THE BLOG
05/26/2011 07:24 pm ET Updated Jul 26, 2011

Is This a Relationship Or a Love Affair?

The other day, I was talking to my friend Bridget about her new guy. He was everything she said she wanted: smart, handsome, funny, gainfully employed in a creative profession, and committed to the same social causes she was. Most awesome of all, sex was h.o.t. You know, the kind where your lips touch and all hell breaks loose. Who knows why this happens with some and not others, it just does.

They'd been together for almost six months and she was really, really happy. And also really, really anxious.

The problem? They lived a few hours apart. Getting together was something they had to plan or it wouldn't happen. She was getting the feeling that all the planning mojo was coming from her and if she didn't suggest it, he might let the whole thing slide. How was she supposed to read this? Didn't he feel what she did? Wasn't he thinking at all about the future with her? I mean, they were both in their mid-30s so it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine he was. But what if he wasn't? Should she push the conversation or wait and see what happens?

Well, who knows, but the first question that came out of my mouth was, do you think this is meant to be a love affair or a relationship?

Not everyone you fall in love with is a person you should have a relationship with. Just because you have an intimate connection with someone, no matter how deep, doesn't mean this will make a good relationship.

Some people prefer love affairs while others are more focused on relationships. Of course there is no right or wrong, although in our culture, we're think that our love affairs should (seamlessly) become relationships and that our relationships (somehow) should also remain love affairs. Traditionally, men are seen as wanting one, while women want the other. In my experience, we all want both.

A relationship is what happens when a love affair lands -- when the soft, sharp, deep, powerful, real experience of intimacy (at whatever spiritual:sexual ratio) seeks to put down roots in friendship. At this point every love affair changes, and not always for the best. Some love affairs are best kept in the realm they were born to. Others are sacrificed at the altar of home and children with 0-100 percent awareness on either or both sides. The truth is it's rare to have both, but it is definitely possible.

It helps a lot to be sensitive to these nuances. It's good to know that love affairs and relationships aren't the same thing. That at times your connection may be one, the other, or both -- and then it will change. You may be more eager for one than the other, your beloved may or may not share your preference. Your views may shift from relationship to relationship.

When it comes to sensitivity to such nuances, in my own life, a meditation practice is indispensable. It teaches me to slow down, notice what is arising, notice my judgments of what is arising -- and also my fears, hopes, dreams, aggression, and delight -- and then let it all go, take a fresh look, and open my heart again in the name of love.

So who knows what will happen with Bridget. Maybe she'll be content to carry on a passionate love affair for as long as it seems right. Maybe she'll find that this is the person she wants to grow old with. My wish for her is that, no matter what, both she and her guy will find their hearts expanded and strengthened and that love itself will triumph, no matter what form it takes.

For meditation sessions of varying lengths and answers to questions about meditation, such as "Why Do We Keep Our Eyes Open in Meditation?" and "Is it Important to Stick to One Style of Practice?" please see my vimeo page for lots of short videos.