No Escape

LONDON—TRAVELING WITH YOUR BELOVED is fun and loaded with opportunity for argument.

Where togetherness at home is treasured as intimacy, close quarters while traveling make a crucible that heats stylistic differences to their flashpoints. Away from your routine and with no escape from one another, it is easy to trigger holiday meltdown. On the other hand, refusing to react unthinkingly might let you discover an unpredictable treasure in the combustion.

The secret is understanding how easy it is to argue over absolutely nothing. As my beloved and I reminded each other in Paris during these inevitable clashes, relax-vous; or, since we’ve since crossed the channel, let’s say it in British, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”

In London, we saw a play called “Art” about a man who buys an expensive all-white painting. The owner is enthralled by his new purchase, whereas his best friend is appalled at squandering a fortune on what he sees as “junk.” In a flash their decades-long friendship is savaged by insults and hurtful truths while the qualities that held it together all those years are forgotten.

The dialogue sounded way familiar.

It was impossible to watch the play without thinking on how common it is to become petulant with friends, lovers, and family by arguing over things that simply don’t matter. The way out is to learn—through mutual practice—that most things couples suddenly clash over are not worth the energy. The sooner we can see such squabbles as ridiculous the sooner we can return to reality. The argument is nothing but a diversion.

The reality is that coupled partners love each other and have made a commitment. The unpredictable lessons glimpsed during flare-ups have to do with discovering yet another way in which you react with the person you’ve chosen to spend your life with. It’s a mutual lesson.

In the play, the relationship is restored through an act of trust when the friend who thinks the painting worthless is invited to drawn on it with a magic marker, thus ruining what the other person sees as his priceless property. Real life may or may not be so dramatic, but next time you feel like killing your other half, take care you don’t kill yourself as well.

Lovers are a mix of similarities and differences; it is equally true to say that opposites attract as it is to call lovers peas in a pod. I said before that the beloved is a magic mirror who tells us we are the fairest of them all. But they are a dark mirror, too, that also reflects our faults. It is easy to get angry and annoyed when we see our bad parts, but there is no escape from the mirror.

Your heart knew what it was doing when you fell in love, but it takes time for the mind to catch up. Until the ego learns to get out of the way and relax-â-vous, it’s always being surprised. The mind is slow to learn what the swift heart beholds at every turn, and from this truth there is no escape either.

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