Thursday, January 04, 2007

The secret of love

So I had a first date last night with a boy. A nice enough boy, but it was rather underwhelming. My gut instinct says that we are not a good match and when I sit back and think about why I think that is, it all seems to boil down to his seeming lack of curiosity and adventure.

He's originally from Edmonton (and I have nothing against people from Edmonton - I'm sure "Edmontonians" are all very nice people) and decided to move to Toronto to take advantage of all that the "big" city has to offer (breadth of choice in restaurants, nightlife, etc.) But one year into his move here and he's yet to explore the city and doesn't seem to have much of a desire to. We don't seem to have much in common interest-wise: he talked a LOT about hockey, which I really could care less about, and he admits to not having much interest in dining in restaurants other than Asian ones. And he kept referring to himself as an Edmontonian, which I found rather irksome.

It wasn't a dreadful experience so I was thinking about whether or not I should go out with him on a second date - afterall, it could have been just nerves that prompted all the talk about hockey on his end. And he does seem to be a nice guy. My girlfriend seems to think I should...she says she usually reserves judgement until date #3, unless the guy does something truly awful, like start a bar-fight on their first date (true story!) I think I will...but I'm still not sure.

My best friend sent me the article below today after I told him about my date last night. The first person that came to mind when I read it was my ex...the only man I have loved. I read it fairly quickly and then put it down, knowing that I would have to read it again to absorb it all.

the secret of love (via)
By Dr Tan Chong Kee

It is the time of the year where we find ourselves wanting to connect with and appreciate our friends; a time to have a conversation with them about things that really matters to us... Tan Chong Kee shares what he has learnt about the secret of love.

Last Sunday, I invited two of my best friends over for a nice long lunch. They were a straight couple who have been married for many years and still obviously very much in love. We started talking about relationship and I, having just come out from a terrible failed one, turned to them in earnest, and asked them to divulge their secret.

The husband barely needed to think before answering: find the right person and give 100 percent. He grinned at me and continued: “that wasn’t what I did when I was younger, but I eventually learned this lesson.” I understood, without him saying so, the difference between his first and his current marriage. It was such a simple and honest thing to say, and I felt renewed appreciation for them as my dear friends.

That got me thinking. How do I know if someone is the ‘right’ person? How can I give 100 percent?

We all have a list of what our ‘right’ person must be: he or she must be attractive enough, rich enough, has a good enough job, has a high enough social status… and then they must be funny enough, intelligent enough, generous enough, patient enough, good enough in bed... and then they must be willing to pick me up from work, not get angry when I cancel on a dinner date, laugh at all my jokes, dresses the way I like, think the way I do… Sure, some of the items on the list are the bare essential items that let you know you have met the ‘right’ person – and they are different for different people. But if they are causing us never to meet anyone ‘right’, then it is probably a good idea to examine that list more closely to find out what is going on.

Why is it still so hard to find the right person even after reducing our list to the bare essentials? Even if we start a relationship with someone who meets all our core essentials, somehow, something goes wrong along the way. Let me admit right away that I tried for years to find one myself but have so far only several close hits but no true success story to report. And I looked at my friends who are so in love. What makes them the ‘right’ person for each other? What is their secret? How do people who are truly right for each other recognise each other? What is it that they look for in another that tells them: yes, this is the one for me? I really wanted to know so that I could find mine.

And then the true meaning of my friend’s answer dawned on me. The man to whom I’m willing to give 100 percent will be the right one for me. And similarly, the man from whom I will receive his 100 percent will pick me as his perfect match. The secret to love is ridiculously simple: it is the willingness to give and the willingness to receive.

Have you ever met someone and very quickly become attracted to them? That is the sign that you could potentially be each other’s perfect match. These are the people who fit all our core relationship essentials. As long as you are not emotionally shut down, your body and subconscious mind will let you know it very quickly through the feeling of strong attraction.

Whether or not that potential becomes realised depends crucially on how much we are willing to give and to receive. Love demands no less than our all. We are either giving our 100 percent or we are not. No bullshit, no hedging, no middle ground.

This is a hard lesson for many of us to learn. We fear giving 100 percent because we fear losing control. We tell ourselves if we love another person with all our heart, they will take advantage of us, or they will take us for granted, or I will not be able to make them do what I want anymore, or they will not love me back... So we hold back. We think we can play the game of giving the other person a little taste of the good stuff, and then give them more if they do something we like, or withhold if they do something we don’t like. Or we withhold to keep them on their toes, to keep them guessing so they would love us more. Or we set preconditions: we will give 100 percent only if there is total commitment. We forget that love that is withheld will simply wilt and wither and eventually, we do not give not because we choose not to, but because we have no love left in our hearts.

Or we fear receiving 100 percent because we fear the loss. We tell ourselves if they found out who we really are, they will no longer love us, so better not open our heart to receive or the loss will be too painful. We push people away and play hard to get. We show our ugly side little by little, if they are willing to accept that, then we will accept their love a little more. It becomes a game of ‘how much bad dynamics can I make this relationship sustain and still keep it limping on’. Or we set secret targets to see if they meet them, or secret traps to see if they would trip. We would rather kill love than to face our fear of receiving it. Some might even fear both giving and receiving and play both contradicting games at the same time, flipping from one to the other at the drop of a hat.

If I had a thousand pages I would not be able to enumerate all the games of love that we play. We have learned these games from our parents, from our friends and from our environment. We might be clever enough to have invented a few of our own. And the really clever ones could even invent games that will fool themselves. But consider this: would we still truly love and respect someone if we actually succeed in manipulating them? Isn’t it clear that these games will only lead to lose-lose end results? Isn’t it obvious that in using them to prevent what we don’t want from occurring, they become precisely what will cause the results we most dread?

Why then do we hang on to these games when they are causing us so much anguish? It is, ironically, because we are afraid of getting hurt. But guess what happens when you start playing games? You draw your partner in and sooner or later, they will respond with their own games. We thus create for ourselves this tragic vicious cycle: We play games to avoid getting hurt. These games cause us great hurt. So we hope that a more skillful play will give us the upper hand next time. Fear leading to pain leading to more fear leading to more pain. Relationships now become the place for us to refine our game-playing skills, as our mind churns out a hundred reasons why we must ‘win’ at all costs! Is it any wonder that so many people have completely given up on love? And we blame the world for it, without ever realising that we are creating and perpetuating our own hell.

But what about the hurt, some might insist, we cannot ignore that possibility can we? I am reminded of the lyrics that ask this question very poetically: “some say love, it is a razor, that leads your soul to bleed” And there is no better answer to this question than these same lyrics:

It's the heart, afraid of breaking,
That never, learns to dance,
It's the dream, afraid of waking,
That never, takes the chance,
It's the one, who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to be,
And the soul, afraid of dying,
That never, learns to live.

The secret to love is there is no secret. Find the right person, then give and receive 100 percent. The deep dark secrets are in the games, and there is no need to dwell in those bleak and lifeless depths.

Are you still playing games with the one whom you love? Now is the perfect moment to take stock and ask yourself what you really want: to be ‘safe’ and ‘right’, or to find love. There will be pain whichever way you choose – one is the dull pain of slowly dying, the other is the quick pain of being alive. And there is also a difference in the pay off: in one, you get to feel superior if you ‘win’. In the other, you get to surrender to true love.

Happy New Year to one and all, and may we each have the courage to reach for the love, the joy and the fulfillment that are in all our destinies.

Dr Tan Chong Kee holds a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature from Stanford University in the United States and is one of Singapore's best-known figures in civil society activism

I thought I had found the "right person" in all the ways mentioned in the article. I believe that I had given 100% of myself. Why? Because before him, I would analyze the guy and the budding relationship to death. "As long as you are not emotionally shut down, your body and subconscious mind will let you know it through the feeling of strong attraction." With him, I just accepted and let things happen. I made myself emotionally available and took a chance on love, despite the obstacles, the main one being the fact that we were seperated not only by distance, but by time.

He lived in Vancouver and would always tease me about moving out west, and I would joke back about him moving to Toronto. The one time we had a serious conversation about it, I told him I wasn't at a point yet in my career where I felt I could have my pick of jobs - and the opportunity was (and still is) far better for me in Toronto than it was there. And he admitted that he knew this to be true for himself as well.

So imagine my surprise when he broke up with me: he told me he was at fault for not giving his all, for putting his career ahead of our relationship, yet he turned around and accused me of doing the same...of not making him my first priority because I didn't want to move to Vancouver. I never said I didn't want to move to Vancouver - I just didn't want to move to Vancouver at that point in time because I would have set myself back career-wise. Was I being selfish? Perhaps. But we also had a conversation in which he said to me that he wouldn't want me to move out there just to be with him - which is what I would have been doing if I had quit my job.

I would like to think I was honest with him - that I didn't play games. But I suppose my holding back in an effort not to put pressure on him, or cause him any more stress than he was under with work and with his studies, I was, in a way, playing games.

It's occured to me, too, that I've spent more time analyzing our relationship post-break-up then I did while in it. And to what end? It's done with, and all I can hope for is that I don't make the same mistake again.

Lesson #1: no more long distance relationships,
Lesson #2: don't settle for less than 100% (and as time progressed, I knew I was settling for less than I deserved, but didn't want to admit it because I loved him), and finally,
Lesson #3: when you open your heart you may find love.


The Lone Beader said...

This is a very thought-provoking post. I have been experiencing those love games with someone who I believe could be the right one for me. He plays these games for the very reasons of fear that the article mentioned, and it has been going on for a year. Also, part of the problem is that I had too many expectations... Finally, last month, I told him "I think you're afraid." He didn't exactly know how to respond to that, so I know it's true. Then, we got into this big painful discussion about it. I told him everything that was on my mind in case I never had the chance to again. And, I really thought that I wouldn't have that chance again...

Well, perhaps I said something that hit home, because he asked me out on New Year's Eve, and we had a great time. So, now, I have a new perspective about this. Instead of playing games, I'm just going to take it one day at a time. I'm going to give our friendship 100%, but expect nothing in return, then see what happens.... Wish me luck.

This is the guy who owns the real Rudy=:)

phoenix said...

Expectations are a funny thing. If they're too high, then you're inevitably disappointed when they're not met, and if they're too low, you're selling yourself short. It's a very fine balance.

Before my ex, I fell for a guy who was a commitment-phobe because he had a serious hang-up about expectations. He just wanted to hang out and enjoy my company because as far as he was concerned, once you're in a relationship, expectations come into play and you're on the road to ruin. What he failed to realize was that even in the context of friendship there are expecations. There is no escape. Oddly enough, he ended up moving out near Vancouver too.

I thought about sending this to my ex, not because I want him back, but rather for closure. We were both at fault for the failure of our relationship and I guess I just wanted to share this with him so he doesn't mess up the next one...but it's probably best to leave things be.

I really do wish you luck with Rudy's owner. Hopefully he will come to his senses and realize how lucky he is to have you in his life.

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