photo: Tela Chhe on flickr

What does “Happily Ever After” mean to you?

Perhaps you think of a couple, holding hands and walking into the sunset. But what happens after they stroll out of the frame?

Do they keep holding hands? Do they remain in a rapturous, blissed-out state?

Or do they get into a fight about which way to go next?

Unlike a lot of other little girls, I never had fantasies about my dream wedding. I did have fantasies about a dream relationship, though. These were primarily informed by movies. Movies where the boy (or girl) got the girl (or boy) after an hour-and-a-half of wacky hijinks and predictable misunderstandings.

The movie always ended with a kiss. And the assumption that, now that they had found each other, everything would be just fine.

Right.

photo: epSos.de on flickr

Relationships, as we all know, can be challenging. And one thing any good relationship counselor will tell you is that communication is the cornerstone of a healthy and long-lasting relationship.

This has certainly been my experience.

It’s also been my experience that there’s a prerequisite to communication, another ingredient that must be in place for any post-sunset-encounter to work.

It’s called solitude.

Can you be alone? Do you like your own company? If not, it’s going to be difficult to be in a fulfilling relationship.

photo: Shardayyy on flickr

The first time I fell in love, I was amazed. Amazed that I’d fallen in love with a girl, for one. But also amazed that I had no idea what I was doing.

I was – and am – a nerd. Give me a book to read and a report to write, and I’m good! But throw me into a relationship and expect me to know how to navigate the subtleties of intimacy?

Not so much.

At the time, my self-esteem was about as big as one of my eyelashes. This didn’t make me the best relationship candidate. I gave away all my power. I got clingy and obsessive and totally bent out of shape.

photo: Sara Björk on flickr

I wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Why was I so good at tackling intellectual problems, but so horribly bad at intimacy with another person?

In an effort to answer this question, I did what any good nerd would do. I started reading.

I read books about relationships. Books about personal growth. Books about the power of emotions.

And while these books gave me a lot of valuable information about relationships, the process of reading gave me something even more valuable: I began to discover myself.

photo: Mo Riza on flickr

Up until that point, I’d been a product of the people around me. In order to get along with others, I became whomever they wanted me to be. Or whomever I thought they wanted me to be.

This method of self-expression was one of the reasons I was so horrible at relationships. I wasn’t bringing my true self to the party.

My growing spiritual practice played a major role in developing a healthy and vibrant relationship with myself.

Meditation, in particular, was an amazing way to tap into a vast realm within. Through meditation, I developed the ability to uncover thoughts and emotions that had previously been completely unconscious. Not only that, meditation allowed me the space to accept these thoughts and emotions without reactivity.

photo: Caleb Roenigk on flickr

And when the time came to tackle the treacherous waters of the Ocean of Intimacy once again, I was prepared.

I was able to communicate my viewpoint because I had one. I was able to let my emotions guide me because I had access to them. And I was able to bring my whole self to the relationship because my self-esteem had expanded beyond eyelash-size and now encompassed my entire being.

What an amazing experience!

Not that relationships suddenly became easy. But they became possible.

Without that connection to myself, I was just a baffled, bent-out-of-shape nerd.

These days, in my relationship with my wife Melissa, solitude is still an important component. I regularly take one day a week for myself. This time alone allows me access to ideas and emotions that can become buried in the busyness of life.

I love Melissa. She’s my favorite person in the world. But if I don’t take time away from her, I have nothing to give to our relationship.

photo: Georg Egloff

Not only that, I have nothing to give to any relationship. This solitude gig isn’t just good for intimate relationships, it’s good for healthy connections with everyone: kids, bosses, parents, friends.

And, of course, the Divine.

My time alone is an amazing and important way to access the Power and Presence that lives in and around everything.

Connecting with others is certainly one way to access this Power. But cultivating my own personal, intimate relationship with my Higher Power – through time alone with this Power – is the fuel behind every element of my life.

So while it’s true that communication is the cornerstone to a healthy relationship, solitude is the cornerstone of the cornerstone.

And if that doesn’t make sense to you, I suggest you spend some time alone and think about it!

photo: Bryan Tuttle on flickr

What’s your relationship to solitude? How does it serve you?

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