When do we demand change of ourselves or of others?

By Danette Vernon

Kintsukoroi: (n) “to repair with gold;” the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

We have all wished at some point that our children or our mate were different. Sometimes nightly. The inclination may surge anew each evening when the bedtime chaos of small children begins. Or once that’s over, maybe we get the cold shoulder of a spouse who’s just too tired or too weary to be anything even close to the companion, the confidante, we had imagined when we were innocent of life’s more common disappointments.

If the wish is ardent enough, are we merely wishing away what we don’t like, or are we, in effect, fervently praying for a stranger to arise, someone unknown to us, but better? The Stepford wife, or child? Cookie-cutter clean, but bland? Better, but not anymore imaginative a model than the average among us might create.

Richard Gere once played a man who walked out of the Civil War and into the shoes of a dead man who had been his cellmate for a time in some Yankee prison. He looked so much like the man, and had heard his stories so often, he nearly pulled it off. And given this second chance, he was a better man then the ghost he was emulating — or he had ever been in his own life.

The perfect family member or the second chance to be someone else are the fluff and stuff of Hollywood.

So where do those of us in the real world draw the lines when it comes to our own quirks and habitual patterns, or those of our loved ones? When do we demand change of ourselves, or of others? Or else?

And when do we simply accept the vulnerabilities in another that we so often display ourselves?

This human sway between the two dynamics is never played out more clearly than with the dating game.

A friend of mine rode the roller coaster of his emotions right off the track a couple of years back, eventually arriving at a juncture wherein there was a woman waiting, one who would accept him just as she found him in the day. Their life together may always remain as a new bud, with its promise forever in tomorrow. Or perhaps it will one day blossom gloriously forth, called by the fire of the sun. But no matter, they “will be always happy,” he promised me, “just being together.”

A fairytale ending? Is that what we all want? Not so much. Shmuley Boteach, author and couple’s counselor, characterizes today’s men and women as so over-familiar with the opposite sex that they can’t, or won’t, settle for just some average Joe (or Jane). They, or should I say, “we,” want to pull from the upper 10 percent, the brass ring of lovers, the next time around (or is it the time after that?). We want all of our prayers answered, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, our wish list of attributes fulfilled, whether that means younger, older, or more high-spirited, more traveled, more educated than our last attempt at love ever-lasting. And shouldn’t we want that? Or should we? What’s a healthy attitude, and what’s not? Where are the lines to be drawn?

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