Kahlil Gibran had a thing or two to say about love and marriage in his book The Prophet:
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music…
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
This is a different way of looking at love and relationships, and what a wonderful idea! That people can come together in love and not lose sight of who they are and their own unique purpose. That people can come together in love and not lay all their expectations at each other’s feet waiting for them to be fulfilled by the other. We live in a world where phrases like “you complete me” and “my better half” are more prevalent than “stand together yet not too near together”. So what does this mean practically?
I believe the answer lies in doing the kind of personal development work that enables you to remain a whole person even within a relationship. The kind of work that can help you know and love yourself, so that you don’t encumber your relationship with misguided expectations. The meaning of the saying “physician, heal thyself” is simply: work on yourself first (as opposed to wanting “to fix” your partner/lover/spouse). For instance, in the middle of an argument, can you identify that you were triggered by something that reminded you of a past incident? You’re not really arguing about who’s doing all the cleaning up around the apartment. You’re really upset because the incident reminds you of not being heard/seen when you were a child. Can you then see that there is something for you to work through and move on from, rather than point fingers (and continue arguing about who’s doing all the cleaning around the house)? If you don’t like the results you keep getting, doing the work to know who you are enables you to observe yourself in any given situation. You can then reach for a different form of behaviour to achieve different results.
Knowing who you are allows you to do those things that bring you joy without expecting your partner/lover/spouse to do it with you all the time. You can happily spend time alone, even when you’re in a relationship, working on your photography, song-writing or whatever does it for you. So you schedule it in and you relish that time spent with yourself. Conversations at home also become more interesting as you share the cool stuff you each got involved in that day. This is just one way of filling each other’s cup without drinking from one cup. Being in a relationship should feel liberating, not confining. It should add to your quality of life not be the one thing that seems to make your life interesting.
You see, the open secret is this: knowing yourself – warts and all (tarnished armour and all) and working on yourself, being willing to evolve and learn something new, makes you a better person (and a more interesting one to be around!). And being a better person makes you a better partner in a relationship.
I’d love to hear your comments.