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And they lived happily ever after...
As the final chapter closes, we almost instantly picture the image of a blissful couple peacefully sailing off into the sunset on the waters of everlasting beatitude. It is beautiful. It feels safe. Stable. After all, children need happy endings as seekers need nirvana or some kind of eternal haven of peace. The idea that one day our suffering may end makes it somehow easier to endure. We don't feel as bad, because we expect to be rescued anytime from the burden of our human experience. In an effort to escape, some of us seek refuge in companionship because it is what we have been promised: “And they lived happily ever after…”
Relentlessly we wait for this moment when “one day someone is going to hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces will stick back together,” as the quote goes. We build expectations only to see these collide with the changing nature of reality. Life begins after the happy ending.
No relationship is an absolute
However, nothing is guaranteed from the start. From the moment we form an alliance with a partner, we have built-in expectations which keep changing over time. We may expect our partner to be a certain way in the beginning of the relationship, only to raise our expectations as time passes, often unconsciously.
Then we may run into a wall, thinking that love is starting to wear off, when in fact we are not even conscious that our own expectations have changed, let alone our partner's. We may be unconsciously mourning the violation of some kind of unspoken agreement, which has never been outwardly formulated. We save the “I, ..., take you, ..., for my partner...” for a special day, and thus run sooner or later into a misunderstanding.
If forever after was a place, it would be a desert. There is no life in this sugarcoated happy ending. Life is a sine wave and as long as our hearts beat, we will experience highs and lows. Love is no absolute. It is an ever-changing entity. A beautiful dance at best, in which each of the partners seeks unity with the other. Unity can be so many things. Unity is subjective.
A flower called grace
Highs and lows are subjective too. The only time we have is now, and how we interpret each moment that presents itself depends greatly on what we label as 'good' or 'bad'. If our happiness is made from something external, if we have to depend on our partner to create a feeling of ease and harmony within us, then there is little chance that happiness remains constant.
But if we see our partner not as another half that makes up for a missing part of us, but as a partner that brings out unresolved questions in us, then we see how we can make any partnership work for the best.
Our life is no half existence. Rather than complementing, a partner enhances what already exists. They bring out the love that exists in us, just like they bring out the fears and any feelings of inadequacy. If we postpone happiness by subjecting it to the whims and fancies of another human, we deny ourselves the expression of grace. Grace is our most natural expression.
"Grace is like a flower. You can pass many flowers in your path. One day you see it. It wasn't an accident or a coincidence. You feel such gratitude." - Laura Hipke
It can be argued that most of us don't really know what we are in for when we get into a relationship. Things are simply not what they appear to be. If we look for relief and we find resistance, are we going to blame the other person for the inadequate feelings that we create within ourselves? Or are we going to awaken to the call of life, nudging us to transcend our own limitations? Our partners, no matter how grouchy they can be, are indeed our greatest teachers.
Sometimes it is hard to see the opportunity open up, when we get caught up in the blame game. But when we acknowledge grace we develop compassion, we deactivate the autopilot mode, and our relationships become so much more vibrant than a happy ending. Our joy becomes timeless.