It was Valentine’s Day 2014 that J. K. Rowling threw love under the bus. It was an interview with the author of the Harry Potter series. She said that she regretted putting Ron Weasley together with Hermione Granger! Ron wouldn’t have made Hermione happy; they would have needed counseling. “…if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that.” What does Rowling know about love in real life? And what does that have to do with travel together?
I am impatient with pop culture concepts of love. We embrace them like a teddy bear, but they’re just a big bag of fluff. But Rowling is right that distance does give perspective.
For my part, I’m 0 for 3. I’ve performed three marriages as an ordained minister of the First Church of Point and Click. (The Universal Life Church) All three have now fizzled out and died. This doesn’t instill much confidence in my ministerial prowess, does it? So I’m no love guru. But my partner and I agree that travel together will make or break a relationship. That travel can be a literal trip to the other side of the world or a metaphorical trip through life.
Life is about relationships, whether we’re discussing commitment, romance, or platonic relationships. Am I ready to travel together with my significant other? How do I plan an outdoor adventure with my friends? What do I have in common with the people I work with? The requirements are the same. It’s all an adventure. On your own in a life that can surprise you, you gotta have faith, and that takes communication.
There are 4 things I wish I understood at Ron, Hermione, and Harry’s age:
You’re on your own. 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 travel together with people who are wrong for you. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to make you happy. It’s yours. The person who cannot stand on their own gets heavy to carry. If you gotta be attached to someone else to find fulfillment, you’re a parasite. 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.”
Life is random. Relationships are a thing of chemistry and psychology. And love is not finite. Many combinations are likely to succeed and lend toward fulfillment. There are many more combinations that will bring pain and disappointment. Our lives continue living beyond each person we meet, evolving in turns that nobody can expect. Those with whom you travel together now may not be able to contribute later. Accept each for what it is, a moment in your life, and appreciate it.
Communication is key. I tell people to be healthy and respectful of each other. Speaking to her children, Lea Grover wrote, “We don’t have sex without thinking long and hard about it first… and 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). It’s true of nonsexual collaboration as well. Any meaningful travel together involves mutual confidence, care, and consideration. All these need communication. We all live our own lives. Life happens. If we don’t open up and talk to each other about it, we create more history, more collateral damage, and less freedom to walk away.
Steven Smidley told me that relationships are like two hands entwined. Each life has fingers going in many different directions. Those different directions can pull together if they come together. Ongoing, shared communication is that place where they come together.
There’s something more important. An outdoor recreation conference was in Portland, Oregon a few years back. Several of us stayed in the Hawthorne Hostel in my favorite corner of the city. One morning we ate breakfast at the Hawthorne Street Café, now permanently closed. I found the food and coffee to be wonderful. But not nearly so much as the owner. He was an elderly Portuguese gentleman with a warm and engaging tableside manner. He talked a lot about his wife, who had worked the restaurant with him for so long. We were convinced of their devotion.
At length, he asked us if we knew the secret to a healthy, lifelong relationship. We offered many possibilities. I guessed communication. He smiled at me and said mine was a good answer. Still, to have effective communication required something deeper. Without it, even that was impossible. We finally gave up.
He looked at us with absolute sincerity. You got to have trust, he said.
My favorite love song 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 never be a relationship in which you’re happily ever after. But each person should contribute toward its success.
Whether Hermione and Ron were unable to find happiness together or not…. if Harry and Hermione would have…. Truth is, there is no magical design. Each person has to navigate the adventure of love, sex, and friendship in their own way as they travel together. Exploring, engaging, and loving others on your own terms… that’s magic.
(This post was originally published February 9, 2015.)
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