I was in the middle of failing to learn how to speak Spanish effectively when my dad handed me the house phone.
Oh man. It’s her.
I hadn’t talked to her in six months, and even though we’d known each other for a few years, we didn’t know each other particularly well.
After a lifetime in Ohio like me, she was moving to Florida with friends, she said. She had just graduated from the same university where I had another year of classwork before I’d get my degree.
Something was telling her she needed to see me before she left. You know — a feeling. Just like in the movies.
Dad reluctantly agreed to a stranger he had never met flying into town and staying with us for a few days that set the direction for the rest of my life.
The family loved her. My friends loved her.
I loved her.
She canceled her planned move to Florida, knowing I was planning to move there a year later. She would wait.
I instantly stopped living like a single 21-year-old. I would wait.
We had the same goals.
And for the first time in my young life, I was pretty sure I had found someone with whom I wanted to chase them with forever.
An Unmatched Pace Will Cause Just as Much Distance as Misalignment
I think alignment between two people is a prerequisite to them having a successful relationship.
Two people must want the same things in life for them to have a functional, mutually beneficial partnership.
We can generically call them “goals.”
But what I really mean is that two people must achieve alignment with their values (and honor one another’s boundaries) to have any chance of making it.
I think people need to share core beliefs about life (especially if they are raising children together), otherwise I think their lives will suck. Painfully.
I think people need to honor their partner’s honestly communicated boundaries, and I think people need to enforce (that means, being willing to walk away) their own well-communicated boundaries when they are violated.
When you Share Values and Enforce Boundaries, you achieve Alignment.
And that shit’s important.
Here’s what happens when two things are off by just one degree, according to Antone Roundy’s blog post about achieving alignment in business:
“I’ve been thinking lately about the big differences little things make.
“Consider this. If you’re going somewhere and you’re off course by just one degree, after one foot, you’ll miss your target by 0.2 inches. Trivial, right? But what about as you get farther out?
- After 100 yards, you’ll be off by 5.2 feet. Not huge, but noticeable.
- After a mile, you’ll be off by 92.2 feet. One degree is starting to make a difference.
- After traveling from San Francisco to L.A., you’ll be off by 6 miles.
- If you were trying to get from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., you’d end up on the other side of Baltimore, 42.6 miles away.
- Traveling around the globe from Washington, DC, you’d miss by 435 miles and end up in Boston.
- In a rocket going to the moon, you’d be 4,169 miles off (nearly twice the diameter of the moon).
- Going to the sun, you’d miss by over 1.6 million miles (nearly twice the diameter of the sun).
- Traveling to the nearest star, you’d be off course by over 441 billion miles (120 times the distance from the earth to Pluto, or 4,745 times the distance from Earth to the sun).
“Over time, a mere one-degree error in course makes a huge difference!”
Going the Same Direction Doesn’t Mean You’ll Arrive Together
My wife and I always wanted the same things. Sure, there were times we had competing interests and personal things take us in opposite directions, but never far enough that our hands couldn’t reach out and grab the others’.
However, we had a catastrophic problem with pacing.
She didn’t enforce her boundaries strongly enough when I was an asshole.
And I didn’t enforce my boundaries strongly enough when she wanted to me to keep up with her — for me — unsustainable running pace.
As serendipitous and magical as it all felt having her call me out of nowhere that one night and change all of her life plans to give us a shot at Forever, I was still just a kid in his early 20s trying to figure it all out.
She wanted to leave Florida faster than me.
She wanted to get engaged and married faster than me.
And she wanted to do a bunch of little life things, which added up to Huge Life Things, at different speeds than me.
She’d get her way sometimes because I’d reluctantly agree. I’d get my way sometimes because she’d reluctantly agree. And rarely, if ever, were we feeling the simple joy of doing something for someone we loved.
Rarely, if ever, were we giving more than we take with a grateful and unselfish servant’s heart.
We were shoveling coal to keep the steam train moving, but not without a lot of resentment and questioning of whether the effort was worth it.
Throughout our lives and relationships, we grow and evolve as Life introduces All The Things to us at whatever pace it chooses. New opportunities, major life events like having children, illness, financial hardships or windfalls, and a million others.
Sometimes we’ll want this and that. Sometimes we’ll want this and that in a certain timeframe.
Sometimes they’ll want this and that. Sometimes they’ll want this and that in a certain timeframe.
Sometimes that will work out for everyone.
Sometimes it won’t.
The question then becomes: Do I want this and that more than I want my relationship? Or, a much better and unselfish one: For the benefit of my Marriage which I want more than This And That, am I willing to give what is required to help my partner achieve their This And Thats?
Alignment matters. Am I willing to continue in that same direction?
Pacing matters. Am I willing to speed up or slow down so my hand stays connected to their’s?
Simply having the same goals won’t save your relationship.
Only love will.
And only you can decide which direction you’ll move and how much effort you’re willing to exert to keep walking hand in hand.
Because, love? It’s not a feeling.
Love is a choice.
Mark’s new book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” is being released tomorrow much to the chagrin of everyone who hates profane language more than they hate learning how to embrace discomfort for the sake of growth.
Mark agreed to do a short Q&A with me as part of his book launch, which I’m super-flattered about.
I’ll be sharing that tomorrow. Bad language will be involved.