Say that there are some decent reasons for two people to be together, even some excellent ones, but not really sufficient ones? What is likely to happen then? A settling. The couple will settle for what they do have—and that settling will have its consequences.
Maybe they will settle into a cool, distant relationship. Picture two university professors living at either end of a railroad flat in some university town. They can talk circles around their lack of warmth without producing the least bit of kindness or heat.
Maybe they will settle into a dramatic relationship, where each partner feels unjustly treated and makes that dissatisfaction known. Dishes fly, accusations fly, and the very hysteria of the relationship keeps it together, all that noise acting as a kind of glue.
Maybe they will settle into a despairing relationship, where one or both partners feel emotionally and existentially under the weather. Maybe they will call this “depression” and maybe both will take antidepressants, settling for chemicals.
Maybe this settling will prove adequate. Maybe it will prove enough. Maybe it will prove palatable. Maybe the good reasons for being together will on balance feel just about sufficient. Maybe it won’t feel like settling but like something better.
But more likely it will prove impossible for a kirist to just settle. If so, then the upshot of a refusal to settle may be spending long periods of time—months, years and even decades—alone. Not able to find someone genuinely “in it” with her, she decides not to settle.
All of these outcomes are possible: no relationships, decent enough relationships, strained relationships, and the occasional excellent one. And what will characterize that excellent one? It will look like it has been built out of a certain twenty building blocks. Here are the first five of them. We’ll continue with these building blocks next Saturday.
Building block one: each partner cares for the other’s solitude. It must be all right and more than all right that each partner gets to spend significant time pursuing his or her own activities and the requirements of his or her own inner life.
Building block two: the couple pays mindful attention to the maintenance of emotional security. Each partner is not only aware of the other’s feelings but takes them into account and actively works to help his partner feel good rather than bad.
Building block three: the couple pays mindful attention to the maintenance of meaning. Partners understand that meaning comes and goes, that meaning crises happen, and that sometimes changes must be made for meaning to be restored.
Building block four: the couple pays mindful attention to the maintenance of passion. Partners will not let themselves become too busy for sex and love, too tired for sex and love, or too disinterested in sex and love.
Building block five: the couple aims to create at least occasional happiness. They ask questions of each other like “What would make you happy?” and alert their partner to their current needs by announcing, “This would make me happy.”
More next Saturday! Stay tuned.