Choosing, not settling

Life is complicated. Few things, indeed, are perfect. Certainly no relationships meet that standard. So what does it mean to accept imperfections, or even differences, in another person? And does acceptance mean that you settle?

We’re initially drawn to others for the positives: the things we have in common, the personality traits or the physical characteristics that we admire in someone. Humor. Kindness. Creativity. Attractiveness. Love of adventure. Intelligence. Emotional maturity. Energy. Ambition. In the beginning, it’s all good. There is excitement in each connection, in every conversation. There’s so much to be explored, to be revealed.

In the beginning of a relationship, there’s big talk. Life, death, history. It seems like you could talk forever.

But eventually, the everyday crowds in, and the business of life takes over. After 29 years of marriage, we don’t tell each other our history. We don’t have to; we’ve lived it together. And we long ago shared our opinions and beliefs of many of the big life questions. We’ve had some evolution over time. But still, for the most part, we know who we are as individuals, and who the other person is.

We have some differences in our views. Differences in what we deem important. We have this conversation: have we just settled? Are we in a rut of relationship? We shouldn’t be clones. My life coach says, “If two are the same, one is unnecessary.” Meaning, unless you’re into having a spare of everything, you don’t need two people who are exactly the same. The differences add the spice, the variety, make the relationship unique among relationships.

I believe that in the end, we choose the significant others in our lives as much for their faults as for their good traits. Yes, at first, we’re drawn to someone by what we have in common and by their positive qualities. But after we see the negatives peek through, there’s a different process that occurs. Whether we recognize it or not, whether it is done subconsciously or not, there is a second process of selection, and this one is based on the negatives. We begin to determine what we can live with. As in, yes, there are things about Rob that annoy me, that irritate me. There are ways we are different. And I know, because over the years, he’s given me a hint or two about this, that there are things about me that frustrate him. I am not perfect for him. He is not perfect for me.

But I have chosen, not settled. Long ago, I saw the heart of this person that drew me. We were babies then, not even out of college. I don’t know how we beat the odds to survive this long. Somehow we did. It hasn’t been easy. We’re not perfect together. But we have created a dance between the two of us. It’s a unique dance, one that only we two know the steps to. I know when he’s having a bad day and needs quiet. I see him when he’s singing to oldies with the music cranked up so I worry the neighbors will complain. He knows when I am in sync, at peace. He sees me when I’m troubled and unhappy. He bears with me.

He’s turning 50 in a few weeks. We talk about a birthday plan. Should we go somewhere? Just the two of us? What does he want? I tell him I don’t care. It’s his special day. But I will choose to be with him, wherever he is. I chose long ago, and I’m still choosing.

It’s good now and then to revisit this in my mind. To know that I choose. To know I am not settling for what’s in front of me, just because the relationship exists.

As you think about your life, your commitments, I wish you the same peace, the same assurance. I wish for you the the certainty that comes from choosing for yourself, with full knowledge of the good, the bad, and the unique. And remember, if two are the same, one is unnecessary.

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