Updated: Aug 9, 2020
In his TED talk, Alain de Botton wakes us up to a seemingly brutal reality, where there is no such thing as "meant-to-be-perfect" relationship. His logic is surprisingly intuitive. Because everyone is a "work in progress", it is supposed to be difficult to be with anyone despite the fact that we have fallen in love with them. To be with someone, we need to recognize that, from time to time, we may love and hate them at the same time. It is the power of love, which allows us to accommodate both strength and weakness of the other person.
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The key to a functional relationship is negotiating our imperfection every day. Only through this negotiation, we gladly accept the need to become more compatible with the other person. But how do we achieve this goal without humiliating each other?
First, we need to be great at communicating. Rather than assuming that the other person must intuitively understand what I'm going through, we should let them know about it skillfully as a teacher.
Second, we need to see a small child in the other person. As soon as we see childish behaviors through the lens of a caring parent, who takes care of a 2-year old child, we become more generous and accommodating. Small children have a right to stay as lovable idiots until they fully grow up, don't they? By teaching and learning, we commit to helping the other person become a better person and more compatible with us.
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When we give up perfection, it becomes easy to see that compatibility is the achievement of love. I find this idea insightful as it hints at how to cultivate and strengthen my own relationship beyond romance. It is also liberating in that how to love may matter more than whom to love. When we acknowledge that we are supposed to become a better person in a relationship rather than being with a perfect partner, we can perhaps dramatically increase our chance of being in a meaningful relationship. And that is music to my ears!