False certainty
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To love a person more than a story

To truly love a person and to be loved in return. This is the highest form of happiness that I have known in this life. Sometimes I wonder, if we all agree that love is the most wonderful thing and most of us crave true love more than anything else, then what holds us back from finding it? Even when we do stumble upon perfect love in these imperfect lives, then what prevents us from sustaining it over the long-term?

I think that true love is something that happens when two people love each other more than they love the story. Most of us have it the other way around. Even before we meet our true love, we are in love with the fairy-tale of our perfect love story. We might imagine a perfect wedding or we may plan to have two children. We might imagine the right life partner as someone who falls within a certain age range, someone who looks a certain way, is from the same part of the world, or someone who shares the same interests. In this way, we might fall in love with a love story even before we meet. Then, when we meet a real person, we tend to qualify or disqualify them based on whether they can take us down the path of our perfect story. In doing so, we often disqualify people who we might otherwise have fallen madly in love with. Worse yet, we undermine the potential of our relationships because we overlook the infinite possibilities available to us that we haven't previously imagined.

Even if we are lucky enough to find Mr. or Ms. right, even after we have had the perfect wedding and have been fortunate enough to setting into the perfect house, this is when we fall even more madly in love with the story. Now we are collecting pictures and shared memories of perfect vacations and life milestones. Now we have established rituals and routines that slowly become as familiar as the back of our hands. We have rules and expectations of each other, shared friends, and the expectations of our extended families. We have the house, the car, and the image of the happy, photogenic family to uphold. Indeed, we might fall so deeply in love with all of this that we tend to overlook the real person laying next to us in bed every night.

Love Story

But what happens when the person in bed next to you has thoughts and feelings that do not fit with the story you love? What if you have fallen so deeply in love with your story that you have forgottent to love the real person, with real feelings, messy thoughts, unreasonable dreams, and even crazy impulses that you fear might threaten everything? What if you find yourself growing apart in some ways? What if you discover that you are fundamentally different in important ways? Do you love each other more than the story, or do you block each other out to maintain the story? What if your partner doesn't behave in the way that your friends understand and approve of? What if he or she lies to your or cheats? Do you truly try to understand each other, accept the truth of what is, or do you force each other to get back in line so that you might desperately maintain the story you both love? If you love the person, why can't you just accept anything and everything about the person? This doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to feel how you do when your partner does something that hurts you, just that there are ways to express those feelings without hurting each other.

To be in love with a person is to achieve the highest form of happiness that can be found in this world. It is to know and accept someone completely, to share everything openly, to explore and grow together in complete openness and honesty. It is to be in a space where there is no friction, no power struggles, no agendas, no lies, no arguments, and no manipulation. And why do these terrible things happen in a relationship? They happen only because we love a story more than we love a person.

When a couple loves their story more than they love each other, they are willing to sacrifice each other's feelings for the purpose of the story. They don't want to hear about anything that falls outside of the boundaries of the story. They don't want to allow anything that is perceived to threaten the story. They control each other for the purpose of maintaining the story. They fight each other to coerce behaviors that support the story. They argue and debate so that they may convince each other to love the same version of the same story. They leave each other lonely, alienated, and choking in a life that leaves no room to grow, to evolve, and to experience anything that excites them. We tell each other that there are parts of us that are not acceptable. We forbid each other from exploring those parts. We take away each other's freedom to exist in this life for the simple reason that it may threaten a fucking story. So naturally, we begin to resent each other. We keep things from each other. We lie, we deceive. We cheat. Or maybe we just eat or drink ourselves to a slow death.

This is what will happen to you if you are with a person who loves your story more than he or she loves you.

To love a person is bliss. To love a story leaves us lonely and cold. To love a person is to accept and embrace every single thing about that person, unconditionally. It is to give each other so much understanding and acceptance as to feel more free, more yourself together than apart. Nothing is more wonderful in this world than for two people who find a way to give each other the freedom to be who they truly are. Remarkably, when two people love in this way, then the most perfect love story will inevitably flow from that love. It is possible to have your perfect love story, but you have to stop trying to control what that story is going to be. Just let go and try to love a person first. The story will follow and it may be even better than you imagined.  Most of us have this backwards and this is why we are miserable in our relationships. 

Posted by Mark Manney.

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