Man. Woman. World.
Like any good workshop, the scene before me is messy. Three United aircraft are sitting idle outside the window. The crews for each jet are talking and texting with an almost annoying laissez-faire attitude. A sea of men, women and children are bottle- necked at a help desk with a single overwhelmed attendant. And the question on my mind is whether I should approach a different kind of help desk; cross-over the no-fly zone and ask to be re-booked for…online dating again.
I’ve traveled the world and been stuck in weird places many times. Travel’s never really phased me. Dating decisions—in contrast—they phase me. eHarmony got me oh-so-close to marital flight last time. But, I have hesitations – and they’re not related to my broken engagement with “the girl I met on eHarmony.” My e-dating brake pump is related to the three flames of love. I’ll explain later. But, first, this weekend. If the goal at this station of my dating life is marriage, then a friend’s wedding seems like the ultimate place to strategize.
This weekend, for the first time in my twenty-year medical career, a couple from my practice got married. I made a semi-heroic effort to attend so I could mark their union, and add another milestone to my adventure as a doctor. There were, however, other compelling reasons for me to be at this wedding. Even though it’s been six months since my fiancé and I ended our relationship, it’s been hard to rekindle hope for another romance. I needed a reminder of what real love looks like. And I needed to celebrate love – dance to it; hug over it; clink glasses; high-five and clap for it – even if it wasn’t for myself. No, especially if it wasn’t for myself.
The truth is it’s been too easy recently to make my days all about me. As a single doctor and entrepreneur I naturally created Planet Adam once my fiancé left my solar system. But, a month ago I realized that if I’m going to get back in the relationship saddle, I needed some pre-relationship conditioning. So, when the wedding invitation came I not only RSVP’d, but I volunteered to be a chauffeur for the weekend. The groom’s father got me a burner phone, a 14-passenger van and a printed itinerary. The table was set for selflessness training 101, with an emphasis on unpredictable, slightly stressed young ladies… Just what the doctor ordered.
I had more idle moments of waiting this weekend than I’ve had in the last six months. It was impossible for me to do my daily Adam Plan, which includes something productive on my digital calendar every fifteen minutes. This “marriage workshop” called for me to sit by my phone; build in buffers of time for the unexpected traffic jam; and anticipate what the various wedding party members needed. Learning to wait—Relationship Module 1—was a challenge, but I think it worked. At this moment, I’m sitting and waiting patiently without angst for a flight that may or may not go tonight. If my hypothetical wife were with me I think I’d be a better travel partner. Maybe a B+?
Serving despite… —Relationship Module 2—was a bigger challenge for me. At one point the bridesmaids got cranky while I, tired and confused, was driving them around Columbus for a hair and nail rendezvous. (Or is it a “hair and nail event?”) My self-talk was, “Don’t react. This is relationship training. Just drive.” I dropped them off and felt pretty good about my effort. Then I got a text:
– Hi-Ball Energy Drinks in peach flavor needed—STAT. So I delayed my next commitment and combed the city looking for a store that sold the exact drinks requested. I said a few curse words under my breath, but in the end I found the beverages – which absolutely are not Dr. Miller approved liquids – and delivered the goods anyway. I served despite… a lack of warm fuzzies; despite… a philosophical difference in drink choices and despite… my own schedule. Relationship Module 2 : B- ? (curse word deductions).
All weekend I was like one of the airline pilots before me, who – because of unpredictable circumstances – was on standby, unsure of the next “wheels up” moment. I left Planet Adam for a few days. I’m pretty sure I can leave Planet Adam for good if needed. I can imagine her being worth it. I can believe again that building a new planet with her is an adventure worth going on. I say this because of what I saw in my patients, the bride and groom, at their wedding.
I saw all three flames of love burning in the newlyweds this weekend. Let me explain. There are three words for love in Hebrew, because the creators of the language didn’t think it was appropriate to express one’s love for hamburgers and love for a spouse with the same word. Seems wise to me. So, raya, ahava and dod came to be.
The raya love is the desire to be around someone. It is similar to philos, or brotherly, love, which creates the “I love being with this person” sentiment. The ahava love represents affection that causes one to pursue commitment, in an exclusive relationship, with that special friend. The inner man’s ahava energy leads to: “I want this person to dominate my schedule, and mine alone.”
The dod is the most popular, and I think most misunderstood flame of love. Dod is the erotic, sexual and intimate love – “I’m done with words, my body wants to express my admiration and commitment to you – NOW!” I will never forget the dramatic example of dod I witnessed at the elephant breeding center in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
One of the elephant enclosures looked like a tornado had hit it. And in a sense it did. The Park Ranger explained that Chitwan is an unusually challenging set-up because the females go outside the park for daily exercise, feeding and training. When they are in heat, they drop sent—which is natural. But at Chitwan it is also problematic.
When raya, ahava and dod are present, they act as contributing parts to a brilliant flame of friendship, commitment, and physical intimacy. In traditional Hebrew culture the belief was that marriage should only be encouraged when all three love flames are present. All rhetoric aside, you know it when you see it, right? And I saw the tri-flame burning brightly this weekend in the bride and groom. It’s good—inspiringly good. But, I’m not sure eHarmony is the best place to find it. Here’s why.
The order in which a couple lights the love flames matters. And eHarmony doesn’t encourage the right order. Initially, the raya should be the strongest lead. You should be friends first. You should simply like the person and want to spend time enjoying shared interests. Over time—sometimes weeks, other times years – the raya tank should spill over into a desire to commit to the person, formally lighting the ahava love flame. And, after establishing the honor, security and esteem wrapped into a commitment the door effortlessly swings open to the erotic, sexual expression of one’s intoxicated dod elephant. The problem is that eHarmony leads with the ahava and dod – it’s out of sequence. I’ve concluded that if you leap frog the raya on your way to an early roll in the hay – you risk losing it all.
I think my last relationship failed to launch because we met in a space, eHarmony, that leads with ahava, the commitment love. But, Miller that’s what you said was the goal at the opening. I know, and at first glance leading with ahava seems healthy. And I’m not saying eHarmony can’t deliver. There are plenty of cases where the raya, friendship love, ignites after the commitment love flame is ablaze. I have Indian colleagues who have built wonderful—arranged—marriages, as an extreme example. But, in today’s world what typically happens is the dod gets lit second and the window for building the friendship foundation never gets, pardon the pun, laid.
Because, let’s face it—having the security of commitment and the pleasure of safe sex – makes life better. Eventually, however, the couple wonders why the commitment and sex doesn’t feel complete. They are respectful; have a few laughs and are checking the right boxes together. But, checking the right boxes has a glass ceiling to it. Frankly, the world needs more than checking boxes. I need more than checking the boxes. Box checking relationships of convenience are best avoided, in my opinion, by making sure the love dominos fall in order:
“I like you – a lot“ raya down.
(Some time later…)
“I like you enough that I want you to be the dominant person in my life” ahava down.
“I want to communicate with our naked bodies” dod down.
I got all that I intended and more at this weekend’s wedding. I had the satisfaction I hoped for as I watched my two patients, people I’ve helped build marriage-ready health, say “I do.” In many ways it was the perfect wedding—no drama; very authentic; accented by beautiful sunny weather and healthy attractive people. I was inspired by the three-flame love of the couple, and the supporting love of their families. I’m not saying I’m over my break-up, but I leave this weekend encouraged.
I have a template – again – for what I hope my future wedding will bring. I made it through relationship training modules 1 and 2. And I’ve now written a declaration to myself of what not-to-do. So will I roll the dice on eHarmony again?
I think so. But, this article will be a billboard on my profile. “Dr. Miller’s 3 step process to the right marriage”—hey that has a nice ring to it! (I’m kidding…sort of).
The storms have lifted in Chicago, and I can see passengers heading down the gate to my plane ride home. Thanks for the chat—gotta fly!
Man. Woman. World. You, me, him, and her wake-up to the world as our workshop every day. You gotta love it………………….
I met this French Pastry Chef walking in the park one day with an “I Love My Wife” t-shirt broadcasting his romantic posture. I asked him if it is true – does he really love his wife after 30 years of marriage? “Of course!” He said, “In America everyone’s looking for reasons to break-up. We choose to love each other every day.”