The Knight of Cups and Love as a Class Room

Developing a healthier model for love and romance.

The Tarot suit of Cups is the suit of emotions and particularly of love, the grandest of all of the emotions.  The Knight of Cups shows a Knight riding forth on a quest, his cup extended in front of him.  He’s on a quest of some sort having to do with love, but we can’t see the contents of his cup. 

 Is it full of love that he wants to share with someone else?

Or is it empty and he wants someone to fill it for him?

Kind of a crap shoot, isn’t it?  And it’s pretty much like what we go through when we start a new relationship.  The other person is on his or her best behavior and we can feel quite certain that their armor is buffed to a high polish and their horse has been carefully groomed.  They look mighty good at first glance.  But what’s going on with that cup?  Are they full or are they empty?  Do they have something to share or do they want us to somehow fill up their emptiness?  Or maybe a little bit of both. . .

There is also, of course, the ass end of relationships, where they’ve ended, our hearts have been broken, and we’re recovering and trying to move on.  In the Tarot, that’s represented by the Three of Hearts reversed, showing that our hearts have been pierced with pain but the swords are falling out and the pain is going away.

Oddly, those two phases – the quest for love and the end of love – are very intimately connected in our culture. They’re connected with what we might call the, “til death do us part,” model of love.  The idea is that love is for life, that it’s a permanent, life-time commitment.  

Of course, the divorce statistics tell us – plain and simple – that that’s a bullshit idea.  Most relationships are NOT for life and about fifty percent of them end up in parting.

Still, we cling to that idea that a romantic relationship is for a lifetime. That belief causes us unbelievable amounts of pain when reality rears its’ ugly head and we have to split the sheets with someone we loved.  And then we beat the hell out of ourselves.

What went wrong?

What’s wrong with me?

Am I just totally unloveable?

Louise Hay, in her wonderful book, You Can Heal Your Life ,proposed a different model of love that takes away a lot of the pain, and it’s just a matter of having a different perspective on relationships.  And a different perspective on ourselves.

“Being needy is the best way to find an unhealthy relationship.”  Louise Hay.

That’s a pretty powerful statement when we take the time to think about it because it focuses straight onto the question of why we feel that we need (as opposed to want) a romantic relationship.  What is it that we’re trying to get from the other person?  Why is it that we feel so devastated when we don’t get it?

She suggests a simple exercise:  get out a pen and a pad of paper and make a list of all of the qualities that you want in your lover.  What should he or she be to make you feel fulfilled?  

Compassion?

Tenderness?

Strength?

Humor?

Empathy?

Now flip it around and ask yourself:  how much of those qualities do I have toward myself?  Do I treat myself with compassion?  With tenderness?  Am I strong and reassuring to myself?  Can I see the humor in my life and laugh out loud when it’s just me here?  Do I really have empathy and understanding for my self?  And then start working on building those qualities, in your self.

You get the drift:  the more we have those qualities in our own lives, the less we’ll feel the desperate need to find them in someone else.  And the less devastated we’ll feel when the other person goes away.

The other person going away is also a part of the process.

As I said, the divorce statistics don’t lie.  In our culture, nobody gets married with the idea that it’s for six months or a year, or maybe a three month contract with the option to renew.  It’s for a freaking lifetime.  Til death do us part.  

Which means that if you’re not RIGHT THERE AT MY BEDSIDE WHEN I CROAK at the age of 186, then you didn’t really love me, you bastard!  Uh, huh.

So . . . getting back to reality . . . as Hay said, all relationships eventually end, except for the one that we have with ourselves.  If we can get our heads around that reality and honestly say to ourselves, “I’m going to be with this person for a while,” then love gets a lot easier and relationships, paradoxically, become a lot more meaningful.

Because then we begin to really focus on why we’re with this person for this limited period of time and we don’t take it for granted that we’ve got forever to get it right.  

It also changes the meaning of what it means, “to get it right.”  Getting it right no longer means simple longevity.  It no longer means that our relationship with that person was somehow, “good,” just because we managed to hang in there through decades of not being heard or not being seen or not being loved back or putting up with a rotten sex life.

It shifts the focus to, “why are we here?”  We’re here, as two autonomous, strong, healthy human beings sharing our space, energy and love for this period of time – and that can be a month or sixty years – for a reason.  What lessons are we here to teach each other?  In what ways can we help each other grow?  In what ways can we support each other to evolve?

In other words, the relationship becomes a life lesson.  And when we’ve learned that lesson, class is over, we graduated, time to move on to another lesson.

There’s nothing inherently sad about that.  We’ve just been taught that it’s sad.  If we view the relationship as a life lesson, then we can be grateful to our ex-partners for what they taught us and for allowing us to teach them, and move on with gratitude and love in our hearts.

It ain’t easy.  The beliefs that love relationships are supposed to be permanent, that we’ve somehow failed if they aren’t, and that we should just go right back out and do the same stupid thing again, are so deeply ingrained in our culture that it takes a lot of conscious effort to pull out of them.

As Hay says, though, relationships ending is NORMAL AND NATURAL.  We don’t need to put up with a worn out relationship just to avoid the pain of the parting.  We’ve learned what we were supposed to learn.

I love her affirmation for ending relationships, which I shall keep near me in the future:  I bless you with love and I release you – you are free and I am free.

Yes.

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The Strength Card, Ahimsa, and Your Magical Anti Shit-Head Cloak

Rebuilding trust in relationships using the doctrine of Ahimsa

Have you ever been deeply, deeply hurt by another human being?

I’m not talking about someone, “hurting your feelings,” a phrase that we all use to describe occasional, usually minor, pain or unhappiness.  I’m talking about a deep, horrible, traumatic pain that feels like you may never recover from it. 

For example, finding out your lover is cheating on you and has been lying to you about it for some time.  Or, perhaps, your partner suddenly leaving you without even affording you a chance to process it.  Or realizing that the person you’re still madly in love with has fallen out of love with you.

There are really two elements there:  the first is the pain that you’re going through;  the second is a profound sense of betrayal, a feeling that your deepest trust has been violated.  Of the two, the sense of betrayal can be much, much harder to recover from.  The betrayal of trust can be world changing for us, in a very dark way.

It’s not at all unusual for people to withdraw from intimate connections with other humans after something like that.  Younger people may declare a hiatus on dating and say that they only want to be, “friends,” for a while.  Older people may pull into a thick, impenetrable shell and become totally socially isolated.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.  That’s our Deeper Self taking care of us.  That’s our Inner Wisdom saying, “You’ve been badly wounded.  You need to rest and cry and heal.”

There comes a time, though, when we may realize that we need to reconnect with the world.  Getting back out there can be scary and intimidating.  There are, after all, no guarantees that it won’t happen again.  If we loved someone with all of our heart, if we trusted someone with all of our being, and they betrayed us, how do we know that our trust and love won’t be misplaced again?  And if our judgement was so flawed, so . . . totally wrong . . . about the person we loved, how can we know that we won’t just make the same stupid mistakes with the next person?

We might find at least a partial solution in the Yogic doctrine of Ahimsa.  Ahimsa is the idea of total, complete, harmlessness.  It’s the idea that if we emanate a vibration of nothing but love, we can attract nothing but love.  We literally CANNOT attract aggression because we HAVE no aggression.

The Strength card from the Tarot is a wonderful image of this.  The woman in the card is gently closing the mouth of one of the most ferocious predators on the planet.  She’s almost caressing the lion, rather than trying to overpower it or force it in any way.  The lion is calm and peaceful because she’s living in the vibration of love and he’s responding on exactly the same vibration.

So what the fuck does that have to do with your lover ripping your heart out of your chest, stomping on it with hobnailed boots, and serving it to you on a Ritz cracker?  You might ask . . .

Part of the answer lies in the quality of the love that’s involved in Ahimsa.  Ahimsa involves absolute unconditional love.  In other words, there are no strings attached.  We’re not loving people because we expect to get something back.  We’re just loving them.  And that’s very unusual in our society.  Most of what we call, “love,” involves a definite quid pro quo.

If you don’t believe that, try telling people who are just acquaintances that you love them.  You’ll find that the usual reaction is something along the lines of, “Uh, huh . . . what do you want?”  I mean, if you’re saying you love me, you must want something, right?

When I look back on my deepest emotional wounds, I have to admit that a large part of the pain was based on the idea that I hadn’t been treated fairly.  I loved someone with everything I had and she walked away from that love and that JUST WASN’T RIGHT!  In other words, I had strings attached to my love.  Yes, I love you deeply THEREFORE you are supposed to love me back just as deeply and, if you don’t, you’ve betrayed my love.

All of that’s perfectly human.  Most of us are not Ram Dass or Mother Theresa or Saint Francis and we don’t just walk around with huge amounts of unconditional love bubbling out of us.  Most of us expect that if we make a deep emotional commitment to someone, it will be reciprocated.  And it hurts like hell when it isn’t.  Conditional love seems almost hard-wired into us and – if it isn’t – it’s sure as hell soft-wired with some big, thick cables.

The funny thing is, though, that unconditional love can be terrifically liberating.  If we go into relationships with the idea of, “I don’t want ANYTHING from you,”  it frees us from that whole expectation that we should be getting something back.  It frees us from constantly worrying about whether we’re being treated fairly or if the relationship is equitable or if the other person loves us just as much as we love them.

And it frees us of the probability of being hurt again, which is what this post is all about.

Sticking our toes back in the relationship water can be scary as hell if we’ve been deeply, deeply hurt in the past.  But if we can consciously remove that idea that we’re always supposed to get some sort of an emotional payoff from our relationships,  if we can consciously stay in that state of openness and love WITHOUT WANTING ANYTHING BACK, we effectively remove the other person’s power to hurt us.

That’s a hard concept to grasp.  I know it’s been hard for me, but it works.

Now, if all of that doesn’t work for you, if all of the reasons for unconditional love I just talked about don’t ring your chimes, then just think of it as a Magical Shield to protect you when you’re moving out into the relationship world again.  The more you can keep your heart in unconditional love, the more likely you are to attract people who are in the same vibration.

Put another way, the more you can live in unconditional love, the less likely you are to attract shit-heads and narcissists.

You remember the Invisibility Cloak in Harry Potter?  When he put it on, he could walk right past people without being seen.  In the same sense, if you’re living in Ahimsa, if you’re keeping that no-strings-attached love in your heart, you can walk right past the shit-heads and THEY WON’T EVEN KNOW YOU’RE THERE because you’re wearing your Magical Anti Shit-Head Cloak.

“All you need is love,”  – The Beatles.

The Judgement Card

 

judgement

An angel blows a horn and people rise joyfully from their coffins which appear to be floating on water.  An icy mountain range is in the background.

This card looks kind of creepy – probably because of the gray people jumping out of their coffins – but it’s not.  This card is about judgements of all kinds but especially about self-judgements.

When Judgement shows up in a reading it indicates that a very significant part of a person’s life is coming to an end.  Moreover, the questioner is in a place where he or she can sit back and examine how they behaved during that phase of their lives and whether or not they are satisfied with what they did.

I’ve seen this card come up frequently with home health care providers, for instance, after the loved one they were caring for had passed over.  They had devoted months or years of their lives to caring for another person and then it was time to reflect on the experience and evaluate what they had done.  You can apply the same thing to any important phase in a person’s life, whether it’s the end of a long career or children who are moving out of the house.The basic questions here are what did it all mean and how did I do?  When the card is upright it indicates that the questioner has done well and feels good about it. And there is also the obvious theme of being reborn in this card. I’ve finished that phase of my life, so what do I do next?

There is also, of course, the more mundane matter of legal judgements.  If you’ve been involved with some sort of a court case you can expect a positive outcome.

REVERSED:  The same scenario as with the upright card but when reversed it implies a negative judgement.  The questioner is feeling far from satisfied with his or her own behavior and wishes that she had done better.  Again, this can be applied to any life event that’s coming to an end, whether a relationship or a job.

Pending legal matters will not go well.

A Few More Thoughts About the Judgement Card:

“You’re judging me!”

“Don’t be so judgemental.”

“That’s a value judgement.”

Not to mention visions of crabby, constipated old men in black robes banging little wooden hammers on their desks.

There’s no question that the word, “judgement,” carries a lot of emotional baggage with it.  It, “feels,” like we’re talking about one person condemning another person, something most of us aren’t totally comfortable with.  Hell, I’ve known Buddhists who refused to serve on juries because they were so adamant about not judging another person’s karma.

As I said in my book, “Just the Tarot,” though, the Judgement card is really more about self-judgement.  It’s about taking a hard, dispassionate look at your life and deciding whether you did good or you fucked up.

And then moving on.

We’ve all known people who were in dysfunctional relationships where one person was doing all of the heavy lifting and the other person was letting him or her do it.  I knew one man who was married to a woman who had been brutally raped when she was younger. About five years into their relationship their sex life pretty much disappeared because she was having flashbacks to the rape.  He was a very sensitive, caring man who was deeply in love with her and so he went along with a sexless relationship until it started to make him crazy. He tried to talk to her about it and got nowhere. He suggested that she see a therapist and she refused.  He suggested that THEY see a therapist and she refused.

He finally ended up seeing a therapist himself and discovered that, sadly, a lot of marriage counseling is actually divorce counseling.  After two years of trying to make things work he filed for divorce and they went their separate ways. He still loved her but he realized he deserved a life partner who could love him back.

I mention that particular instance because it contains all of the elements of the Judgement card.  1 – Being confronted with a large problem in your life. 2 – Working hard to deal with it or solve it.  3 – Seeing very clearly that it involved a phase of your life which, for better or worse, is over and walking away from it.  4 – Making a Judgement about your own behavior and evaluating how you did before you move on to the next phase.

It happens all the time.  Women who live with abusers and try with all of their hearts to believe that the man will somehow change until there’s one too many beatings.  Home health providers who take care of parents with dementia until they’re emotionally and spiritually exhausted and just don’t have anything more to give.  People who endure terrible jobs with terrible bosses for years and finally have enough.

The self judgement is sometimes positive and sometimes negative.  Sometimes we can look at ourselves and say, “Yeah, I did really good and I did everything I could have.”  Sometimes we have to admit that there are things we wish we could have done better or wonder if we should have tried a different approach.  

In either case there is strong self-knowledge that it’s OVER.  That chapter of your life is closed out and you’re moving on to the next chapter, hopefully a wiser and more compassionate human being.

Time to be re-born.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

 

The Wheel of Fortune

 

wheel

The Waite deck obviously went all out on this card and crammed as much occult symbolism into one little package as the mind can conceive.  I personally think you’re pretty much always going in the wrong direction when you combine the new testament with Egyptian gods, but – hey! – to each his own.

The word Taro in the center of the wheel is a reversal of the word Rota, meaning wheel and it emphasizes that our journey through this life is very much like being affixed to a turning wheel.  What goes up must inevitably come down and then, in the nature of the wheel, go back up again. This card is talking about the fact that change is inevitable.  Nothing remains fixed or static in this world and you may be riding high one day and fall off your horse the next.  You may be flat busted and then have a crazy idea that makes you a fortune. Life is always changing and we just pretend that it isn’t because it makes us more comfortable.

When the Wheel of Fortune shows up in a reading you know that a large change is about to happen.  The card doesn’t speak to whether the change is good, bad, or indifferent: it’s just telling you that something big is about to happen and you should be prepared for it.  When it happens it will probably feel like a bolt from the blue, a sudden stroke of good luck or a lightning flash of bad luck. Other cards in the reading may give clues as to the area of life in which you can expect the changes.

REVERSED:  There’s not a huge difference between the upright and reversed card, except the reversed card shows more of an aspect of bad luck.  It’s possible that the questioner is about to enter into a period of hard times or that he or she is simply going to have a string of bad luck.  The main lesson for this card is to use the tough times to develop stronger character. Persevere and grow.

A Few Other Thoughts About The Wheel of Fortune:

The Wheel of Fortune represents a glitch in the fabric of their well-ordered universes which organized religions have been trying to ignore since their inception.

Which is to say . . . luck.  Good luck, bad luck, and no luck.  

If The Hierophant represents the well-oiled machinery of organized religion, the The Wheel of Fortune represents a huge monkey wrench that got thrown into the gears of that machinery.  Organized religions teach – put simplistically – that if you’re a good person then good things will happen to you. And if you’re a bad person, then bad things will happen to you.

And, of course, that flies in the face of much of what we see around us.  Why do kind, gentle people of faith sitting in a synagogue in Philadelphia get gunned down by a vile racist who is consumed with hate?   Why do billionaires who celebrate avarice and greed live lives of luxury while the pious frequently don’t have enough food for their children?

It’s a conundrum that religions have been hard put to explain.  In the christian religion we see the rather sickening tale of god and the devil deciding to turn Job into a human ping pong ball, kill his children and his livestock, and give him some sort of a leprous disease just to, “test his faith.”

The most logical explanation I’ve run across is the Buddhist idea of karma.  We plant seeds of hate and violence in past lives and they may bloom into poisonous flowers hundreds of lifetimes later.  Thus, bad things happening to us aren’t the random, crazy things that they seem to be but just natural consequences of our past actions.

That’s what I personally believe but, like all metaphysical assertions, it’s an unprovable hypothesis based on my experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

The Wheel of Fortune pushes aside all of the metaphysical hypotheses and organized religions and just says, “Look:  shit happens. And good things happen.” Period. You don’t have to have an explanation for it to recognize that it happens.

The nicest, most successful person in the world can hit a string of really putrid luck and have everything she’s worked for destroyed.  The biggest bastard in the world can hit a string of really good luck and end up in the White House.

It’s a principle of randomness that seems to be built into the universe.  What goes up, must come down, and vice verse. Today’s rooster is tomorrow’s feather duster.  Life moves in cycles and we have no choice but to move with them and do the best that we can. The Wheel of Fortune is a reminder of that.  

Ultimately none of the castles that we build – or lose – on this earth plane are real.  Figure out what things ARE real. Your values. Your heart. Your love for and from others.  Those are things we create ourselves with the way that we live our lives. No change of fortune can give them to you and no change of fortune can take them away.

The Hermit in Tarot Readings

 

hermit

 

This is one of the more mysterious cards in the deck and hearkens very much to Gandalf the Gray from the Tolkien Trilogy.  This card can indicate a person who has withdrawn from society and is living a life of contemplation and meditation. On the other hand it can indicate that the questioner needs to withdraw from normal life for a while and go through a period of self examination and deeper thought about the meaning of his or her life.

It can also indicate a wise counselor who can give the questioner much needed advice and insights.  The lantern represents psychic and psychological insight and the figure is on a much higher plane than the rest of us, so it may be that the questioner should seek out the counsel of a Wise Woman or Man.

In any case, this is a card of solitude and the individual is very much withdrawn from others around him.  This isn’t a bad sort of solitude, however, this is a solitude that involves spiritual growth and contemplation.

REVERSED – This can be interpreted in several different ways.  It may indicate someone who is spending far, far too much time alone and needs the feedback and companionship of other human beings.

On the other hand, it can indicate a social butterfly who is spending far, far too little time alone and needs to withdraw for a while and develop a little spiritual and emotional depth.

On the relationship level it can indicate a partner who is having a MAJOR sulk and snit fit and is holed up feeling sorry for his or her self.  It can also indicate that a relationship is over for good.

A Few More Thoughts About the Hermit:

I ran across an online definition of The Hermit in which the author said that it was a, “sad,” card and that The Hermit’s wisdom, “has no substance,” until it’s shared with others.

Sigh . . .

Togetherness and, “sharing,” have almost become a disease in our society.  And the point is that you have to have something to share.  Increasingly, people don’t. Look at it this way:

circle

Suppose that this circle represents you as an energy field.  It contains all of your emotions, your thoughts, your physical body.    Then you fall in love with someone and become partners and that looks a lot like this:

Circles 2

Part of your energy field has merged with part of his or her energy field.  There’s still a part of you which is separate and unique but there’s also a part of you that is an amalgam of you and your partner.  Then say that you have children or even just get a roommate and it starts to look like this:

3circles

 

So your energy field – the part of you that is uniquely you – is now merged with two other energy fields.  Then throw in the people at your job and you look like this:

4circles

 

As I’m sure you noticed the part that is uniquely you just keeps getting smaller.  You can make a very good argument that all of those other energy fields merging with your energy field is a good thing.  We draw strength and inspiration and love from interacting with other humans. But if you keep adding and adding and adding energy fields, at a certain point you’re so merged with other people’s thoughts and feelings that you don’t know which are yours and which are theirs.

And, as if all that weren’t enough, throw in the internet.  And facebook. And instagram. And twitter. You encounter people in the stores and on the streets who appear to have their smart phones permanently affixed to their ears and they respond to every post, every personal message, every tweet.  It’s as if the internet has become a secondary sensory system for them, tendrils reaching endlessly in and out into virtual reality.

The Hermit is a deliberate withdrawal from all of that.  And it begins with a single question: “Who in the hell am I?”

All Native cultures honor the tradition of, “the Spirit Quest.”  An individual goes off to be alone, fast, meditate, and seek visions and messages from the Spirit World.  Not just to ask, “Who am I?” but to ask what am I? What is my place in this world? What should I be doing in this lifetime?  Why do I exist?

And that’s what The Hermit represents.  It’s a period of withdrawal from the world, an emptying out of, “others” so that you can find your authentic self.   And, no, it is not made any more or less valuable by sharing it with others. It stands alone.

The Lovers Tarot Card

 

 

the-lovers

This is a card with multiple layers of meaning.  The obvious theme is the Garden of Eden and all that it implies but the name of the card is The Lovers and all that implies.  So the first layer of meaning involves new love:  fresh, pristine, innocent, glowing, lovely love. Quite simply, two people who are madly, head over heels, wonderfully in love.  Since it is situated in the Garden of Eden we can assume that this is probably a fairly new relationship and it has emerged like magic into the two people’s lives.

It can also indicate a strong sense of bonding with a coworker or an associate.  Not necessarily on a sexual level but on a deep, almost Soul level of understanding and appreciating each other.

And – back to the Garden – another layer of meaning in this card is about choice and the consequences of choosing.  We all know the somewhat insane biblical fable of the tyrannical, authoritarian god throwing an absolute hissy fit because Eve took a bite of an apple, throwing them out of the Garden, and cursing all of their offspring and heirs to lives of pain and suffering FOREVER.  Naturally, it was the uppity woman who did it and not the man. Just like a woman, right?

Well, despite the absolutely tweaky, weird, sexist fairy tale the underlying theme is about choosing and about knowledge.  On a relationship level, this can be about choosing the type of a relationship that you have. Will it be based on love and trust and belief in each other or will it be based on emotional addiction and lust?  On a workplace level, this may indicate that there are different options that are about to manifest in your career and you’ll need to consider them very carefully prior to making a commitment to one or the other.

REVERSED:  This can indicate a loss of innocence and/or the end of a relationship.  Perhaps, as you have gained more knowledge of each other, the beautiful, rosy glow of your new found love is starting to fade and you’re beginning to wonder why you ever got involved with that jerk in the first place.

This can also indicate the end of the honeymoon phase of the relationship and the time when you actually have to get down to making it work if you want it to last.  Remember, the two lovers were protected by the angel in the Garden, but he’s also the one that threw them out. That sense of divine protection in a new and beautiful relationship may be going away and you may be dismayed by the challenge of being together in the real world.

It may indicate that you made a really bad decision in some area of your life, whether romance, employment, or real estate, and now you have to figure out how to correct it.

A Few Random Thoughts About The Lovers:

Not long ago a friend of mine asked, “Haven’t you ever had a relationship with someone where you just KNEW that you could tell them anything and it would be alright?”

And my answer was, “No.”  I really didn’t think that telling your lover everything about yourself was either possible or desirable.  After all, we’ve all got some dark little pockets in our hearts and our pasts that are perhaps better left alone.

I’ve since discussed it with several people for whom I have great respect and they disagree with me and assure me that a relationship like that is very possible.  I have my doubts but wherever the truth may lie it brings up an interesting aspect of The Lovers, which is knowledge.

On the left hand side of the card you can see the fabled apple tree with our old friend the snake wrapped around its’ trunk.  And what is it that the snake is purported to have offered Eve beside a bite of a juicy Granny Smith apple? Knowledge. Or, perhaps, self-knowledge.

A serious relationship with another person is a journey of discovery.  You meet, you get to know each other, you like each other and feel attracted, a sexual relationship gets built in, and perhaps you move in together.

During that entire sequence there’s a sort of a rosy glow around the relationship.  It feels like magic and you’re happy and satisfied and you think it will be that way forever.  And then comes the reality of living with another human being every day and every night. The rosy glow can fade away very quickly.

It may be small, relatively petty things like him leaving his underwear on the floor or her blowing her nose and leaving the tissues on the bathroom counter.  Usually those issues can be resolved if you are really in love. Minor adjustments, right?

But there’s also a much deeper discovery of each other that takes place as life goes along.  Is he capable of staying steady and strong during a family emergency? Is she willing to compromise during a heated argument or does she just keep screaming and insisting that she’s right?  Does he recognize when she’s hurting and respond with love or is always all about him?

In other words . . . character.

When you love someone and live with them you come to know on a very deep level not just their strengths but also their flaws.  And sooner or later either the positives will outweigh the negatives or vice verse. Sooner or later you have to make that evaluation:  is this relationship worth it? Is this relationship nourishing me and helping me to grow as a human being or is it stunting me and turning me into someone I don’t like?

If the negatives outweigh the positives, hopefully you leave.  If the positives outweigh the negatives, hopefully you stay.

There is a third path you can take, of course, and that’s growth.  If both people are willing to look honestly at their own flaws and work hard to become better people then they truly become The Lovers on a much deeper level.  They really KNOW each other and the love still remains.

just

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