Think for yourself

It’s time to embody an authentic life.

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It’s time to embody an authentic life.

Sparks flew when my wife and I met. Everyone noticed. But in our first year of marriage we had so much conflict, we wondered whether we had made a mistake. My wife said that if I didn’t change she would leave. I had the same thought, but never spoke it. We went to therapy. It didn’t help, although the therapist pointed out my wife’s selfishness. To cover her irresponsible spending habits, we became Airbnb hosts. The weird thing is, my wife treats me like I’m the man of her dreams when we have guests. But that fades when there’s no one around. Should I point this out to her, or just appreciate it when she likes me?

Neither. You should love yourself enough to stop playing the role she’s assigned you. Become the director of your own life. Yes, that means you are responsible for seeing yourself as an equal in this marriage, and not as a bit player in her drama. Don’t be seduced by romantic misconceptions about the spark of attraction. Yes, sparks fly when certain people meet. But what kind of pull is present?

If you have ever accidentally bumped a wound on your body, you know that doing so sends a “charge” through you. Sometimes when two people experience a spark, it’s actually a wounded place within each of them recognizing itself in the other person. Any intimate relationship can be a container for spiritual growth, and some relationships are primarily about that kind of maturation.

It’s time to embody an authentic life. You deserve to be loved and to love someone who can meet you as an equal. Don’t settle for a partner who only acts like she loves you when an audience is present. Remember, she doesn’t love you, she loves the attention she receives for appearing to love you. My advice? Exit stage left, as soon as possible.

I’m 18, living away at college, and just told my parents I’m dating a woman. I’m not a lesbian, but have always felt attracted to women. I’m attracted to guys, too, but they frustrate me. Guys never want to be in a relationship. I wanted to be in a relationship. When I met the woman I’m with now, she said, “I like you and I want to spend time with you. Do you want to go out with me?” She wanted what I wanted. Guys flirt, text and want to hook up, but they don’t want a relationship. Being with a woman is so easy. There are no games—we get each other. My parents are trying to be cool, but I know they’re having a hard time understanding. What should I do?

Let your parents struggle. Trust that they have the skills to work through their fears, expectations and discomfort. Give them space to arrive at the realization that you are an adult in love. If, for some reason, they cannot accept you as yourself, don’t take it personally. It’s their limitation, not yours. Most of all, never permit your parents’ issues to infect your relationship. If you do, you will be living out your parents’ values, rather than your own.

Meditation of the Week

“Slavery didn’t end in 1865. It evolved,” Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. How do you nurture freedom?