Ah love, sweet love. We all want to love and be loved. It is what gives us meaning, purpose, and opens our hearts in a most beautiful way.
In the beginning, we all know, everything feels amazing, otherworldly even, and so we may often overlook certain things that are inevitably a part of life, and of relationships. Passion, trust, emotional and soul connection. It all matters and is needed. But if we truly want to walk the circling staircases of life together and sustain a long-term bond, we need the right partner.
In her beautiful poem “Habitation” Margaret Atwood emphases that the core of marriage, or a long-term relationship, should only be about the love, and not about the physical trappings. In other words, the white picket fence or the ideal house are not what binds a couple for a lifetime; it is our ability to adapt in any climate and adjust through the changing shapes and cycles as we walk the unique physical and emotional wildlands of the thing called our relationship. And sometimes learning, or re-learning, how to build fire, as primitive as it may sound, is the actual path forward and towards each other.
So how do we choose the right one for us?
Of course, always, always, start with the heart.
Choose love with your heart.
Close your eyes. Choose the one you truly and deeply feel on your inside of. Choose as though you are blind, as if there are mountains and seas between you. How does it feel? Does your world expand or contract thinking of them? If with them you are made more generous, more loving, more kind – it is good love. If you feel more alive, more joyful, more fulfilled – it is good love. If you feel more conscious of love, more living in love, more giving of love – it is good love.
Love is a knowing and a seeing not of flesh but through the flesh. Choose the one whose soul calls you, not in an obsessive nor controlling way, but in an ever-moving, continuous, gentle, and peaceful way. As if their presence is always inside you. Choose kindness, loyalty, devotion and trust. Choose the one you trust with your life. Choose someone’s ability to be concerned with you, to care for you, to raise you and lift you – choose the one who will hold a positive vision for you especially in the moments when you can’t see clearly anything for yourself. Be like the Little Prince: Choose to see with the eyes of your heart.
Choose the one your body desires.
Our body knows, always. Listen to its language and what it is telling you. Love of course has many shapes and forms, various speeds and movements, such as tenderness, faithfulness, helpfulness, emotional expression through words and through gestures. We need the passion of our partner not in any lesser way than we need their friendship and their warmth of caring. Choose the one whose skin you long for even when they are oceans away from you. Choose the one whose touch sets your entire body on wildfires. Choose the one whose arms you desire to fall into after a long day at work. Our bodies are intuitive and they never lie how they feel when we are around someone. Love is not only felt in the hearts, it is known by the hands also.
Choose the one willing to learn and re-learn you.
Choose the one who has an open mind. The curious one. Because love is a learning and re-learning, an exploring and a re-exploring. Like art, love is an art of loving. Because as the years go by, we’ll need to re-explore one another. It doesn’t matter if we live under the same roof, as the years go by and we circle the ordinary stairways of our life, we change. Our inner worlds change. And we need someone willing to re-discover us and not take us for granted.
There will always be unknown, wild parts within us, and within our partner – parts we’ll never fully know, so we’ll need to be okay with walking the wildlands of our relationship. Choose the one who can truly see you, and will kiss you, hold you, love you, not in the ways he always did, but in the way you need to right now. Choose the one willing to embrace the beginner’s mind, so that you can both approach one another with curiosity, as if it is the first time. Desire itself also rests upon curiosity, and upon imagination. Those who are unwilling to learn are intolerant and inflexible; they become unwilling, or unable, to work through life’s challenges and changing waves. Choose the one willing to re-learn how to make fire in the forest, and will sit beside you when you’re feeling lost, as he tells you, “It’s okay. Let’s find you.”
Choose the one who sings love back to skin.
Sometimes love is a skeleton and we need to sing warmth back to skin. The years go by, and we get tangled in stuff. We go through many phases, and often times, even within one marriage there exist few marriages of the befores and afters, with each phase passing moving us into a new way of relating. In a way, we can view this as an opportunity for a deepening, and for a re-building. Change is natural, like the cycles of the land, but it is hard nonetheless, and we can unfortunately sometimes lose our way back to each other, losing our connection also.
Our hard times and our challenges, both as a couple and individually, pile up and wear us down. We face worries, disappointments, dissatisfactions, wounds. There are a lot of stuff, messy stuff, that we get tangled in. A lot of hurts, a lot of grief, and a lot of everyday annoyances also. The difference between couples who sustain a strong intimate and emotional connection, and the ones who don’t, is not that the former don’t experience these difficult, hurt feelings, but it’s that the couples who remained connected turned towards those difficult feelings with kindness, tenderness and compassion. This is how we find our way back to each other – kindness, tenderness, compassion and deep listening.
When love becomes a skeleton, we need patience and a soft touch to untangle the bones, look at the not-so pretty parts of ourselves, and then, sing warmth back to love, love back to skin. Skin against skin, hand in hand, we’ll then lay beside one another again, awakening ourselves into the remembering, and into our heart.
Choose the one who is both strong and sensitive.
Choose the one who is the root of the tree, the softness of the wind and the nourishment of river streams. Choose someone who is strong and brave, persistent and consistent, stable and confident – while also being flexible, moving, and aware of you. Choose someone whose attuned sensitivity allows them to understand you – and who is emotionally open to you and expressive to you, without the fear that they’ll seem weak. Choose someone who can be vulnerable with you because this is what intimacy is based upon. Choose someone whose senses allow them to discern when it is time to wear an armour out into the world, and when it is time to take it off, bearing his beating heart to you. Choose the one who has the humility to see the world as it truly is, with all of its contrasting and richly-nuanced shades, so that you don’t slip like stones in water because of absolutism. Choose someone who can be the roof of the home and the waters of love nourishing the deep soil
Choose the one who is not afraid of pain.
Choose the one who doesn’t run away when they’re hurt or triggered, but they devote to resolving the relationship into peace, with a kindness of rhythm and empathy. Choose the one who will not shift their eyes away from tears. Choose the one who will not let go of your hand during your hardships and sadness; the one who will hold you, lift you and raise you, because they have the capacity within themselves to hold space for life’s changing phases. Choose the one who is willing to share their tears and their pains, so that you are allowed to be there for them also.
Choose the one who is flexible and forgiving.
Choose the one who is willing and able to be flexible through life and navigate together with you through the changing waves. Choose the one who is willing and able to forgive because holding a grudge and being resentful are the beginnings of an end. There will always be arguments, there will always be misunderstandings, and there will always be hurt – but if both partners are devoted to one another and committed to work it out through open and calm communication, things will be resolved into more harmony and peace. Choose the one who will not simply walk away from you, but will sit down beside you and together, hand in hand, having ears and open hearts, you will both choose one another, again and again, every night and every day. Water always finds a way to move forward along the twists and turns of any obstacle, dryness and terrain. Choose the one who can understand, and be able to say “I’m sorry” as well.
Choose the one with the rich inner life.
Choose the one whose wildish soul stirs yours completely, and merges with you, dissolves within you – while also being separate from you because they have their own creative interests. Choose the one who can walk their own unique physical, emotional and spiritual wildlands, and still be with you no matter the distance and time between you. Choose the one who sees beyond the separations of the skin, beyond the distances and time, someone who knows such things cannot break a true love. Choose someone who can feel fulfilled in their own alone time and doesn’t need to satisfy their needs through external things nor satisfy their ego through external validation. Choose the one with whom you’ll then create your own world, your own wildland – and there, dissolving the boundaries between you, a new soul will be born of your love – the soul of your relationship.
Choose the one with similar heat, values and vision.
To build a life together it is always helpful if you share similar values about family, loyalty, communication, place of living, childbearing, housework, beliefs, money and lifestyle. Even if not “the same” – it should be understood, respected and agreed upon by both partner. No, it’s not the most romantic thing to discuss – but it is a necessary one. A shared vision will hold you together as you move hand in hand in life. Understanding what you both want for your future, what your needs are, and what you value, will also decrease potential friction later on. It’s okay if there are differences, but work them out before marriage – and be willing to compromise and negotiate also.
Our heat is our life force, our essence, our passions for, and in, life. When two people are really different regarding the way they approach and perceive life, it is harder to work together long-term. If you are a passionate woman, needing a lot of emotional expression, you need that in a partner and you need to acknowledge your own desires and needs. This is why we need to know ourselves before we are able to feel fulfilled in relationships. There is no right or wrong, it is only a matter of what feels good for us, what aligns to and moves well with our own unique temperatures, and whatever that is – this is the right one for you. With such honesty, both partners can experience themselves in more happiness.
Choose the one who knows how to listen with empathy.
Choose the one who has the ears and the heart to listen. The one who pays attention to you and is available for you – the one who wants to understand you and is willing to take the time to do it. The one who even when they don’t understand you, will be willing to stay and listen. The one who knows to still remain open even when, and especially when, your perspectives differ from his, and may even challenge his own views and beliefs.
Choose the one who knows what is worth arguing about, and what isn’t. Choose the one who values and respects your individual self – the one who holds the space for you to be your true self, as you express your uniqueness fully, without judgment, without criticism, without shame. Choose the one who knows to walk and hold your hand with a kindness and compassion of rhythm. Choose the one who chooses to give you his time, eyes and ears, be fully present for you when you need to. The one who notices the worries behind your smile, and can sit down beside you and say, “Tell me my love, what is worrying you. How can I make your day better? What do you need? What do you desire?”
Choose the one who gives you peace of soul, not just fires on your skin.
In many ways, love is a sense of serenity in our being. Many people would say soulmate love feels like home – or in other words, the feeling of belonging, calmness and peace when you enter this space of heart. Choose the one whose presence makes you feel relaxed and calm. The one who no matter what has been going on throughout your day, you will feel a sense of peace when you see them, hear them, think of them. Sometimes just the thought of them makes you feel serene. It is the vision of their face and arms that becomes the home your thoughts settle into when you close your eyes.
Choose the one with whom you laugh.
Choose the one who can laugh at himself and who know how to make you laugh also. Choose the one who knows how to stop a non-sense argument at mid-sentence. Choose the one with whom even without doing anything, you’ll love being with. The one with whom in a house without furniture, you’ll sit together and have the best time – because you’re in the simple perfection of just being together. Choose the one with whom when the world is falling apart, all that matters is that you have each other. Choose the one with whom you can be playful and childlike because they are your absolute best friend and you feel your true self with them. You’ll never be bored with such a person.
Laughter is a life force. Laughter is a bridge, it’s a connection. And it gives our body heat. It gives us desire and brings back our passion towards one another. So choose the one with whom your entire body moves when you laugh. The one with whom at old age, when you’re both wrinkled and tired, you’ll still look into each other’s eyes, and you’ll laugh, and you’ll smile. And skin against skin, you’ll remember: This is the one I loved loving all throughout.
For more of my writings, browse through my publication Art of Love.
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Cover art by Francesco Hayez, The Kiss, 1859, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.