When Kat and I had been dating for about a year we broke up for a week.
After several days of being broken up we decided that it was terrible and we wanted to get back together, but we hadn’t actually resolved any of the issues that led to us breaking up.
My memory of why we even broke up isn’t super clear. I think it mostly revolved around two things: uncertainty about whether we’d stay together after I graduated (three semesters before Kat), and me overthinking the concept of “love”.
Once we’d realized we wanted to be back together but didn’t know how to resolve our issues, I remembered that Rev. Rice had sometimes referred, in class, to marriage counseling he’d done. I suggested we go to him for relationship counseling, and we walked to his house and then to the classroom we were told he’d be in.
In classic Rev. Rice style he made time for us right then and there, though probably there was someone else who was expecting him to show up somewhere. We talked about a bunch of things, and he made a number of suggestions (some of which we ignored: “Don’t talk on the phone every single night you’re away from each other”? Pshht.), but the thing that most stuck with me was when he said “you need to align your life paths.”
As he said it he made this hand motion with the index finger on each hand extended, bringing them up from his sides to meet in front of him and then move forward. In that hand motion I could ‘see’ the idea that we’re people moving through a many dimensional space of both actual space and of ideas/values/goals, and that part of being in a relationship is making choices to bring your vectors (both position and direction) into alignment. To not just be in the same physical place, but to make choices that keep you together in physical space. Not just to share values or goals, but to work to align yourselves to compatible values and goals (compatible, not necessarily the same).
I think this has been an important idea in Kat and my relationship, and has helped to keep us (happily) together for over a decade now. We don’t always agree about things – where to live, how reasonable some political position is, how to respond to a child doing X, Y, or Z – but we can generally align ourselves by talking about it a lot.