The Heartbreaking Cost of Finding True Love

1258 Relax and Succeed - We feel the love we giveWhen we’re young we think it’s anyone notable. Notably attractive, notably strong, notably wealthy, notably popular; and we’ll go after the best version of that we can find. If our standards are relatively low we can be happy for a long time, but if they’re very high we end up breaking up a lot.

By the time we’re a little more mature we’re looking for someone who’s more of a match for us. We want someone who’s naturally inclined to have similar interests and values regarding how the energy in life gets invested, so it becomes less how people are to others and more how they are to us. But we still are quite particular about what we’ll accept.

Once we’ve had some difficult life experiences with the limits of our tolerance we know that even someone compatible to our interests isn’t good enough and we begin to look for people that are simply easy to be with. Just someone to share life’s loads with. By that stage people have surrendered their big strict romantic ideals and they happily trade that for a daily partner who simply sees past our own faults and still makes us feel truly loved. (Although notably, precious few work on trying to be easier to get along with themselves.)

1258 Relax and Succeed - May you be held in compassionWe can be lucky and find profound connections like that right away, but even they aren’t often destined for life. Regardless, for most people who do ultimately find true love (which isn’t a large percentage), it often takes several relationships and a lot of meeting people before they finally find someone that defies everything they’ve learned, and everything they know about themselves. At that point we are left with a very inexplicable attraction that exists despite all complications, including those surrounding our own confusion and/or lack of trust.

In the other relationships we were certain, and then we beat up ourselves for not being able to figure out how to make the relationship feel worth it. Each time we thought we’d finally figured it all out and finally knew what was right for us, but then we realised that all we did was graduate from one level of misinterpretation to a more sophisticated version of misinterpretation. Yet, in the case of actually realising true love, we’re often so startled by it that we question even ourselves. Despite our brain being uncertain, we find ourselves with a strange dedication nevertheless.

We do think these are the most beautiful people in the world, but not in the way we’ve traditionally thought of that concept. We see them as having deep and wonderful connections to various aspects of our lives, and yet they may have less to do with our personal interests than any other person we’ve been with. They are easy to be with in a very special way. These are people you can be at your worst with and still feel safe.

1258 Relax and Succeed - True love can be foundIn unexpected ways, the ultimate people for us will have all of the qualities we’ve always sought, they just won’t deliver that package of qualities the way we might have originally imagined. But how they always stand out is that these are the people we’ll pay a price for. These are the people who we are devoted to despite our better judgment. They are the ones who somehow magically compel our hearts to make significant sacrifices that aren’t about us feeling unworthy ourselves; they’re about us seeing the other person unconditionally.

There is no explaining them, and there is no way in which to go about finding them, they simply occur. But when they do they’ll stay with you for life, whether they live or die. We’ll never know enough to understand all the wonders that take place in our consciousness, but true love is what it is nevertheless.

Some people frustrate us because they only represent a part of the universe we’re looking for. But when we finally find a person that is whole to us as they currently are–even with us aware of their faults and weaknesses–well, then, that person is someone who can open a universe to us.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Disappointing Spouse

There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding what makes a successful marriage. If you ask people what would help their theirs, almost invariably they’ll start with a polite generality about getting more help, or better communication, or more intimacy, but in fairly short order you’ll find most of the complaints line up on the partner.

Rarely do you find people who are working hard on themselves as a part of their marriage, and yet that is why arranged marriages often test as happier. If you go into a relationship assuming that you already have a lot in common but now you need to learn to appreciate each other, then the marriage is on a sustainable path. If however, it’s just two people and either one has a huge a list of wants, then that is entirely unsustainable in any kind of long term healthy way.

This requires a subtle balance between being yourself, and choosing to trade the sacrifices of coupledom for the advantages of a partnership. No one stands still on that line. Everyone is always in a constant state of balancing, including the very happiest couples. So what’s their advantage then? The happy ones? Their advantage is largely humility. There’s a post from Reddit a few years back that speaks to this. It’s a good example of someone shifting from want to appreciation, so I’ll let this wife speak for herself:

My “Aha Moment” happened because of a package of hamburger meat. I asked my husband to stop by the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and when he got home, he plopped the bag on the counter. I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat – which means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.

I asked, “What’s this?”

“Hamburger meat,” he replied, slightly confused.

“You didn’t get the right kind,” I said.

“I didn’t?” He replied with his brow furrowed. ” Was there some other brand you wanted or something?”

“No. You’re missing the point, ” I said. “You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.”

He laughed. “Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.”

That’s how it started. I launched into him. I berated him for not being smarter. Why would he not get the more healthy option? Did he even read the labels? Why can’t I trust him? Do I need to spell out every little thing for him in minute detail so he gets it right? Also, and the thing I was probably most offended by, why wasn’t he more observant? How could he not have noticed over the years what I always get? Does he not pay attention to anything I do?

As he sat there, bearing the brunt of my righteous indignation and muttering responses like, “I never noticed,” “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” and “I’ll get it right next time,” I saw his face gradually take on an expression that I’d seen on him a lot in recent years. It was a combination of resignation and demoralization. He looked eerily like our son does when he gets chastised. That’s when it hit me. “Why am I doing this? I’m not his mom.”

I suddenly felt terrible. And embarrassed for myself. He was right. It really wasn’t anything to get bent out of shape over. And there I was doing just that. Over a silly package of hamburger meat that he dutifully picked up from the grocery store just like I asked. If I had specific requirements, I should have been clearer. I didn’t know how to gracefully extract myself from the conversation without coming across like I have some kind of split personality, so I just mumbled something like, “Yeah. I guess we’ll make do with this. I’m going to start dinner.”

He seemed relieved it was over and he left the kitchen.

And then I sat there and thought long and hard about what I’d just done. And what I’d been doing to him for years, probably. The “hamburger meat moment,” as I’ve come to call it, certainly wasn’t the first time I scolded him for not doing something the way I thought it should be done. He was always putting something away in the wrong place. Or leaving something out. Or neglecting to do something altogether. And I was always right there to point it out to him.

Why do I do that? How does it benefit me to constantly belittle my husband? The man that I’ve taken as my partner in life. The father of my children. The guy I want to have by my side as I grow old. Why do I do what women are so often accused of, and try to change the way he does every little thing? Do I feel like I’m accomplishing something? Clearly not if I feel I have to keep doing it. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect him to remember everything I want and do it just that way? The instances in which he does something differently, does it mean he’s wrong? When did “my way” become “the only way?” When did it become okay to constantly correct him and lecture him and point out every little thing I didn’t like as if he were making some kind of mistake?

And how does it benefit him? Does it make him think, “Wow! I’m sure glad she was there to set me straight?” I highly doubt it. He probably feels like I’m harping on him for no reason whatsoever. And it I’m pretty sure it makes him think his best approach in regards to me is to either stop doing things around the house, or avoid me altogether.

Two cases in point. #1. I recently found a shard of glass on the kitchen floor. I asked him what happened. He said he broke a glass the night before. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said, “I just cleaned it up and threw it away because I didn’t want you to have a conniption fit over it.” #2. I was taking out the trash and found a pair of blue tube socks in the bin outside. I asked him what happened and why he’d thrown them away. He said, “They accidentally got in the wash with my jeans. Every time I put in laundry, you feel the need to remind me not to mix colors and whites. I didn’t want you to see them and reinforce your obvious belief that I don’t know how to wash clothes after 35 years.”

So it got to the point where he felt it was a better idea — or just plain easier — to cover things up than admit he made a human error. What kind of environment have I created where he feels he’s not allowed to make mistakes?

And let’s look at these “offenses”: A broken glass. A pair of blue tube socks. Both common mistakes that anyone could have made. But he was right. Regarding the glass, I not only pointed out his clumsiness for breaking it, but also due to the shard I found, his sad attempt at cleaning it up. As for the socks, even though he’d clearly stated it was an accident, I gave him a verbal lesson about making sure he pays more attention when he’s sorting clothes. Whenever any issues like this arise, he’ll sit there and take it for a little bit, but always responds in the end with something like, “I guess it just doesn’t matter that much to me.”

I know now that what he means is, “this thing that has you so upset is a small detail, or a matter of opinion, or a preference, and I don’t see why you’re making it such a big deal.” But from my end I came to interpret it over time that he didn’t care about my happiness or trying to do things the way I think they should be done. I came to view it like “this guy just doesn’t get it.” I am clearly the brains of this operation.

I started thinking about what I’d observed with my friends’ relationships, and things my girlfriends would complain about regarding their husbands, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, too many women have fallen into the belief that Wife Always Knows Best. There’s even a phrase to reinforce it: “Happy wife, happy life.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for his opinions, does it?

It’s an easy stereotype to buy into. Look at the media. Movies, TV, advertisements – they’re all filled with images of hapless husbands and clever wives. He can’t cook. He can’t take care of the kids. If you send him out to get three things, he’ll come back with two — and they’ll both be wrong. We see it again and again.

What this constant nagging and harping does is send a message to our husbands that says “we don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re smart enough to do things right. We expect you to mess up. And when you do, you’ll be called out on it swiftly and without reservation.” Given this kind of negative reinforcement over time, he feels like nothing he can do is right (in your eyes). If he’s confident with himself and who he is, he’ll come to resent you. If he’s at all unsure about himself, he’ll start to believe you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neither one is a desirable, beneficial outcome to you, him or the marriage.

Did my husband do the same to me? Just as I’m sure there are untold numbers of women who don’t ever do this kind of thing to their husbands, I’m sure there are men who do it to their wives too. But I don’t think of it as a typical male characteristic. As I sat and thought about it, I realized my husband didn’t display the same behavior toward me. I even thought about some of the times I really did make mistakes. The time I backed into the gate and scratched the car? He never said a word about it. The time I was making dinner, got distracted by a call from my mom, and burned it to cinders? He just said, “We can just order a pizza.” The time I tried to put the new patio furniture together and left his good tools out in the rain? “Accidents happen,” was his only response.

I shuddered to think what I would have said had the shoe been on the other foot and he’d made those mistakes.

So is he just a better person than me? Why doesn’t he bite my head off when I don’t do things the way he likes? I’d be a fool to think it doesn’t happen. And yet I don’t remember him ever calling me out on it. It doesn’t seem he’s as intent as changing the way I do things. But why?

Maybe I should take what’s he always said at face value. The fact that these little things “really don’t matter that much to him” is not a sign that he’s lazy, or that he’s incapable of learning, or that he just doesn’t give a damn about what I want. Maybe to him, the small details are not that important in his mind — and justifiably so. They’re not the kinds of things to start fights over. They’re not the kinds of things he needs to change about me. It certainly doesn’t make him dumb or inept. He’s just not as concerned with some of the minutia as I am. And it’s why he doesn’t freak out when he’s on the other side of the fence.

The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child. I didn’t think he was stupid when I married him – otherwise I wouldn’t have. He doesn’t need to be reprimanded by me because I don’t like the way he does some things.

When I got to that point mentally, it then made me start thinking about all the good things about him. He’s intelligent. He’s a good person. He’s devoted. He’s awesome with the kids. And he does always help around the house. (Just not always to my liking!) Even more, not only does he refrain from giving me grief when I make mistakes or do things differently than him, he’s always been very agreeable to my way of doing things. And for the most part, if he notices I prefer to do something a certain way, he tries to remember it in the future. Instead of focusing on those wonderful things, I just harped on the negative. And again, I know I’m not alone in this.

If we keep attempting to make our husbands feel small, or foolish, or inept because they occasionally mess up (and I use that term to also mean “do things differently than us”), then eventually they’re going to stop trying to do things. Or worse yet, they’ll actually come to believe those labels are true.

In my case it’s my husband of 12+ years I’m talking about. The same man who thanklessly changed my car tire in the rain. The guy who taught our kids to ride bikes. The person who stayed with me at the hospital all night when my mom was sick. The man who has always worked hard to make a decent living and support his family.

He knows how to change the oil in the car. He can re-install my computer’s operating system. He lifts things for me that are too heavy and opens stuck jar lids. He shovels the sidewalk. He can put up a ceiling fan. He fixes the toilet when it won’t stop running. I can’t (or don’t) do any of those things. And yet I give him grief about a dish out of place. He’s a good man who does a lot for me, and doesn’t deserve to be harassed over little things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Since my revelation, I try to catch myself when I start to nag. I’m not always 100% consistent, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better. And I’ve seen that one little change make a big improvement in our relationship. Things seem more relaxed. We seem to be getting along better. It think we’re both starting to see each other more as trusted partners, not adversarial opponents at odds with each other in our day-to-day existence. I’ve even come to accept that sometimes his way of doing things may be better!

It takes two to make a partnership. No one is always right and no one is always wrong. And you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. It doesn’t make you smarter, or superior, or more right to point out every little thing he does that’s not to your liking. Ladies, remember, it’s just hamburger meat.


Whirling thoughts about expectation and obligation can end up accidentally whipping our partners if we’re not careful. Today, look at your own relationships and find your own examples of “hamburger meat.” Because we all have them. And yet if we really want to impact our relationships positively, we’re often better to invest our energies in thinking about other things.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Other Perspectives #95

Yesterday was about what real love is really like. Today I’m using an Other Perspectives post to discuss the dangers of where most of us start with love, and why we have to shift our beliefs before we can have a mature healthy relationship. Keep in mind that when I say “start” I mean when our egos start, because few of these requirements are associated with true love.

The need for 100% Honesty is based in a fear that we really don’t have the person on our side in a meaningful way, which is largely true in every youthful relationship and all jealous ones. We worry it might not be true when they say I love you so we constantly need to check. Also, as the hilarious hemorrhoid scene in the film This is 40 illustrates, later in life we realise we often don’t really want full honesty….

Where it is right is Forgiveness. That is the best skill one could hope to have for a relationship. 100% is impossible, but you can get pretty close. Great Communication helps, but there’s some couples that remain quite private by nature, choosing internal reflection over a lot of sharing. These people often feel most comfortable with someone just like them. It’s not for everyone, but it’s valid love.

Trust is okay–you want to aim to always feel trust–but there will be times where you’re insecure and you just won’t be able to help worrying and you’ll need some reassuring, as most women who experience breast cancer or men with testicular cancer quickly learn. Even putting on weight or losing one’s hair can do this. That’s all okay if it’s temporary or fleeting.

Faithfulness is far rarer than people realise. Not that it isn’t natural for some, but as many experts, including Dan Savage, often point out; most marriages actually survive thanks to some monogamish behaviours that can strangely remind us of the value of our long term partners. Patience at 80% is hopefully where you’ll get to, but don’t be surprised if your maturity won’t allow for it until you’re at least over about thirty five.

Similar Values at 50% is one of the few that’s backwards, That one should be closer to a high percentage because as you age you realise that don’t people divorce because one likes golf and the other likes marathons, it’s because one will cheat at golf whereas the other would never do that in their sport.

Time Apart at 20% only happens when you’re young and before your adulting starts. After that it is impossible because you’ll be at work for a third of your day so you’re already over, not to mention one parent spending their evening at hockey with one kid while the other’s at dance with another. Romance at 100% is the funniest. You will quickly learn that life gets too busy for things to stay romantic, which is fine. It actually means more when it’s mixed into a life that has other responsibilities.

Again, we’re back to agreeing on 100% Friendship. You can’t love the person’s appearance or style or identity because those are guaranteed to change. You have to be with someone who will be a good life partner and roommate more than a good romantic one. On the contrary, Zero Selfishness isn’t healthy. You need to put yourself first. You can’t give your partner what you don’t have. And Playing Games also comes with people dealing naturally with their discomfort around being totally honest. But it’s the last two that are most important.

Nearly the entire list is primarily immature, Unrealistic Expectations, and one of them is expecting yourself not to spend time dealing with Insecurities, which is an entirely unrealistic expectation to put on yourself or your partner. Again, think of breast cancer or testicular cancer survivors. It makes sense that would take some adjustment to get comfortable with. Besides, there can’t be a peaceful psychological and spiritual path unless there’s a not-path. Not-path is ego. You can get good at keeping it at bay, but to not have it at all is to miss out on a valuable aspect of being human that incites healthy growth.

We all start with unrealistic beliefs that were created by culture, so I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of these shirts. But inevitably, over time, as we age, the shirt will seem more and more ironic as we attempt to apply it to the messy edges of the real world. Which is why the real keys are the Friendship and the Forgiveness. Forget the rest. Focus on getting good at those and you’ll be headed toward the most successful kind of relationship there is.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Other Perspectives #68

686 OP-R Relax and Succeed - When you start seeing your worthIt’s a holiday here in Canada so I hope you have the day off and can spend it with your loved ones. In today’s Other Perspectives I discuss that very thing—how to spend healthy time with your loved ones. Because a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about what a good, healthy, long-lasting relationship looks like.

Enjoy.

peace. s