DEAR SUSAN: I just re-read your column about "apartners," and I'm sending along my 2 cents. Since my marriage ended two years ago, I've been lucky enough to share some personally productive relationships. Currently, I'm dating someone with the strength of character to be himself with me, and we're having a wonderful time. But as much as I like him, I still cannot imagine any other person, however beloved, in my space. Maybe this will change; the relationship is a young one. But for now, perhaps I'm just not ready to remarry, as I still equate marriage with what I had with my husband — something that fails. But rationally I realize that if I find someone with whom my goals, visions and values align, he and I together can establish our own unique marital relationship. But right now my feelings (should I call them "gut-wrenching reactions"?) aren't necessarily rational; the idea of giving someone else access not only to my heart but also to my home, my assets, my future — my emotional and financial independence — is beyond me. Marriage is so much more than loving each other; it exists on a multitude of often-unromantic levels that can tax even the strongest love.
So it makes sense to me that couples who care deeply about each other might not want to share that multitude of "unromance" with each other. They may want save the best of life to celebrate when they're together, leaving bitter reality for the privacy of alone time. Perhaps one or both feel unprepared for marriage; perhaps economic factors come into play. But if people are at heart satisfied with where they are in their relationship and with where it seems to be going, who are we to criticize?
I care about the man in my life, and I care about myself, too. By being myself, and by supporting him in being himself, perhaps we will learn and grow in ourselves and as a couple — and in doing so, we may discover someday that we've created something greater than each of us, something large enough to shelter us from the from the "unromantic" and strong enough to sustain us should love ebb and flow. — Californian
Dear Californian: With a lump in my throat, I share the wisdom of Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran on marriage:
"You shall be together when the white wings of death shatter your days.
"Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
"But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
"And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
"Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
"Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
"Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
"Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
"Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone,
"Even as the strings of a lute are alone, though they quiver with the same music.
"Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
"For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
"And 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."
Dear Reader: Your insight that there are some moments best experienced alone, even while lovingly coupled, proves to be ageless wisdom. What you decide to do with it in your relationship is your decision, but we are waiting (and hoping) to hear good things.
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