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Here is Vincent Van Gogh:
“I am always hoping to make a discovery here, to express the feelings of two lovers by a marriage of two complementary colors, their minglings and their oppositions, the mysterious vibrations of kindred tones.”
Could a better case for the artistic relationship be made?
And this is from a guy who worked incessantly to please his parents, who tried to marry his cousin, and who spent much of his youth being forced to stare at a tombstone with his own name on it. I haven’t even mentioned the whole cutting-off-his-own-ear thing.
So, considering relationships as art, does it not make sense to use the tools and practices of an artist to help them grow and prosper? I should think so. Indulge us…
Treat it like it matters
For any piece to truly become art it must first matter. If an artist cannot care about a piece, if they cannot invest their heart into making it real, then it doesn’t matter. And if it doesn’t matter, then it should be abandoned.
Make a decision: Does your relationship truly matter to you? If so, then put in the work; care about it. Only by treating it with respect and the reverence of something that matters will it ever aspire to something more.
Work on it a little each day
No artist expects their greatest creation to spring fully formed from them in a single day. Or a single week. Or even years. The real artist knows it takes time, patience, and everyday effort. Trying, learning, failing, and then succeeding—every single day.
The accumulation is the goal, the understanding that only time and effort brings. Stop thinking that one or two grand gestures are enough to make your relationship rock. Long-lasting, deeply felt relationships are not built on calendared or semi-annual declarations of passion and big-dollar gifts. It’s the little brushstrokes, the tiny bits of love mixed with daily concern offered within and throughout; the minutia of every day spent together. It is only through these consistent and repetitive practices that a relationship of note can form. And it is worth it.
Put it on display–never hide it in a closet
All artists know that for art to become what it is meant to be—for it to truly be appreciated—it must be displayed. Like the most incredible painting or sculpture, your relationship is special and unique and beautiful, and it must be shared with others.
Go out, share it with your family and your friends, and participate in the world. The saddest thing ever is for a work of art to be hidden away behind a locked door. Don’t ever let that happen to your relationship.
Be your own worst critic
The temptation for an artist to fall in love with their own handiwork is real, and it always leads inexorably to sub-par work. The same goes for your relationship. Be honest about things. If you’re phoning it in, admit it, and then change.
If you are not giving your relationship your best, then do something about it. You need to be straight with yourself. It’s the only way to discover your weaknesses or find your blind spots–all things that need improvement. No one likes a critic, but they are critically necessary.
Expect nothing, but aim for everything
There are no guarantees for the artist, or the lover. Just because you put yourself out there doesn’t mean what you offer will be reciprocated, or even appreciated. But that can’t stop you from trying.
Put everything about yourself–heart and soul–into your relationship. The picture you paint is your own, but only when you use all the colors you have to offer can the other person do the same. If they don’t appreciate what you have, so be it. But you will have given fully and truthfully of yourself. That’s what matters. Aim high–always.
Copy the masters
Artists do this all the time; so should you. Look at the people around you with great relationships. The ones you can’t help but admire. Maybe it’s your parents (maybe not!), or grandparents, an uncle or aunt, a good friend. Watch what they do and copy what they do. It’s a great way to start. And it will let you build on their example as you customize and improve it to suit the specifics of the relationship you are in.
No one ever said you had to start from scratch. And if you must copy to begin, then copy from the best!
Consistency is key
Never give up…keep trying. If it matters, then it’s worth sticking to. There will be many days that are hard, tough, and maybe even awful, but those are the times that test your resolve. They become the very glue that you need to push higher.
Don’t throw in the towel because you “aren’t feeling it”–everyone has a bad day–artists especially. Keep sculpting, molding, and painting. Eventually, something of beauty will emerge. The consistent hand is a steady hand, and a steady hand produces miracles.
Don’t compare yourself to others
This one can be tricky–especially when you copy the greats—but it is important never to get in the habit of directly comparing your relationship to anyone else’s. Just like the artist who looks at another’s work and feels shame or embarrassment toward her own, you must resist the urge to compare and remember that your voice, vision, and situation remains unique and belong to you alone.
You cannot ever have the same relationship as anyone else any more than two pieces of seemingly identical art could ever actually be the same. It cannot. Trust that the picture you are painting is your own and resist the temptation of measuring other relationships by your own. They are as different and unique as your own, and they always will be. Focus instead on what you can control and nothing else.
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