are gentle and kind and we can also be cruel and sometimes heartless as we make our way through life. When we journey together in life with people we love,  we will sometimes make mistakes, cause pain, and hurt the ones we love- conflict is inevitable.   Every relationship is a "journey we undertake," hand-in-hand,  enjoying life together when the road is smooth, holding on to one another when the way gets bumpy.

I think of my own relationships, especially my marriage of over 30 years. As I see it, my wife and I met because we "just happened to meet." It wasn't some preordained divine destiny that we should meet and fall madly in love forever - although we do indeed love one another, are deeply committed,  and have been for all these many years.  I often quip that we have always loved one another but there have been times when we haven't particularly "liked" one another, and "being on a journey together" almost perfectly describes our relationship. We have walked though life in the good times as well as the bad and shown each other the way.   

The term "spiritual journey" is very popular nowadays. Oftentimes people think of a "spiritual journey" as an "inward path," a soul-searching exploration. I actually think that any spiritual journey is always a path of connection with others -we never walk alone, we always walk the path with others at our side. As I see it, any time we engage in the wonderfully beautiful, hard work involved in maintaining, fostering and reconciling relationships, we are engaging in a spiritual practice.  

In our love for others we meet "God" because God is love. 


  1. Good morning Paul. Love is indeed a much misused word in our society and is not as common as people think it is, it is not always what people expect it to be.

    Real love helps the beloved to carry his or her burden. That old song from the 70's "He Ain't heavy, He's My Brother" comes to mind when I think about love. If I'm not willing to help you, saying I love you is meaningless.

  2. Yet there are times when we are wise to break relationships, about which, from a spiritual perspective, it is more difficult to write. I was reminded of this yesterday when I took my car to a fund raising car wash at the Los Angeles GLBT Center run by teenagers who fled from abusive parents or were kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality, often by parents using religion as a weapon and a wedge. These, it seems to me, are times when it's best to move forward and not look back.