L is for the way you look at me

I’ve heard a lot of some line: “Love is compromise.” Somehow, that never sat right with me.

The “Half-way” or “Compromising” method can work under the same circumstances as those for “your way”. A compromise means that both sides have to give up something in order to find common ground. In this case, neither side totally wins, but neither side totally loses.

A true compromise is possible only when all parties involved attempt to meet all of the parties halfway. This occurs when there is equal concern for others as there is for yourself. Each side gives and each side gets. Everyone gives just enough so all parties end up satisfied.

The downside of compromise stems from the fact that many people see a compromise not as a win-win solution, but as a lose-lose proposition. They either feel they gave too much or did not receive enough, no matter what it was they gave or received during the compromise. The “what” becomes relatively unimportant in these situations, and it is the “how much” that becomes the focus, correctly or incorrectly. What you end up with is an “MUC” – a mutually unacceptable compromise where neither side will be committed to making the proposed solution to the problem actually work. It also faces the danger of one side not getting what it wants (known as the “tyranny of the majority”). A compromise in this manner is seen as a temporary solution.

– Global Knowledge (2008). “Methods of Dealing with Conflict - Part II”. PM Hut.

This is the context for the word “compromise” I’ve always known. It always sounded terrible to me to deem love this way. I can get with what people usually say before saying “love is a compromise,” which is “love isn’t about feelings”–infatuation is about feelings. But put together, it seems to suggest that you must kill your desires and in part, your happiness, for love. I thought that didn’t feel consistent with the bountiful happiness people often claim to have attained with love.

So I rejected that common statement. But I had to find the second part to the statement, “love isn’t about feelings.” I know what it’s not about–but what is it about, then?

O is for the only one I see

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.

Contemplating this passage and taking it to heart is what told me what love is about. I discovered this long ago, thought about it for a bit, but then forgot about it. And again in the turbulence of life, I sought guidance and found this again. Love is not about feelings, and it’s not something as miserable as compromise. It’s about dedication. And with dedication, you transform. With compromise, you don’t. You plant your feet like an unmoving tree. But with dedication, you ride the flow of of life as love takes you. And as with all adventures, you learn, you grow, and you get shaped into something new.

This brings me to something about Japanese culture that stumped me before. A theme with their media is to choose loyalty over something new, even if it “objectively” gave something better. I was always confused by this. I thought: of course it’s good to not betray left and right, but isn’t it important to try new things and grow? So consequently, you must leave some things, or people, behind? I thought, isn’t that just the course of life? Not everything can be preserved. As the cliche goes, the only constant in life is change.

But I looked at the only other alternative I knew: the western idea to chase happiness no matter what; the “Eat. Pray. Love.” movie idea of dropping everything and leaving it behind at a moment’s notice if you’re unhappy. And that didn’t seem so good to me either. I think about how half of the time, divorce is where marriages lead to in the United States. I think about how I barely know anybody who also had parents who haven’t been previously divorced. Just up and leaving everything behind seemed like an extreme I wasn’t down for.

But still, I was so confused. How did people stay with anybody, when they know there will always be someone better for them out there who they might eventually meet? Won’t they regret having settled too soon if they suddenly meet that person later on, when they’ve already dedicated themselves to someone else? I didn’t get it. What’s obvious to most people isn’t obvious to me. I haven’t had a friend for very long. And most of my time growing up was spent on the internet, not with other people beside me in the flesh. People never really shaped my life much; mostly ideas and pictures separate from the entities who created them did.

I’ve been stuck in this unsolved state of not understanding how to ever come to terms with settling and also hating the idea of never being tethered to someone. To never have a stable, reliable connection. A companion for life.

V is very, very extraordinary

Then, news came that my grandmother is living her last days. And even though I thought about preparing myself for this moment, even though I asked myself several times in the past, “If she passed away sometime soon, will I regret anything?” I still wasn’t ready, of course. I don’t think anyone’s ever ready for something like this.

I naturally got hit with a lot of feelings. And I thought about something I never really truly internalized before: I took her love for granted. Despite asking myself frequently not to take anything for granted, to take stock of everything to be grateful for, I still failed to realize I had been.

Now that I’m on the brink of losing her, I understand more the value of unconditional love. And again, recently someone has raised that idea: they shared how sad they feel losing their parents, because they’re the only ones who gave them unconditional love.

I also see how someone who never knew unconditional love has been rocked their entire life. It is a struggle, to put very lightly. I don’t know how else to describe it.

My grandmother told me I was beautiful, that I sang well even though I’m tone deaf, that I’m talented with art, that I’m intelligent even when I’m not. She always rooted for me, she always sided with me, and she always fought for me no matter what. No matter how much of an unpleasant brat I was, she loved me. And she showed me that love. She gave me warmth and affection, no matter what I did.

She gave me memories. She filled my life with those. And those memories were all sweet. All happy. All wonderful. All comforting to revisit.

After all this and re-reading that passage and others in The Little Prince, I think I’m starting to get it now.

E is even more than anyone that you adore can

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.

Maybe there’s always going to be someone else who’s a better fit for me out there. Maybe they won’t be married or taken in any way. Maybe in another timeline I’d have met them and would have been with them instead.

This is not that timeline, however. If I did eventually meet that person while I was dedicated to someone else, would I leave my partner? Say I did. Say I left my partner and became happier with the other. Maybe this cycle repeats. Maybe it doesn’t. If the cycle repeats, obviously that doesn’t work out: I don’t have a one stable partner for life which was what I wanted. Say the cycle ended. That I was more “compatible” with this other person I left behind my previous partner for. It’s the right thing to do if I wasn’t happy with my previous partner. But what if I was? What if I was just annoyed with my previous partner, but overall still content with them? Then I left them behind just because the new partner got my jokes a little better. Or had a little more hobbies in common that we could talk about. Or I understood them better.

So let’s place myself at that time I’m with the new partner. There are no shared memories that built each other’s lives. And it’s not like a person could ever be perfect–we’d have clashes and annoyances as with any relationship. Maybe less than with my previous partner. But I’d have to learn how to adapt to this new partner again. And I’m learning about this new partner, from scratch. They haven’t shaped me. This person is another blank slate. Do I want another blank slate?

But life isn’t that predictable. It isn’t that convenient, it isn’t that clear. It isn’t that sure all the time. The cycle of finding a possibly more “compatible” partner will more likely go on than stop. Most likely, I won’t have less friction with the new partner–I may have more, the same, or just flat out different ones. Most likely, even if the new person was more similar to me and we understood each other better, that doesn’t guarantee they will be as dedicated to me. The similarities might help, but dedication as a trait remains a separate matter altogether. They won’t know how I work, my tics, how I process things, my behavior, my habits, or the progression that happens with me when I get upset or other emotions like my partner I spent so much time with does. They haven’t been able to have the same time my previous partner had to adapt to me, to learn about me, to learn how to work with me. My previous partner had had all this time to shape me, to teach me things about life and what it takes to be in a partnership, to have all this significance by contributing to my development as a person. Moreover, my previous partner still wrote all the happy pages in my book of life, even if there were hard times. The same goes for the other way around. I won’t have adapted or learned about the new partner at all.

Is it worth it to just risk throwing that all away just because a new partner may be more compatible? Maybe the answer is yes to you. If I was content with the person I was with for so long, I think I wouldn’t want to destroy them for my own whims unless they wanted to have a new partner, too. If I’m already happy with the person I built all these memories and shaped me so much, I think I’ll pass on moving on to someone new. Even if the new person is more compatible, I think I’m good.