We're incompatible, darling... will you marry me?

Did you hear the news?

Divorce rates in the United States of America are going down, down, down. And in other, completely unrelated news (insert sarcasm font, here), we have boldly entered an age of hookups and temporary, transient relationships, where a long-term, relational connection is hoped-after but largely despaired-of, the potential byproduct of that ineffable, rom-commified dream known as "compatibility."

Even as gays and lesbians fight for the right to the legal protections of marriage, the culture at large moves away from marriage and toward shacking up. Marriage is yearned after still, yes, by the readers of bridal magazines and watchers of several choice "reality" TV shows. But on an emotional level, a vast majority perceives it as a chimera -- a myth which gets exploded almost as often as it is avowed.

The disposable culture we invented and exported post-WWII in order to build our unsustainable growth-monster-economy has caught up with our deepest relationships. Now we've nothing but disposable friendships, disposable lovers, disposable people. 

In light of this, I would like to explore for a moment the very concept of "compatibility" itself.

To do this, I propose we ask if this idea is, itself, a chimera -- and if in fact everybody is actually compatible with everybody else. And incompatible. At the same time.

Lunacy, I know.

It's a concept I first explored fictionally in my short story, "Fear, a Love Story" (click the link to read), and I think it may have some merit.  Not only that, but I think it's possible that on a subconscious level, at least, we are aware that it has merit, and that our current cultural proclivity toward disposable relationships is less derivative of Disney's "princessification" of relationships than it is the cause of it.

I think we are aware, deep down, that relationships are hard work... and we just don't like this. As a culture, we have become addicted to the idea that Good Things Ought to be Effortless. The internet has spread our self-gratification culture to the point where it has infected our souls.

It is frustrating to note that I, too, seem to have caught the "it shouldn't be this hard" bug, and don't rightly know how to cure it.

Perhaps an altered understanding might help.

Here, then, is my two-pronged proposal: First, that I begin to see any claims of "incompatibility" I catch myself making as being byproducts of my inherent selfishness and laziness. And second, that I begin to see true compatibility as being a byproduct of the ego-less self at work. Which is to say, the mysterious place where humility converges with willpower.

If this were the case, I could look at any problems in a romantic relationship and say that a higher quotient of incompatibility probably results from one or both partners having too high a quotient of selfishness; or one or both partners perceiving too high a quotient of selfishness, or one or both partners doing things (intentionally or otherwise) that activate the other partner's quotient of selfishness. And then, theoretically, I could find a way out.

In some ways, this whole proposal feels like nonsense to me.

I have known and dated a number of different women in my life, and there have been obvious differences between us in terms of our respective values and goals -- differences which have varied wildly from woman to woman, altering in turn the degree of difficulty in each relationship.

In a perfect, ideal world, the degree of difficulty would not be a primary determinant factor in my ability to practice the selfless kind of love necessary to elevate said relationships toward ever-increasing levels of mutual fulfillment (as if that were the point -- another essay entirely).

But this is not an ideal world and I am most definitely not an ideal person. I have only so much energy and willpower to expend, and given that it is extremely important to me to expend a lot of my energy in other, non-romantic-relational directions (such as my creative work, or my relationships with my siblings, parents, and son), it seems unkind to punish myself with what may very well be an impossible expectation.

I am left, as always, to flounder around in the imperfection -- in the place where my aspirations hold hands with my dreams and believe their way out of an admittedly inescapable reality, toward something that more closely resembles hope. Or faith. Or love.

I do not know how to do this. 

I have tried, and I have sucked at it.

I do believe, however, that I may have latched onto a key principle that could serve me well as I swim against the current that would have me treating people as things -- as objects for the fulfillment of my immediate desires.

I think that the antidote to selfishness is gratitude and humility. 

Gratitude, because in the act of vocalizing and thinking and expressing my gratitude for the Bounteous Treasure inherent in Being Alive, I am able to momentarily look outside the consciousness-of-deprivation inherent in all desire. In gratitude is freedom from slavery to the ever-demanding self.

In humility (which is symbiotically intertwined with gratitude), I believe, there is a willingness towards release. In humility I can relinquish all the absurd things I do to fabricate a false sense of control. In humility, my eyes are off of me, and I become free to look Other-ward. Not just in relationships of a romantic nature, but in relationships of all kind.

Gratitude must generally be directed away from myself to shift my perspective. 
Humility is perhaps the inward reflection of that outward expression.

So I am grateful, today. Grateful for life, health, family, and beauty. Grateful for freedom and love. For my son. For hope. I am grateful for these things (because this makes sense to me) in the Otherly direction of the Ineffable Divine. By which I mean God.

In writing this gratitude, I feel it more acutely. It becomes more real to me, and as it does, the un-reality of the deprivations of what I do not have (most notably for this discussion: a fulfilling, long-term romantic relationship) drift away.

This sensation won't last... not for long.

But what does?

- - -

*Note: I put a lot of time into giving you this ad-free reading experience. If this post means something to you, you are more than welcome to pay me back by linking the bejeebers out of it on your social medias. And/or better yet, you could go pick up a copy of my book, "IMMORTALITY (and other short stories)." Dankegratzithanks.


  1. As a young woman (say 17)[!!!] my mother explained to me that, "It does not really matter WHO you marry, darling. The point is that you have to WORK to be able to live and love that person." Dang! She was right. Since then, I have agreed more and more with her sentiment, and though she was not a religious person, or follower of Jesus, she got it right. Thanks, Mum.


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