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About thirteen years ago while I was working at Lucent Technologies, I went to a training class.  At that time, Lucent was a huge company and it wasn’t unusual to attend an internal class and not know a single person there.  At lunch, I joined another classmate I had just met, T. K. Srinivas, a man who happened to be Indian.  During the conversation, in my typical fashion, which is “intellectually curious plus outgoing minus any sense of boundaries,” I asked T.K. if he had had an arranged marriage.  He said he had, and of course my follow up question was even more intrusive:  What was it like to marry someone you had just met?

T.K. was kind enough to continue having lunch and chatting with me, despite the fact that I had just met him and was prying into his personal life.  As he answered my question, he said something very interesting, something upon which I still frequently reflect.  I am going to state it here and hope that I do his words justice…

In the Indian culture with respect to arranged marriages, people recognize that being married is a partnership, much like a business.  You come together because you have the same goals and the same values, and then you work to build a life and family with each other.  You focus on discovering all of the things that make your partner lovable, because everyone is lovable in so many ways.

I immediately saw the contrast between what T.K. described and what I had been living.  In my world, we date by a process of elimination.  We meet someone, get to know them, and, when we find something about them we don’t like, we end it and move on.  A few months prior to my conversation with T.K., I had actually broken up with someone because he said almost everything twice (No really, it was very annoying.  No really, it was very annoying).  But in fairness, it wasn’t just me.  What about Seinfeld?  Remember the woman he dumped because she ate her peas one at a time?  And there were many other examples of people I knew personally who broke up with a potential partner because he or she wasn’t “The One.”  In our culture, we hunt for a perfect person, a soul mate, someone with whom we will live Happily-Ever-After.  The search itself is the challenge – after all, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find that Prince – but once that wonderful and amazing person has been located, all of the problems are solved and the rest is easy.  As Nipsey Russell would say, “Riiiight.”

It was like a light bulb went off in my head.  Of course!  We are all going about this the wrong way!  Focusing on our perfect match makes us miss how many wonderful people are out there.  More importantly, expecting a partner to be perfect likely leads to failed relationships and disappointment in the end, because no one can live up to such unrealistic expectations.  I started to notice examples of an approach to love and marriage that was generally backwards:  romantic comedies (which I rarely watch unless I am pre-menstrual or hung-over) which always end when the two people wind up together; and dating game shows, like The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, where someone searches for a person to pair off with and the resulting relationship is just a footnote in a future issue of US Magazine.  In both cases, the difficult search is the point and, once complete, the story is over.  But in reality, once you commit to someone is when the real work starts.  I realized that a myth had been perpetrated on our society and, to a large degree, I blamed the Brothers Grimm.

The implications for this learning are even broader than romantic relationships.  Imagine what would happen if you focused your attention on the lovable aspects of those with whom you have relationships, instead of what annoys you?  What if you didn’t notice your son’s socks on the floor but instead enjoyed how he always offers to help with the dishes?  What if you let an unsolicited opinion from your mother slide, but appreciated that she brings food for you every time she visits?  What if you spent less time caring that one of your employees always comes in at 9:05am and instead valued that he is self-directed and always completes his work before it’s due?  In other words, what if we stopped expecting people to be perfect because they are already perfect enough?

Maybe I am an idealist, and perhaps what I am describing is an unattainable utopia.  I know from my own experience that it is often easier said than done.  Even so, I believe it to be a worthwhile pursuit to focus my attention on the lovable qualities of the people around me, because everyone is lovable in so many ways.  Thanks T.K.!

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About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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