So often I meet people who tell me that they don’t get along with their partners. “Our views don’t match, our habits, our goals are different, there’s no compatibility,” they say. Often man is looking for more freedom and personal space while woman wants more security and quality time (sometimes, albeit rarely, the reverse is also true).

When two people don’t get along, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get along. It may require a great deal of work (and patience) but if both are committed, it can work. Compatibility in love is not the norm though. It’s uncommon. Chances are two people wouldn’t even be attracted to each other if they were alike because the law of nature is that opposites attract each other. While sometimes we get along with certain people better than others, the truth is love in a true relationship grows over time. In a sincere relationship, differences and harmony arise naturally. They go hand in hand.

I’m not talking about whether he knows that whites and colored are washed separately or if she knows that watching a game of cricket is a religious ritual for him. While issues like these affect the quality of a relationship, I’m referring to something more fundamental — our understanding of and expectation from love. Often when we think of love, we expect that there will be no setbacks, we’ll never be hurt again, life will shape according to our dreams. Love, in fact, is the opposite.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

It’s impossible to be completely invulnerable in love. And, this vulnerability is what makes most relationships challenging (and rewarding). Because, when you are vulnerable you are not yourself really. You tend to say or do things you didn’t mean to. You end up making wrong moves. What to do? Obviously, you can’t close yourself to love, lest life be unbearable. And you can’t leave yourself fully vulnerable, lest you be hurt repeatedly. There’s a middle way, there’s hope. Let me give you the golden rule of love:

Don’t hurt back when you are hurt. Let the dust settle after the storm and then express yourself non-violently, compassionately. I call this love. Since, if your love is true, the storm will pass.

Why shouldn’t we hurt back when we are hurt? Because love is not just a feel-good feeling; that’s easy to have for the one who cares about you. To want someone desperately is not love either. Everyone wants a loving partner. To express that you love the other person is not love. Even a parrot can rant for hours. No doubt, these feelings, desires and words also make up love. But, these are more like symptoms of love. For, love, in its own right, sits way above all these. The only true way to see the depth of anyone’s love is to see their behavior. Love is behavior. It’s attitude. If our behavior towards the other person does not display sincerity, understanding, empathy and care, it is not love. Maybe pseudo-love at the most.

In attachment you mostly value what you care about. In love, you care about what the other person values. This is the fundamental difference in thinking you love someone and actually loving them. This kind of love is neither easy nor common though. Then again, you only find a handful of diamonds after scouring tonnes of soil. You dig, grate, sieve, filter, wash for days, weeks and months before you come across a gem in the mine. Love is that diamond in the mine of relationship. There are going to be challenges to sift through before you can get your hands on the gem.

Having a partner who resists you, challenges you, can be a good thing, in fact. They keep you real, keep you grounded. You learn to accept and work on your differences. Love is not a competition or a race. It is not a battle where one person is always stronger or better than the other. Have you noticed that a wedding ring only has one solitaire? The little baguettes and metal enhance its beauty. Sometimes, you be the solitaire in your relationship and at times, let the other person be. Sometimes you are in a supporting role and other times you are in the lead role. This is the basis of long-lasting relationships. If you always aim to have your way, soon there’ll be no way left.

Mulla Nasrudin had an argument with his wife. Fearing her wrath, he rushed to another room and locked himself in.
“Open the door!” the missus yelled.
“No!” Mulla said terrified and holding harder onto the door knob.
“Open it!” she repeated banging the door. “Do as I say or you are dead!”
“No! I won’t do as you say,” he shouted. “I’ll show you who’s the master of the house!”

In love, no one person is a master, for, between you, love, and her, love alone is the master. When two people are in love, they follow “love”. In that devotion to love, in that vulnerability lies the greatest security. Mind may reject this notion but heart knows. That is why, you get hurt and yet you don’t stop loving. You are hurt again and yet you love again. This is love, this is life.

Love, in its truest sense, can only be experienced when you don’t hurt back when hurt, when you are mindful with your thoughts, words and actions. In such a scenario, you rise above negativity and petty emotions. The one who is blinded by his (or her) own desires, or driven by their ego (and not goodness) is unable to fall in love.

In the same pond where fragrant lotuses attract honeybees and butterflies, a frog, oblivious to the beauty and majesty, sits and croaks non-stop. You can be the lotus, bee or the frog. Choose carefully, lovingly. Life has little meaning without love.