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Silky and Clark Gable on their honeymoon aboard Matson Lines’ S.S. Lurline bound for Hawaii, December 1949

This week I ran onto a list of “relationship requirements” that I’d written about a year ago, after my most recent break up. Everyone—from friends to self-help gurus–tell you that this is a worthy endeavor, but I had always balked. It felt like a grocery list for your soul mate, lacking spontaneity and magic. I don’t care what color hair he has (if any), what work he does or how much money he makes (so long as he’s fulfilled). But in the midst of my despair last year a friend loaned me a particularly insightful lecture series on relationships and it too advised making the list. Only this time it was more specific to qualities and aspects I require in a relationship, not the person. That was somehow easier to swallow and felt less manipulative, so I went for it.

Talk about getting CLEAR! Perhaps it was easier for me to compose since I’d just gotten out of a relationship and could effortlessly name the things I had cherished and the things I did NOT want from my next romance. Reading over the list these many moons later felt like a huge confirmation. I had not written them in anger or revenge. I had written them in HOPE and in the knowledge that without certain aspects in my most intimate relationship, I could not be truly happy in it. Good to know.

In one of my recent posts I asked if longevity was the measure of true love. This week my dear friend and editor extraordinaire Ruth shared with me that she and her husband have hit a milestone. They’ve now been married as long as they’ve been apart. She confessed that she felt deep love and connection were naturally required, but that it was also luck and timing. She cited several instances where, if one or the other of them had made a different choice or been in another place in time, their union might not have have happened. So real, lasting, transcendent love is simultaneously a mutual feeling and commitment, a bit of work and a complete crap shoot dependent on timing. No wonder there are so few really solid couples around!

So in some ways, romance hasn’t really changed much through the ages. It’s still about chemistry, commitment and luck. But I still wish Silky had had access to the kind of psychology and self-realization we have today. In an era of status quo and archaic notions of the roles of women and men, it seems many couples were doomed to failure. In any age, we romantics can use all the help we can get.

I have finally begun to look forward in relationship. After a year of looking backwards to try and figure out the last one, I’m looking to the future with the wisdom (and caution) of experience. With modern tools, a desire for personal evolution and intimacy, just think what I might build with someone!