George Miller, a famous psychology professor from Princeton University, determined the human mind can only remember about seven pieces of information. This can’t be right. When it comes to romance and dating, I can only remember three. It could be my ADD. It’s also likely that, as a long time bachelor now married, I have only gained three pieces of insight from some slowly wrought trial and error. Remember how they say men mature slowly? Yeah, they forgot to mention the learning curve never ends. So here’s my 2 cents:
- Faith: I had a long career as a single man (with varying degrees of success and failure—okay, failure). And when I think about why many of my relationships fizzled it’s because I lacked one thing: faith in the relationship—and more importantly, faith in myself (i.e. “why would someone want to love me?”). What does faith really mean? Part of it means accepting that life is unsettled, messy and unfinished. Embrace the surprises that life has to offer, and focus on just reinforcing the bond with your loved one. Don’t let fear of the unknown stunt your efforts. Know that real love can endure anything you throw at it. That’s faith. If you love them, believe in it, and be okay with not being able to control every aspect of your romantic destiny.
- Judgment: Faith is meaningless if you’re dating someone you know is bad for you; someone who has no interest in really working to be happy, or, especially, someone who’s just dating you for sex to fill a lonely void. To be in a successful relationship you have to really believe that you deserve it. If you do, you will attract someone who wants the same thing. Yes, it’s easier said then done. And it requires, in some cases, years of patience and fine-tuned discrimination. But never give your heart to someone you know doesn’t want to be in a relationship. You’ll only be hurting both of you. If they say “I’m only going to hurt you in the end” believe them–they will. And you’re no Dr. Phil, so don’t try to reform them.
- Forgiveness: My own relationship with my wife is kind of easy. I adore her. Does she annoy me sometimes? Hell, yeah! But I always let the love between us take charge. And that means not holding onto things that will only fester down the road. Love should always be the reference point. I ask myself: “Would I rather be right, or happy?” Being right is great if you’re a mathematician, but not if you’re a lover. This doesn’t mean I roll over every time. If I’m upset I deal with it. But again, let the love absorb the mistakes you both make—and never hold on to anger because it will only be toxic. If you accept people are fallible then you understand the most important thing in the world: yourself.
About Jod Kaftan: A long recovering bachelor (some would say “lout”) who decided to make the leap and marry the girl he loved, Jod Kaftan is still figuring it all out–if only he’d follow his own advice. Jod is a contributing editor at the LA Times Magazine. He has contributed to Rolling Stone, Salon, The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Follow Jod on Twitter at Jodspeed!