The Moon and the Roller Coaster
Years ago, a good friend of mine told me that he was unhappy being single. He wanted a change in his life. The dating process, he said, was emotionally exhausting. The women he spent time with were too shallow; he wanted a woman with intellectual depth. He was impatient: Where was she?
Time passed, and lo and behold, my friend tracked down the “right” woman: brilliant, confident, and self-assured. He married her.
A year or so later, my friend told me that he was unhappy being married. He wanted a change in his life. His wife – the brilliant woman with intellectual depth – was “too cold.” She was also “distant” and “insufficiently intimate.”
He got a divorce. A year or so later, he got married to a woman who could “express her love,” who was “outgoing” and full of a “zest for life.” Six months into the marriage, though, he told me he was, once again, unhappy.
His new wife was so demanding and made so many demands on his time that he felt suffocated. He wanted a change in his life, and once again he was contemplating divorce.
I remember thinking to myself, “He’s looking for a woman who has no faults: the perfect wife.”
If we accept the hypothesis that no one is perfect and free of faults – and this is indeed a hypothesis rather than a fact, and will always remain so, because no one can examine every person on earth or even a scientifically representative sample – then the goal of finding the perfect spouse is unattainable. It’s like chasing the rainbow: You may or may not enjoy the process, but you’re never actually going to catch it. My friend had not yet learned this lesson.
People are like the moon. They have their bright side and their dark side. Which side you encounter depends on how you approach them.
The goal should not be to find the perfect spouse. The goal should be to find the spouse whose faults you can live with.
I believe that God created the experience of “falling in love” so that we would, at least initially, be blind to the faults of the other person.
But it can be a trap. Eventually we wake up; at that point we cannot help getting to know the other person very well, and then we have to decide whether or not we can live with our partner’s faults.
We “fall in love” because of trait A, B, or C, possessed by the object of our affection. But mature love is something very different. Mature love is to love somebody in spite of faults X, Y, and Z – knowing full well what those faults are and choosing to build our lives around that person anyway.
You do not really know a person until you know both sides of him, both sides of the moon, the bright and the dark side. And then the question is: Do you love the brightness he brings to your life more than you hate the darkness?
Life is a roller coaster with ups and downs that are often totally unexpected. So: When your relations with your partner are down, can you hold your breath until the relationship improves? When relations are up, will you be prepared for the inevitable moment when they start to disintegrate? Expecting the roller coaster to head forever upwards or coast along on a flat plain is a recipe for unhappiness. Expecting, instead, to learn from each up or down shift you experience together is a much more realistic, and fulfilling, goal for mature relationships.
What is true about relationships, of course, is true in the larger sense about all of life. Life, lived well, is going for the roller coaster ride without fear, in hopeful expectation that every down will have its corresponding up … and learning from each new change that life presents.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes