The Key to Staying in Love

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By Patia Braithwaite

I have a secret: I’ve never believed in marriage.

People find this odd because my parents appear to have this wonderful and successful marriage. I never feared them getting a divorce or anything like that. Yet, for a long time, I just didn’t believe in the institution. It seemed too permanent to me. How can I know now what I will want for the rest of my life? It’s 8:30am as I type this, and I don’t know what I’m going to eat at 9 am.

When I was dating my ex-boyfriend, Dr. Dolittle (I’m going to start giving these guys names…the ex’s are piling up), I spent so much time being uncertain.

I asked my mother, “How do you know? How do you know you want to get married?”

“You don’t know,” she said.

I was at the table with both her and father sipping tea and eating bagels. This is their morning ritual. My father, at the time, was silent — he doesn’t really do well with emotions.

Now, I should note that whenever I’d asked people this question before, folks almost always said, “Ohh, you just know.”  Maybe that’s true. I’ll let you know when I get there, but that’s not what my mother told me.

“That’s bullshit,” my mother said. “You don’t ‘just know’ anything. What you do know is you want to try.”

At the time, her notion seemed ludicrous. The idea that you would link your entire life to someone on a “hope” or a “try” seemed dangerous and irrational. Furthermore, I don’t want to replicate my parents’ marriage. It works really well for them, but I want something different, and so her insight made me more fearful of commitment.

I thought: There has to be something to “know,” some tangible evidence that this is the person “for” you.

The truth is, three years later, I think my mother is more right than wrong (hi mom). I STILL believe there is a “soul knowing,” a part of you that feels like you are exactly where you are supposed to be, or a sense of intrinsic connection (though that doesn’t necessarily mean forever), but lately I’m realizing connection alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. More and more, I’m understanding commitments (not just romantic ones) are about a sincere and profound willingness to try.

A (soul) partner isn’t the magic elixir to your life. I don’t think that you look at them and discover that you’re magically equipped to deal w/ their shit, plus your shit, plus the random shit of life. They don’t hold your hand and make you less of a wounded mess. On the contrary, partners kick up shit, trigger insecurities (not purposely; that’s just mean) and shake you outside of yourself. They expose the broken bits and then — my guess is — you both must try to heal.

So even with the most passionate soul connection, there has to be a MUTUAL willingness to try…because 37 years later, whether you are soulmates or not, it comes down to two m-effers at a kitchen table eating onion bagels and talking about the leaky roof. And in those moments where one of you hasn’t yet researched a good roofer, or in the moments where your soulboo is a guy who smells like balls or a girl who hasn’t shaved her legs …you’ve both gotta WANT to try.

The truth is this: we at some point, almost inevitably, forget the person with whom we fell in love. We take loved ones for granted, and sometimes even soulmates, look like assholes.

And that’s when we have to try, and in trying, we take the risk of failing. And so some days, trying means not killing each other, and other times trying gives us energy to squint our eyes so we can actually see the person we “know” we’re meant to be with…

And some days, trying is just shutting the f*@k up.

But, if we can do that, if we can all manage to try…I’d bet this committment thing gets a little easier.

Patia Braithwaite is a Brooklyn-based relationship writer with over seven years of journalistic experience including a stint on the Emmy award-winning production team of the Rachael Ray Show. Her print credits include: Yahoo.com, Bounce Back, Florida InsideOut, and The Coral Gables Gazette. Braithwaite is working on a non-fiction book based on her theory that how men see god gives insight into their romantic relationships. She writes about this topic and more at MenMyselfandGod.com

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  • Smilez_920

    Try= how my effort will you put in even when you feel like giving up.

    I think the “You just know” and “you don’t know” are both right. I believe you’ll just know when that’s the person you should be with (now or forever). I think the “You don’t know” refers to the situation and what can or will happen in the future. My dad said people in my generation take everything to the extreme. If a relationship doesn’t work out then its “he aint ish or she aint ish”, if they see a positive/good relationship we “romanticize it” like these two people never have issues. Relationships have peaks (highs), plains (regular days) and valleys (lows). To me staying in love requires a couple to enjoy the peaks, be comfortable and content in the plains, and be willing to “try” put in effort when its low.

    • Bree

      Cosign Smilez….some people do just know, some people don't know jack, they just know what they want right now, and for them thats enough. Part of it is knowing what is and will be enough for you.
      Also, many people stay together for variety of reasons. Even in our parents and grandparents day just because people stayed together forever more often than not, it wasn't always for love.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan.

    Sometimes it comes down to managing expectations, understanding what you have and appreciating it for what it is rather than what it ought and should be. Not necessarily settling but comfort. Without comfort you are simply filling yourself with insecurity or resentment that will eventually manifest itself

  • DMarioIsajerk

    i believe it is a conscious choice to stay in love just as much as it is to stay with someone you are not in love with.

  • Rich

    With regards to the "willingness to try", I'm not sure how marriage is different from any other endeavor in life:

    When you go to college, do you KNOW that you're walking out with a degree? No, you don't KNOW anything. You could flunk out, have financial difficulty and have to leave, have calamity strike at home, or anything else could cause you to leave that school without degree in hand….but it's your willigness to TRY that causes you to apply and attend…

    When you land a job, do you KNOW that that job is gonna be a stepping stone to something better? Nope. You could get fired on your first day, you could quit on your first day, or you could be stuck at the job forever, and ever (Amen). But, the willingness to try is what made you appy for the job to begin with….

    So therefore, marriage shouldn't be any different…no one "KNOW" anything….but nothing beats a failure but a try….

  • http://glippost.wordpress.com Darrk Gable

    You sure you’re not married? This was pretty poignant. Even with the trying, there has to be a commitment to the “try”. If one or neither is willing to have the commitment part of it as non-negotiable, then failure will arise.

    • Sapphron

      I was wondering the same thing. I thought she was going to say "oh and I'm married now and I kinda know what my mom was saying" lol. But yeah very poignant.

    • MaggK

      "Even with the trying, there has to be a commitment to the "try"."<— THIS!!!

  • Uncle Ray

    "Sometimes even soulmates, look like assholes." lol, lol. Thats the god damn truth. Thats line is funny as hell.

  • http://Howdoyou.com Howdoyou

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