Determine What Means Most to You and Go as Slowly as Possible
If love and committed relationship is not what means most to you, don’t expect much to come of either, anymore than you would expect to become an Olympic gold winner, a multimillionaire, or an astronaut without giving a great deal of yourself to the process.
Enduring, healthy couplehood is probably the single most difficult human task. Albert Einstein described making a mess of two marriages: he could deal with God and the Universe, but not with wives. Heroes and geniuses fail at it.
Psychotherapists and spiritual masters fail at it. Not all of the time, but enough of the time. Relationship success requires great devotion: to the care of our great vulnerability and emotional need, to the care of our partner, and to tending the infinite, yet delicate flame of love.
If a love relationship is of ultimate concern to you, Every circumstance that supports success should be embrace and, to the degree possible, every circumstance that increases relationship difficulties should be avoided.
Determine what means most to you. What do you most want out of life? If you were on your death-bed, what area of life would you wish you had been most successful at? List your four primary concerns in order of importance. If a love relationship carries the most weight…Go as Slowly as Possible.
First of all, when you are in a romantic relationship, hold off living together until you have a reasonable foundation of trust and caring. Get to know each other as well as possible before you live together. Once you live together, hold off getting married until there is an even more solid foundation of trust and caring.
And it may not necessarily be in your best interests ever to live together full time, or to get married. In any case the greater the involvement, through living together or through getting married, the greater the expectations and the greater the expectations, the greater the chances for getting hurt and frustrated.
Relationships that move too quickly can easily become log jammed and overwhelmed with problems. Taking time allows you to process and resolve issues as they come up. If in the midst of a passionate and intense relationship you quickly move in together, you can also quickly lose a sense of your own boundaries and self-hood. The price of lost boundaries is generally dissatisfaction, conflict and ultimately separation.
Enter the wilderness of coupleship one step at a time. While it is fulfilling to extend our capacities, to stretch in relationship, it is something else entirely to place ourselves in an overwhelming situation, a situation we as yet lack the tools and skills to handle.
James C., a 42-year old client, was happily engaged in all sorts of pleasant activities: cycling, hiking, dinner parties, dating. But he was so eager to have a family that when he fell in love with a very likable young woman, he plunged in much faster than he could deal with. He pressured her to leave her home and job sixty miles away to move in with him.
She pressured him to give up many of his favorite activities. They then quickly began planning a wedding. The fast pace didn’t allow either to get to know each other gradually, so that they might work out differences over time. Instead, it increased the pressure to have a deep, intimate relationship. And in no time James’ life was a mess of fighting and stress. With the relationship unmanageable, they finally broke off with each other.
Advaita Vedanta, a Zen-like sect of Hinduism, traditionally discourages young men and women from early marriage. Instead, it encourages them first to spend several years undergoing monastic discipline and self-inquiry. Vedic tradition appreciates that marriage in many ways is more difficult than the monastic life, and that spiritual discipline is an invaluable precursor for a successful marriage.
As a minister-colleague points out in his sermons, waiting is often essential to relationship success. If only Romeo had been willing to wait, he would have gotten the message from the Friar about Juliet – and lived to enjoy her. The slower you go and the more issues you resolve within yourself and within the relationship before you become overly involved, the more likelihood there will be that the relationship will blossom.
Go as slowly as possible. Ask yourself: Am I in a hurry; am I over-eager with my relationship? If so, what is the hurry? What is the objection to giving the relationship time to ripen before taking the next step?