In a relationship, there's only so much you can do to make it work. No matter how much love you have to give, make sure your partner meets you halfway.
Writer Isabel Allende told me, about fifteen years ago. Back then, I couldn’t really value her words, but I did write about it in one of my books and thought about it often. In the last few years, I started to appreciate the deep truth of it. In her study, she told me: ‘I can do all I can to make half of my marriage work. The rest is up to him. If he doesn’t do it, I can’t do 70 percent. It doesn’t work like that. You take care of your half and hand over the rest.’
You can only tend to your half of a relationship. In the long run, that’s all you can do, otherwise balance is destroyed and you’ll have to work too hard. ‘I love you so much, I have enough love in me for both of us’ is an unwholesome plan. The opposite is also true: you can’t do less than half of it and expect your partner to do the rest, because they will grow tired and disappointed.
Love is a bridge
Imagine a love relationship as a bridge over the water between the two of you. It’s a connection made of rope and board, you have to get on it on your way to them. You’ll never know whether they will walk your way, but every day, you get on the bridge. There’s trust, love, understanding and attention in your backpack and you’re walking from the shore to the middle of the gangway to meet them. When they are there, you’re able to exchange love. But some days, they’re not there, for whatever reason. You will keep coming, until they’ve stayed on their shore for too long and you’ve become more and more dispirited. At that point, you’ll have to give up. One day, there’ll be someone else who will head towards you.
Make sure to pack your bag
No one should have to convince their loved one to walk up to the middle of the bridge. No one should have to drag them along, no one should have to wait endlessly until they appear. You are responsible for your half of the bridge. You make sure you’ve packed your bag. You’re not responsible for their half and their backpack.
Leave the rest in their hands
I remember how Isabel Allende put her hand on my arm when I left. Her bracelets tingled. There was a sparkle in her eyes, but her tone was maternal. ‘Take care of your half and leave the rest in their hands.’ I nodded, but in the two relationships that followed, I would do exactly the opposite. Now I know that it’s impossible to save anybody, or teach them how to love you. I also know how wonderful it feels to step on that bridge every day, and meet the person you love halfway.
Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Justin Follis