Keep Love Strong
There is virtually nothing known about the historical Saint Valentine. How appropriate is that!
Five Ways to Keep Love going and Keep Love Strong
Romantic love is such an all-pervading theme in contemporary culture that we assume it to be a human, if not a universal characteristic, “birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it,” as Cole Porter’s song tells us. Romantic love is now the perennial theme of songs, movies, and literature. But it wasn’t always so, at least not in the way we now take for granted.
The modern western notion of Romantic love first arrived in the form of Courtly Love during the later Middle Ages from the Persian and Arab world. It’s not to say that people didn’t have the hots for each other prior to that time, it’s just that love wasn’t ceremonialized as it now is. Marriage was more of an expediency.
Sex, until western culture learned about sexual pleasure from exposure to Indian culture in the 18th century, had little of the sophistication we (at least, some of us) have come to expect from it. It was more of a biological imperative.
Fortunately, it seems that love (and sex), in all its relatively recent glory is “here to stay” – as another unforgettable song goes.
“Our Love is Here to Stay”
Last month we celebrated 32 years together. We stumbled into our relationship, the week I had arrived in Los Angeles. After a month we moved into a huge downtown loft. Within a few months we traded downtown smog for the air at the beach, where we stayed for ten years until moving out to the mountains at Manzanita Village.
We broke up once, early on, for half a year. Sometimes we mention it to friends in the middle of their own break-up. It seems to give them comfort and hope.
In addition to living together we have worked together, run a retreat center, lead workshops and retreats together. Now as we launch our new business, we are working together more closely than ever. It has not always been easy. We’ve been through many transitions and life-changes. Who doesn’t in thirty years? So here are a few things we learned on the way, in no particular order of priority.
Six Ways to Keep love Strong :
Get A Life
“Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-
We do not share all the same friends. There are things we do together and things we do alone. We do share many interests in common, and there are some interests, and friends, we do not share. We go through phases. There have been times when we do more things together than at others. Neither of us takes it personally.
Unconditional means that there are no conditions
Actually, there are always conditions; like integrity, truthfulness (which doesn’t always mean telling each other every damn little thing), staying true to oneself and one’s passions. When Caitrìona changed her sex 15 years ago, Michele supported her. When Caitriona had hesitated from making that transition the previous year, Michele had threatened to leave, because Caitrìona’s hesitation smacked of falsehood and inauthenticity.
After Caitrìona’s transition it seemed clear to both of us that ‘unconditional’ had to mean what it implied. We could no longer deny each other the kind of feelings—and needs and desires and curiosity—that were emerging in relation to other people.
So our relationship became an open one, based on mutual respect, and a sense that we would remain together no matter what happened, or who showed up. There were, of course, no actual guarantees, just a vague sense that we would stay together. It allowed us to be completely open with other people, regardless of whether they were lovers or not. There was, and remains, a wonderful sense of spaciousness in loving someone very much, but without any sense of possessiveness or anxiety.
Finding a Higher Purpose
Some people look to religion, a set of beliefs or values, that they subscribe to. We tend to be a little more fluid, even when we had a more official role as Buddhist teachers. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of keeping the bigger picture in mind, seeking to bring the best out in oneself, each other, and other people. It may sound trite, but it boils down to feeling good in order to do good. It’s not even something to remember, just a central value that we both share, a simple priority.
Everybody changes; most of us transform into entirely different people in the space a few years .. or days, or hours. Then there are some things that don’t change, or change very slowly. The textures that exists between what changes and what doesn’t, or doesn’t seem to, is the raw material of art, of creativity, of life itself.
We both thrive on new ideas and impulses, new directions and discoveries. Sometimes we both think with horror of how it would be to live with someone who relied with stubborn tenacity on being predictable. It’s not that it is bad to be like that, it’s just that we have survived by being reliably changeable.
Laugh Out Loud
Just do what you have to do to keep love strong in your life.
“Oh darling, stop taking things so seriously. Life is far too serious to take seriously.” Noel Coward Private Lives
“The formula for achieving a successful relationship is simple: you should treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.” Quentin Crisp
Just today we were getting impatient with each other, and not being very nice. We definitely do not try to be nice all the time and sometimes we leak energy in a way that might be shocking to more demure souls. But even as we were snapping at each other today, we were making jokes about it, and giggling. Within minutes we were laughing. A few moments later, and all the rough edges were gone.
There was a study once, of couples who had been together for fifty or more years, and the vast majority claimed that the one thing that kept their relationship going was their ability to laugh at themselves.
You don’t have to try this at home
We were not nearly as good at letting emotions go when we first got together; and I can’t imagine that we could have started out with an open relationship. In the beginning there were plenty of conditions, expectations, and anxieties. This is just an account of what we discovered along the way, not necessarily a recommendation for others .. Wishing you a good laugh, and lots of letting go, on this feast of St Valentine and to remind you to keep love strong in your life.
For some fascinating insights on such modern notions as love, sex, travel, learning and more look at An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin.
Keeping Love Strong, Five Ways to Keep Love Going Strong, Unconditional means that there are no conditions, Finding a Higher Purpose. Keep Love Strong. Mediation, NLP, spiritual practice, Neuro lingusitic programming, Hypnosis, personal development, unconscious mind.
February 14, 2013 @ 11:58 am
Happy Valentines Day to you two! I appreciate reading all that you write, and your candor, sincerity and humanity are always uplifting. Thanks for sharing your refreshing Valentines Day reflections…
February 14, 2013 @ 12:10 pm
Hey, you two…
I so love you both, individually and as a team – what a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing so abundantly and authentically. You are right lights in the world.
big big hugs and namaste
February 14, 2013 @ 1:43 pm
‘Immensely grateful that you found each other, and that 18 years ago, we found you. Your impact on our lives has led to new and wonderful tools, ideas, and ways to be. And I know that we are not alone. Hundreds, probably thousands, of others have been touched by your teaching, writing, art, photographs and example of how to live fluidly and authentically. Happy Valentine’s Day!
February 14, 2013 @ 11:35 pm
Thanks for your comments everyone. Hey scout, is that ‘right lights’ or ‘night lights’? 🙂
February 19, 2013 @ 12:45 pm
Thank you so much for sharing the keys to your relationship. Intimate relationships–heck all relationships–are hard for me and I stumble a lot. Reading what works for other people really helps me keep a more open heart to what is possible for me. I love, love, love the quote you included: “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Though one of my problems in relationships is taking this sentiment too far and not spending enough time gazing and “being” in love! And thanks for sharing that it hasn’t all been cake–that you’ve had your rough patches but through communication you’ve worked through it all. Very inspirational!
February 21, 2013 @ 5:49 pm
I love reading about your story. It’s not your break-up that inspires me but the whole darn picture. You remind me that love is a verb, not a noun. To have love you express love, as you and Cait demonstrate.
Lynn Moore, Inspirational Goaling
February 27, 2013 @ 9:01 pm
I loved this fresh, open and honest article. Every relationship has it’s uniqueness, no two are alike, just like fingerprints. Only in this case it’s ‘heartprints’. Congratulations you two!
February 27, 2013 @ 9:36 pm
Thank you Katie, Robine, Lynn
March 6, 2013 @ 1:06 pm
Thank you for this wonderful article. It is full of the humor, truth and wisdom that make great relationships great, and that you demonstrate in person. I love the quotes too–didn’t know you are theater buffs!