It began with a strange but lucid dream. I was in the middle of a relationship that was unraveling, that slow, grinding and uncomfortable time when you really should be able to see the proverbial handwriting on the wall, but are too much in denial or delusion to understand. The dream seemed to be a very long one where I wandered through a library making comparisons between novels and short story collections, with the latter always falling short.
For once, I understood a dream. It was clearly a reference to relationships. I have a really marvelous collection of relationships that are akin to short stories with the occasional novella. And they really are lovely, except when compared to the cultural gold standard, the long-enduring marriage.
It was an epiphany to see I was making this invalid and unhelpful comparison, but the real traction came when I asked, “How can I not see such things about myself? I wonder who I really am? And I wonder what kinds of women or relationships actually suit me?”
So let me tell you the first truth I learned. Most of us never actually try to answer such questions as these. We accept the first or most available love relationship, get locked down in it, then proceed to find challenges and faults of all kinds. So we exit the unsatisfying relationship, and promptly find another, still without any exploration of who we are and what we desire. That’s not a criticism, simply an acknowledgment of how it seems to work for the vast majority. I guess many of us are simply lonely in some way or another.
Regardless, my epiphany launched me on a course of exploration. It sounds rather foolish as I type these words, but it was quite revealing. There are any number of things I simply did not know about myself and relationships. It turns out the most important thing for me is rich conversation, which matters more than most everything else. Then a love of the arts and beauty, and a sense of adventure. Plus, I discovered that I only do well if someone is reasonably self-sufficient. I don't want to be anyone’s solution to their own life or life problems.
It seemed so selfish at first until someone pointed out that it’s kind of like how we like our foods. If you like your steak cooked rare, why should you try to like it well done? If a vegetarian lifestyle works for you, trying to be a carnivore is just foolish. We are who we are. And it’s useful to know that. And far more effective when in the process of trying to find someone with whom to spend time, or invest your life.
That brings me to the greatest revelation. Somehow I came across a book, True Loves: Finding the Soul in Love Relationships, by a husband and wife team who are both Jungian psychologists, Alex and Naomi Quenk. They proposed that each of us has a love archetype, a kind of master imprint for how we experience and express love, that we are the way we are and the great mischief comes in trying to be something other than that.
It turns out that my archetype is “mercurial.” While I care deeply and am fiercely loyal, I become easily bored. I’m just not steady the way many people think one ought to be in relationship. I can commit, but wilt when overly confined. I need a steady stream of experiences that constantly renew my attention and my passions. Paraphrasing the Quenks, I am not fulfilled by relationship, but use relating and love as a way to express my fulfillment. It turns out I simply do not fit the standard, expected model for relationship.
Seeing who we are at our core in relationship relieves countless stresses. We only need be true to these most fundamental identities. The mistake is in trying to be or do otherwise.
“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.” -Popeye
Seeing True™ in Action
Are you unfulfilled in love? It is extremely likely that discontent belies some kind of misfit between who you are, your understanding of who you are, and how you play it out in love. Until you understand the nature of what fits, it is nothing but a guessing game.
Are you willing enough to try something new? To explore the truth of you?