Mums advice on finding a partner and other words of wisdom.

This is a copy of the letter I wrote to my three children in about 2006. They are all now living happily with their own partners of choice. They have had many ups and downs but they are spectacular humans and I adore them and their choice of partners.

I thought it might be nice to share this letter with you today.

Dear Mitchell, Jordan and Chloe,

(Yes another mum letter).

I just thought I’d take some time to chat with you about what to look for when choosing a partner and maybe some suggestions on how to keep one.  Some of these pithy sayings and words of advice have been drawn from the counsel of Dr Livingston. Others are lessons that I have learned by the mistakes that I have made in my own two marriages. Think of them as rungs in a ladder or stepping stones over a river. They have resonated with me, given me direction and will hopefully help you navigate the joy and terror of finding a life mate and keeping them.

1: It is not what happens to us in this life that defines us.  It is our choices that define us.  We are never out of choices no matter how desperate the circumstances and never be afraid to ask for help in the decision making.

“Choices are never right or wrong. Perhaps, the choice you made was the best choice under the given set of circumstances and at a given point of time.  However, the rigidity in not moving ahead certainly isn’t good. Life is all about learning a few lessons, and then moving on to the next till you find that much desired peace and happiness!” 

― Neelam Saxena Chandra

  1. There are 3 components to happiness.  You Need:
  • Something to do
  • Someone to love
  • Something to look forward to.
  1. All unhappiness has loss at its core.
  • Loss of hope, or,
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Loss of time
  • Loss of love
  • Or death.
  1. If the map doesn’t agree with the ground; the map is wrong.  Life is not an exact science.  All the best made plans can go to waste.  Use what is in front of you and use what is in your hands.  Moses used a rod, David used a stone, and Sampson used the jaw of a donkey to overcome and succeed in what they were called to do.  What you need is within your reach.

It’s good to have a map, a plan, a linear line to follow.  Just every now and then a mountain appears that’s not on the map.  That’s okay, deal with it.

  1. Choosing a partner for life.

A good marriage is easy provided that both people have been astute in the selection process.

Character traits at the top of the list to look for:

  • KINDNESS: the practice of being or the tendency to be sympathetic and compassionate.
  • Courage: Willingness to give of oneself to another.
  • Empathy:  the ability to identify with and understand somebody else’s feelings or difficulties.
  • Humour: one of the most important tools to navigate a realtionship. Don’t get too serious.

When making a map to find a life partner: these will be a reliable guide and will help you avoid those who are not worthy of your time and trust.

  1. When all is said and done, more is said than done”

In judging other people it is vitally important that you pay attention not to what they promise: but to what they do.  This will prevent a lot of pain and misunderstanding.  Most of the heartbreak of life comes from ignoring the reality that past behaviour is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour.

  1. Love is demonstrated by behaviour; we define who we are and what we care about by what we do. Find ways to demonstrate your love.

Listen:  Only a mother, a good mother, will endlessly love you the way you are.  Do not expect that from a partner.

  1. You owe me, your mother, nothing.  It was my decision to bring you into the world, to love you, to provide for your needs and to adore you.  It is my obligation to raise you to survive in the world, and to point you in the right direction.  To help you realise that it is possible to be happy in an uncertain world and to give you help when you need it. I will always be here for you. 
  1. The underlying causes for failed relationships are:
  1. Diminished self respect
  2. Unmet expectations.
  3. Lack of healthy communication.
  4. Dishonesty.

The failure of expectations over time causes relationships to dissolve.  Pay particular attention to following through with what you say you will do.  Take time to find out your partners expectations.

  1. Socrates said:   “The unexamined life is not worth living’.  We must accept risk.  Sometimes a lot of it in order to win.  You don’t expect a skier to become good without falling down.  And yet many are surprised at the hurt and difficulty of relationships.  Always examine yourself and adjust yourself first before you point at anyone else.  There is always blame on both sides.
  1. Among life’s primary virtues are patience and determination.  When you think of life altering things that happen in a moment we think of accidents, death, phone calls late at night, loss of a job.  

It is hard to imagine sudden good news.  Virtually all happiness producing process in our lives takes time; usually a long time:  Learning new things, changing old behaviours, building satisfying relationships and raising children.  Live with patience and be determined to finish the journey till the end.

  1. Getting There:

Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between two pints, whoops Freudian slip, that’s points; often life has a way of confounding geometry.  Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us.  There are no maps to guide our most important searches.  We must rely on God, hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

  1. We all have Imperfections

“The love between parents and children depends heavily on forgiveness.  It is our imperfections that mark us as humans and our willingness to tolerate them in ourselves and in our families redeems the suffering to which all love makes us vulnerable.  In happy moments such at this, we celebrate the miracle of two people who found each other and created new lives together.  If love can indeed overcome death; it is only through the exercise of memory and devotion.  Memory and devotion… with it your heart, though broken, will be full and you will stay in the fight to the very last”. Quote: Mark Halprin (I may give this as a speech at your wedding).

I have not been a perfect parent, I have made many mistakes which I regret. However, I have endeavoured to be honest, devoted and apply myself to the hard work of transformation and change.

I can honestly say that death cannot conquer love.

14: Raising Children.

A few years ago I was fortunate to spend a week with Tony Campolo.  “Tony” Campolo is an American sociologist, pastor, author, public speaker and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton. In regard to his wisdom as a sociologist, I asked him what does it take to be a good parent. He told me this: “To be a good parent you need to have done three things.

One. You need to have fed your children and given them a place of safety to live.

Two. You need, to the best of your ability, provide them with an education.

Thirdly, you have to let them go”.

When you were born, you cried and everybody else was happy. The only question that matters is this – when you die, will you be happy when everybody else is crying?” – Tony Campolo.

I have left the important ones till last.

15: Humour

Never lose your sense of humour.  It is a bleak world without it.  Don’t marry someone who doesn’t know how to laugh.

“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder

Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh it the most profoundly therapeutic.  This is the most valuable lesson I learned in the journey of death with your father. To be able to experience fully the sadness and the absurdity that life so often presents and still find reasons to go on is an act of courage abetted by our ability to both love and laugh.  Never stop playing and having fun. This keeps the realationship fluid and joyful.

Things may be grave but they do not need to be serious

16: Forgiveness

Letting go.  Giving up grievances to which you are entitled.  Without forgiveness both my husbands would be prematurely dead at my hand. You cannot live successful lives without the ability to forgive.  You will eventually be poisoned by bitterness.

Forgiveness is not reconciliation; it s not forgetting, it is not something we do for others.  It is a gift we give ourselves.  It exists as does all true healing at the intersection of love and justice.

To acknowledge we have been harmed by another, but to choose to let go of our resentment requires a high order of emotional and ethical maturity.  It is a way of liberating ourselves from a sense of oppression and a hopeful statement of our capacity to change.

I just want to finish by saying how much I love you and how incredibly proud I am of you.  You are going to lead amazing lives.  There will be plenty of ups and downs but I know that you have the steel in your souls that you will need to stand strong.  Be Kind, Forgive and never stop finding the funny side of life. Make sure that you love and look after each other.

Love Mum.

Reference:   “Too Soon to Old and Too late Smart” – Gordon Livingston M.D.

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