I was recently reading “The New York Times” when I came across this wonderful essay by Bruce Feiler. The essay is an excerpt from his newly published book “The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us”, a book exploring Adam and Eve as the original love story and relationship saga, and how they continue to shape our deepest feelings about relationships, family, and togetherness.
Feiler uses the story of Adam and Eve to demonstrate the fundamental misunderstanding that many of us have about love.
He posits that while many people look to the story of Adam and Eve as a cautionary and somewhat-tragic tale, it is actually (or also) about the journey of a monogamous relationship. The story that proceeds ‘happily ever after,’ the story that happens after a couple leaves Eden (a.k.a. the honeymoon stage) and enters into the real world and all the tragedies and heartbreak that can accompany that.
As Feiler writes, “Our founding story is not about one person; it’s about two: learning to live together, learning to be one.”
So what can Adam and Eve teach us about learning to live as one? How can we create a partnership that will endure the test of time?
First, Feiler says that most of us have the wrong idea of love. We think that love is what we actually find at the beginning of a relationship; the cocktail of hormones and adrenaline that makes the honeymoon stage so passionate and exciting. But if that’s your definition of love, you are always going to be disappointed, because that stage will inevitably end at some point. And what rises up in its place? The story we tell ourselves about our relationships.
Feiler writes, “…love is not a moment in time; it’s the passage of time. It’s the long-term practice of reinvention, reconciliation and renewal. Love is the act of constantly revising your own love story.”
In other words, love is not something we feel, it’s something we do, but all of our actions stem from our thoughts. Our thoughts about ourselves. About our partners. About our relationships. That’s what creates the lens through which you view your partner and your relationship.
If the story you are telling yourself about your marriage is, “The sizzle is gone. We are bored of each other. We get on each other’s nerves,” that’s the story you are going to create in your life every day. If you cast yourself in the role of a disappointed, unappreciated partner, you are going to have a disappointing, unappreciative partner.
Does this mean that we can simply create a story of a ‘happy ending’ and never have a relationship worry every again? Of course not. But if you stop expecting to be a passive recipient of love and start participating as a co-creator in your love story, remarkable things can happen in your relationship.
And here’s another thing to remember about your love story: Your work on your relationship is never ‘finished.’ Your love story with your partner doesn’t end with you dancing off into the sunset together (or even losing your version of Eden together). It has the potential to change every moment. It is not a finished tapestry, but a work in creation; In co-creation.
You each play a part in creating this tapestry. You each bring your own needles and threads to the cloth. Your separate belief systems will dictate the way you view the world, the colors you bring to the tapestry, the line your needle takes.
But even though you are each working from your own separate position, together you are creating something that joins you as one. We have the individual realities we create as people, and the relationship reality we co-create as lovers.
Our human experience lies in the middle, in the intersection of these 3 realities. This is where our true heart lies and what I believe is one of our purposes for being here. This is where the potential to constantly expand in love, forgiveness, compassion, communication lies.
My industrious 11-year-old son Jackson helped to create a Venn diagram to help bring this idea to life:
As Feiler so beautifully puts it:
“We describe love as something passive and fleeting then surprised when it goes away. But love is not a moment in time; it’s the passage of time. It’s the long-term practice of reinvention, reconciliation and renewal. Love is the act of constantly revising your own love story.”
Wow. What a powerful and illuminating idea. So, tell me, what love story are you going to write with your partner today?