This essay could be short and sweet with the simple instruction: don’t. In other words, don’t plan a life with someone, just live it. The fact of the matter is many of us prefer having a plan to not having a plan. Plans can also lend clarity, and help you understand where you are relative to where you want to be. Plans can help you avoid regret (or they can lead you to it, depending on the plan). Plans can also give you a sense of control.
So, here’s what I'm (still) learning about how to plan a life with someone.
Listen a lot, and when you think you’re done listening … listen some more. The fact of the matter is, we are always giving signals to one another, and these signals are often hidden in the noise of daily life. Listen carefully for the signals and sit with them. If you’re planning your life with yourself (again, I am all about self-love), then journal regularly and go back and read what you’ve written. It’s easier to identify signals from past you when you have a record of what you’ve been thinking over time.
Questions are all the rage these days. Seriously, everywhere I turn I hear people encouraging others to ask questions
. There is even a list of 13 questions to ask your partner
from The New York Times (some of which are fascinating to contemplate even if you’re committing to a life without a partner) Asking questions can leave you feeling very vulnerable. Remember that vulnerability is strength, so dive into asking questions with both feet. Yes, you can ask questions of yourself. I love doing this — especially “why” questions. “Why do you want to make a lot of money?”, “Why are you afraid of being a single parent?”, “What do you want to say you did before you die?” Whether I am asking these questions of myself or my partner, I find the answers very helpful in the planning process.
Invest in your planning process. Set aside a day or two, grab some fresh sharpie markers and post-its. Buy a whiteboard. Invest in the planning of your life as you would a real project or as you would invest in school supplies for a really challenging class. Turn off your phone(s) and clear your calendar for the day — no dinner guests, no plans to go elsewhere. Just be present with yourself/with one another and start throwing stuff up on the board to see how you work together.
Be prepared to put in the work. Whether it’s keeping your relationship with yourself strong or your relationship with another person, be prepared to put in the work. Self-care takes work; caring for others takes work. Love may seem free, but it’s not. Love takes a lot of time and investment — no matter who the object happens to be.
- I am so grateful for Ed and the thousands of others who make the world a more fair and just place to be.
- I ask myself, “Would I have done what Ed did if I had been stricken with polio and relegated to an iron lung?” Each time, the answer was, “Probably not, but I want to be that kind of person; I want to see myself in that light. What change do I want to see today that I feel I can’t catalyze/realize?”
That goes back to my point about asking questions, but the point I’m making here isn’t the question. The point is this: Rather than focusing on just achieving the basics, try to expand your understanding of self/your partner and “avoid the preconceived idea
Stay flexible. Whatever you put up on the whiteboard or the wall — or whatever answers you give to the questions you ask one another/yourself — stay flexible. Circumstances change, and life is good at nothing if not throwing curve balls. So, stay flexible. Don’t assume that the way things are today is the way they will be tomorrow. After all, that’s what keeps it all so interesting.