Till Death Do Us Part: TorahCycle Chayei Sarah

Chayei Sarah 2013People with relationship issues tend to fall into one of two categories: How do I find and keep a good one? How do I change or dump a bad one? There are auxiliary questions of romance relating to finding/losing/mourning one’s true love. And a zillion issues related to communications, money, messiness, honesty, household chores, and bloopers.

I do know a handful of remarkable relationships. The sort we were weaned to believe in. The decades-long partnerships where both halves have grown and evolved in love and support of one another. Sure, they argue and disagree on matters great and small, but the testing anneals the bond rather than breaking it. It’s admirable and enviable.

Why don’t the rest of us have it? Why’s it so hard to find and nurture the connections that challenge, nourish, and enhance our bodies and souls in equal measure?

I wish I had easy answers.

Every single person who’s looking for a relationship has their own version of “the list.” Qualities that Mr. or Ms. Unknown will have as basic part of their core DNA, lifestyle, and character. The pretty much standard ones (in an order reflecting any given moment) are sensuality, integrity, intelligence, spirituality, communications, financial stability, and senses of humor, honor, curiosity, and common sense. A friend one told me one of hers was “forthright,” which I interpret in part as an absence of passive aggressive or whiny tendencies. The ability to disagree and not hold a grudge or desire to prove one’s point.

My own summary is Someone who appreciates my best qualities and tolerates my worst ones with patience and humor. (And hopefully agree on which is which.

Because let’s face it, we have gnarly places. Ways we respond when life doesn’t go our way. Attitudes and behaviors that make us and/or our loved ones crazy. I’m not talking about serious maladies like substance abuse, or petty annoyances like knuckle-cracking. More retreating to a gloomy corner or the frustrating ward-off of cheerful denial. The kinds of traits that make you feel a loved one is either remote or clueless.

This week’s reading has a servant sent on a mission to choose Isaac’s wife. What seals the deal is her compassion. That’s setting the bar at the right place. Because when the hot sensuality is less frequent and times are tough, what you want, or should, is someone who has the grace to approach life (and you) with equanimity and a sense of caring.

For your sake I hope you’ve had at least one great love. The kind that shakes your soul to the core. A red-hot, zappy, can’t keep your hands off one another that lasts until the end. A love you so much my heart hurts kind of romance.

But I also hope you’ve met the person who satisfies your list. The one you want standing by you in the daylight, both when life seems hard and you can’t make it through alone, and in times when you’re happy and excited about the possibilities life is offering.

Partners like that should be well-loved. I hope you are one and appreciate or find yours.

Let’s Talk Relationships: TorahCycle Chayei Sarah

Chayei Sarah 2013

When people kvetch or dream, the topic of their soul mate, true love, partner, or the absence of same is often high on their list of joys or laments. There are people who are well-loved and happy in their romantic life. Mazel tov. Other folks who are single and looking, hoping, and praying for love. Yet others partnered, but feel uncertain, taking  inventory and weighing possibilities.

There’s a great Hebrew song, Dodi Li, with the refrain, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. It’s sung about a relationship with the Divine, but it’s also about earthly love. Ditto the Song of Songs, evocative prose about passion, for one’s beloved and God.

Being loved matters. It’s embedded in our psyches. We yearn for its bountiful blessings. It’s about sensuality (where it often begins). It’s also about creating friendship, family, and ultimately about caring and support. A depth and duration of witnessing.

That’s the basis of this week’s reading: the death of a mother and the finding of a bride. In both cases the women are wise, compassionate, enduring, and loving. Not the first four words in most match.com ads.

Some folks genuinely prefer to be single. Others can’t endure a month alone before coupling again. And a rare few met their life love early and stayed together. Most of us, however, have bounced unevenly through dating and relationships, and have a history of base hits, maybe even a home run, but also lots of swings and misses.

Is it because we’re looking for the wrong things?

The complex algorithms of cyber-dating notwithstanding, creating a good, strong, long-lasting relationship is work. Fact: I also write an advice column. Most people’s relationship questions boil down to two: How do I find and keep a good one? How do I dump or change a bad one?

My answer: look within. Look within yourself and look within your partner, prospective or actual. Look for a depth of heart and soul that makes you want to share your deepest truths. That makes you feel seen, accepted, and loved, as well as passionately alive.

Most folks go partner shopping with “lists.” Requirements and deal breakers. Everything from financial security to table manners, looks to profession. But nothing substitutes for chemistry. That sense of recognition you feel when you realize someone’s gong to be important in your life, whether it’s a teacher or a colleague, let alone someone to date.

Because we’re here to do that for one another. To inspire, to help, to teach, to excite, to listen, to share, to share laughter and adventures, and to say what needs to be said. To witness one another’s highest aspirations and deepest pain. To be there in triumph and in despair. As needed, without being asked. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

This week think about what you most value in your relationships. I’m talking family of choice and of origin. What do you care about most in the people you love? What do those who love you love most about you?

Try to be more of all those qualities, towards yourself and others. The practice will change you, in good and lasting ways.