I'm preparing to give a talk on relationships later this week to a wonderful group of divorced, widowed and separated folks. A question for many of them has to do with the challenge of picking a partner in life – a challenge, I believe, that invites a balance head and heart.
An all-time favorite quote of mine comes from Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese:
"… let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
What a delightful invitation to honor one's heart in all of life, not only in matters of love.
Balancing Mary Oliver's wisdom are two wise authors in the love department – Elizabeth Gilbert (Committed) and David Whyte (The Three Marriages) – who offer a perspective I hadn't encountered before.
Here's a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert:
"People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other's personalities. Who wouldn't. Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, 'I can work around that.'?" (p. 129-130)
Just last night, I discovered this passage from David Whyte:
"In a very personal way we are marrying not only a person's ability to love and take care of us, but also that person's particular species of selfishness and particular form of egotism. It is only a question of time before these appear. One of the tests of finding the right person is to ask ourselves if this is the particular form of selfishness and egotism we can live with … A sign of possible success is our ability to answer in the affirmative. It means the chemistry is right …" (p. 244)
I have a long history of romantic idealism. It's a gift to encounter a balancing perspective – twice already, in the last week or so. Life is a generous teacher. Perhaps, in the balance of head and heart, a practical romantic emerges.