NOTE: As I've been working on a new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader, I haven't posted in the last week or so. This post contains no bourbon content. It is something I wrote for some friends about 12 years ago, at their request, on the occasion of their marriage. They're still married, if that tells you anything.
Considering my track record, my first thought was to suggest that you study my recommendations and then do exactly the opposite.
But maybe I have learned a few things.
Trust. There is nothing more important. If I am certain of anything it is that. To be with a person you can trust completely, that is the only reason to even be in a relationship. To have such people in your life in any capacity is a treasure.
Figuring out if you can trust another person is not nearly as important as being trustworthy yourself.
The best way to resolve conflicts is also the easiest: give in. State your position, explain why you feel the way you do, then let it go. Compromise quickly and generously, or simply fold altogether, then forget about it.
That doesn't mean be wishy-washy. You can have an opinion. You can even argue, just don't care about winning. Yes, someone is keeping score, but not the way you think.
No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to be too nice. Kindness does not come naturally or easily to anyone. It is counter-intuitive, you have to work at it. There is no chance that you will overdo it.
Gentleness, patience; also good.
Understanding, on the other hand, is overrated. Acceptance is more satisfying and conducive to happiness than understanding.
Shut up and listen. Of course you have to talk at some point, but the risk that you will listen too much or talk too little is very small.
Other very small risks: that you will laugh too much, smile too much, hug too much, have too much fun, see too much beauty or hear too much music. You can, however, eat too much cake.
Events you do not control will always turn out to be more interesting than events you do control. Also more entertaining, educational and, yes, more frightening, but still better.
Despite all indications to the contrary, your partner will not be improved if he or she becomes more like you. Do not try to understand why this is so. Instead, relax and enjoy the ride.
In fact, that’s probably the single best advice I can give: relax and enjoy the ride. That doesn't mean be passive. You should be engaged and involved, but also utterly open to life’s surprises. Another very small risk: that you will be too open to new experiences.
What about love? That’s the prerequisite. You won’t get very far with any of this other stuff without love. Love is the presence of all things good and the absence of all things bad. Trust, kindness, acceptance, listening – those are behaviors that require your attention. Love takes care of itself.
Thank you (names deleted for privacy) for prompting me to think about these matters. I don’t mean to suggest that I successfully follow all of my own advice all of the time, but right or wrong these are the lessons life has taught me so far.
Be nice. Have fun. Prepare to be surprised.
Chuck Cowdery, February 22, 2003