How to find the happily ever after

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you

— Khalil Gibran,

The Prophet

It is human nature to dream of finding love, to wish for a companion that understands you better than the rest of the world, with whom you can walk off happily into the sunset. The hardest part though, as we all know, isn’t finding love but keeping it.  Too often we complain of love fading away, too often we are disillusioned by the promises of forever after and find relationships turning into quagmires of quarrels, complaints, cheating and deception. It’s worth asking then: does love really fade away with time?

To explore this question, we need to first move laterally and witness the myriad forms in which love manifests itself around us. There’s parental love, sibling love, the love we share with our friends and the higher love that drives compassion and humanity within us. If love did indeed fade over time, then all these forms of love would be sure to fade into oblivion as well. That however, is not the case. The complaints of boredom setting in a relationship are specific to only one kind of love — the romantic kind. No one complains of being bored of their parents or siblings, friends or even pets, or of being bored and tired of helping others and conducting philanthropic activities. The only one we ever give ourself the privilege of being tired or bored of is the one we choose to love romantically, the one we choose as our life partner. Why is that, do you ever wonder?

On the basis of human psychology, there can be two reasons: one, we take our parents, siblings and so on as given — because we know we can’t exchange them for someone better, so the question of being bored does not even arise. And two, we don’t place the entire burden of our expectations on them, so we don’t feel disillusioned.

On the contrary, everyone seeks perfection in their partner, which is the first ingredient in a sure-shot recipe for disaster. Every relationship needs a little space for the acceptance of each other’s flaws and eccentricities, a little overlooking of faults and a little letting go of slights and hurts. But even more than that, a couple also needs space from each other, space to step together but on separate quests. The weight of extreme expectations and the burden of constant closeness can cause relationships to cave in. A little space for individual dreams and ambitions, a little space for individual interests and a little space for those other relationships that matter—all goes a long way in maintaining comfort and respect within a couple. A healthy distance is instrumental to maintaining a sense of balance in relationships. As Kahlil Gibran puts it beautifully, “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.”

And yet, perhaps the most important part of keeping love alive is to remember what love asks of us — not just what we ask of it. For our professional goals we slog day and night, we innovate constantly and put forth our best performance. Why should personal goals be any different? A relationship needs as much effort, innovation and persistence as a career. It tests you, educates you and helps you grow. “For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you,” says Gibran. “Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.”