The first lesson of adventure, travel or the outdoors is to be prepared.
One of the highest grossing adventures of our time has been the Harry Potter series. It was Valentine’s Day 2014 that J. K. Rowling threw love under the bus. She said she regrets writing Ron Weasley together with Hermione Granger at the end! Ron wouldn’t have made Hermione happy; they would have needed counseling.
“…if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that.” (here).
I am impatient with pop culture concepts of love with roots in fictional mythology. We embrace them like a teddy bear, but they’re a bag of fluff. Things like believing it’s someone else’s responsibility to make you happy. It’s not. It’s yours. Or following your heart against other people’s opinions about your relationship. That didn’t work out so well for Cobain.
But I agree with Rowling that distance does give perspective. I’m halfway through my life. And I’ve mentored young adults for two decades. There are 5 things I’ve learned that I wish people Ron, Hermione and Harry’s age were able to understand:
It is the people, not marriage, who make a relationship work. Marriage has nothing to do with anything more than social status and economics. The most fulfilled couples I know were committed long before they tied the knot. The ‘knot’ is secondary to the point. The reverse is just as important: if you struggle to make it work dating, it’ll never be any different. I promise. Marriage only continues that same struggle with more history, more collateral damage, and less freedom to walk away. “What they are now, they always will be,” said Dr. Jim Schettler, a former teacher.
There is no ‘one’ for you, but there are lots of wrong ‘ones’. The only thing you’re going to miss is life and opportunities to live it. …and you’ll miss it by being committed to people who are wrong for you. Relationships are a thing of chemistry and psychology. And love is not finite. There are many combinations that are likely to succeed and lend toward fulfillment. But there are many more combinations that will bring heartache and disappointment. Our lives continue living after each person we meet, evolving in turns that nobody can expect. Those with whom you find fulfillment now may be unable to contribute later. Accept each for what it is, a moment in your life, and cherish it.
Love, sex, friendship mutually are neither inclusive nor exclusive. I tell others to be healthy and respectful with love, sex, and friendship. While all three can overlap, all three are very different things. There may be an amazing relationship or a few that satisfy all three roles. Most likely there will be many relationships that satisfy only one or two. Lea Grover wrote a terrific post on talking to children about sex. “We don’t have sex without thinking long and hard about it first,” she wrote. “[A]nd we certainly don’t do it without being careful, and being safe, and being totally confident in the maturity of our partner and our ability to handle the repercussions” (read more). The same is true of friendship AND love.
You should be alone. Another dating point Dr. Schettler taught is “don’t look for the right one; be the right one, and you’ll find the right one.” If you don’t spend time on your own, you’ll never know who you are or how to be the right you. The person who cannot stand on their own gets heavy to carry. If you have to be attached to someone else to find fulfillment, you’re leaving yourself empty. See point #1: it is the people satisfied with their self who make a relationship work.
Healthy relationships are work, but not as much work as unhealthy relationships. Never was there a statement truer than Robin Williams’. “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” My favorite song on love is “No One Said It Would Be Easy” by Bill Bottrell, Kevin Gilbert, Dan Schwartz and Sheryl Crow. “Sometimes I wonder who he’s picturing / when he looks at me… / when he looks at me and smiles.” There will always be differences between people. There will never be a relationship in which you’re happily ever after. But each person in a relationship should contribute toward its success. It is not the responsibility of that other person to make you happy. But they should never diminish your ability to find happiness.
I’m not sure I have it all figured out. But if Hermione and Ron were unable to find happiness together…. if Harry and Hermione would have…. the truth is that there is no mystical design. Everybody has to navigate the adventure of love, sex, and friendship. But…
Exploring, engaging, and loving others on your own terms… that’s love.
(This post was originally published February 9, 2015.)