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Relationships

  • I personally translated the word 'vendetta' as Italian for 'What do you mean, "you want to see other women"?'

  • People who are good to each other make each other good.

  • If a man has a sense of identity that does not depend on being shored up by someone else, it cannot be eroded by someone else. If a woman has a sense of identity that does not depend on finding that identity in someone else, she cannot lose her identity in someone else. And so we return to the central fact: it is necessary to be.

  • Sometimes, if your own life is to add up, you must subtract yourself from someone else's life. This time comes, I think, whenever you find that the affection or love of someone else can be kept only at the cost of yourself. If you are on the receiving end of much criticism, if the other has nothing but dissatisfaction with you, if you have lost the sense that to be yourself is a good and decent thing, it is time to get out. If love lessens you, if an undeclared war is being carried on in its name, if it is an excuse for destructive demands, if it is painful and joyless, it is time to let the love go and save yourself. You will find another love but never another self.

  • Avoid that romantic trap: saying more than you feel, forcing yourself to feel more than you've said!

    • Natalie Clifford Barney,
    • "Scatterings" (1910), in Anna Livia, ed., A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney ()
  • ... the end of anything is a relief. In every relationship, even the most valuable, there are certain unpleasant tensions — and the ending of it snaps those taut inner wires.

  • I didn't know that being in a relationship meant you had to be nice. I thought it meant you had to hack away at the other person until they were beaten down and then were too afraid to leave.

  • The intense happiness of our union is derived in a high degree from the perfect freedom with which we each follow and declare our own impressions.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1860), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • He's got tired of her now, has Martin. He said she took so much worshiping she made his knees sore.

  • When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.

  • They had quarreled about this single, solitary sore point: their life.

  • ... there's no loneliness like the loneliness of people who are living together, and who don't belong together ...

  • One is apt to think of people's affection as a fixed quantity, instead of a sort of moving sea with tide always going out or coming in but still fundamentally there.

  • Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships.

  • Most real relationships are involuntary.

  • He met Mayo — fell into something with her (drink and bed, I should think) ...

  • One partner is always more in love than the other.

  • Now the whole dizzying range of sexual possibilities has been boiled down to that one big, boring, bulimic word: relationship.

  • I know a lot of people didn't expect our relationship to last — but we've just celebrated our two months' anniversary.

    • Britt Ekland,
    • in Jilly Cooper and Tom Hartman, eds., Violets and Vinegar ()
  • I feel sorry for anyone that I am obsessed with. I am worse than gum in your hair, very, very close to the roots.

  • He spoke of us as if we were a kind of New Age Zelda and F. Scott — diving into the hotel fountains without care or repercussions, thinking we were beautiful and damned when actually we were just okay-looking and pathetic.

  • ... the relationship between the two men was something of a miracle in itself. It was a cordiality based, apparently, on complete non-comprehension cemented by a deep mutual respect for the utterly unknown. No two men saw less eye to eye and the result was unexpected harmony, as if a dog and a fish had mysteriously become friends and were proud each of the other's remarkable dissimilarity to himself.

  • Union is only possible to those who are units. To be fit for relations in time, souls, whether of man or woman, must be able to do without them in the spirit.

  • The real marriage of true minds is for any two people to possess a sense of humor or irony pitched in exactly the same key, so that their joint glances at any subject cross like interarching searchlights.

  • ... in the dissolution of sentimental partnerships it is seldom that both associates are able to withdraw their funds at the same time ...

    • Edith Wharton,
    • "The Touchstone," Collected Stories 1891-1910 ()
  • Only the fact that we are unaware how well our nearest know us enables us to live with them.

    • Edith Wharton,
    • "The Touchstone," Collected Stories 1891-1910 ()
  • Someone to tell it to is one of the fundamental needs of human beings.

  • No partner in a love relationship (whether homo- or heterosexual) should feel that he has to give up an essential part of himself to make it viable.

  • It's extraordinary how little two people can understand each other and how cruel two people who are fond of each other can be to each other — there is practically no cruelty so awful because their power to hurt is so great.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1932, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916-1954 ()
  • Playing well with others isn't all it's cracked up to be.

  • Too many of us stay walled up because we are afraid of being hurt. We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.

  • When you reach out and touch other human beings, it doesn't matter whether you call it therapy or teaching or poetry.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse ()
  • Coupling doesn't always have to do with sex ... Two people holding each other up like flying buttresses. Two people depending on each other and babying each other and defending each other against the world outside. Sometimes it was worth all the disadvantages of marriage just to have that: one friend in an indifferent world.

  • I can't mate in captivity.

  • One part of the science of living is to learn just what our own responsibility is, and to let other people's alone.

  • ... a woman who has known but one man is like a person who has heard only one composer.

  • Kindness and intelligence don't always deliver us from the pitfalls and traps: there are always failures of love, of will, of imagination. There is no way to take the danger out of human relationships.

  • I think it is impossible for one human being really to know another without first knowing and being at peace with himself.

  • No human being can ever 'own' another, whether in friendship, love, marriage, or parenthood.

  • Everett was chiefly a romanticist, and I chiefly a sentimentalist. One looks to the future; the other to the past; and the present, on the unlikely chance that both ever happen to be in it at the same time, is, under such circumstances, foredoomed to be disappointing.

  • What strange critters men and wimmin be. Now you may live with one for years, and think you know every crook and turn in that critter's mind, jest like a book; when lo! and behold! all of a sudden a leaf will be turned over, that had been glued together by some circumstance or other, and there will be readin' that you never set eyes on before.

  • One of us two must sometime face existence / Alone with memories that but sharpen pain. / ... / One of us two shall find all life, all beauty, / All joy on earth, a tale forever done; / Shall know henceforth that life means only duty. / O God! O God! have pity on that one!

  • Oh, dark, inevitable and awful day, / When one of us must go and one must stay!

  • Happiness cannot fly on one wing, I cannot be happy while you are not.

    • Sylvia Townsend Warner,
    • 1940, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland ()
  • In all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone.

  • Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground. / You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.

  • Burning dinner is not incompetence but war.

    • Marge Piercy,
    • "What's That Smell in the Kitchen?" Circles on the Water ()
  • ... in her sensible way she was really attached to him, as one becomes attached to a bed, however uncomfortable, in which one has slept, or tried vainly to sleep, for more than fifty years.

  • ... people change and forget to tell each other.

  • ... it was an unspoken pleasure that having come together so many years before, ruined so much, and repaired a little, we had endured.

  • ... as one grows older, one realizes how little one knows about any relationship, or even about oneself.

  • I always knew one thing, that life is made bearable and possible and liveable by the relations of one human being to another, the individual love and gentleness between persons, or in any case, the unbreakable bond that grows and fastens lives together in all sorts of mysterious ways ...

  • ... no one needed to do more than see the two together to know that Sallie had Lem's gentle soul between her thumb and forefinger and that she pinched it cruelly.

  • In every relationship, sooner or later, there is a court scene. Accusations, counter-accusations, a trial, a verdict.

  • Mature people relate to each other without the need to merge.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1946, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 4 ()
  • Only a person who considers himself too good for you is good enough.

  • ... if one really does try to find out why it is that people don't leave each other, one discovers a mystery. It is because they can't; they are bound. And nobody on earth knows what are the bonds that bind them except those two.

  • A sudden idea on the relationship between 'lovers.' We are neither male nor female. I choose the male who will develop and expand the male in me; he chooses me to expand the female in him. Being made 'whole.'

  • Proximity was their support; like walls after an earthquake they could fall no further for they had fallen against each other.

  • On the wall of our life together hung a gun waiting to be fired in the final act.

  • ... two women, eye to eye / measuring each other's spirit, each other's / limitless desire, / a whole new poetry beginning here.

    • Adrienne Rich,
    • "Transcendental Etude," The Dream of a Common Language ()
  • An honorable human relationship ... is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

    • Adrienne Rich,
    • "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying," On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ()
  • We shared everything all our lives, the important ones and the trivial ones, and it's the trivial ones that build ties between people.

  • I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting. I would rather watch TV. Of course, this eventually becomes known to the other person.

  • She felt ill-suited to the mystery of being in a relationship. Relationship — that silk purse turned sow's ear, a corridor you wandered too far down and discovered a door had silently closed somewhere far behind you. If the suspense didn't kill you, something else surely would. Ensnared in a relentless beam of scrutiny, the only motion you could achieve was coming up short ...

  • The richness and endless variety of human relationships ... that's what authors, even the finest and greatest, only succeed in hinting at. It's a hopeless business, like trying to dip up the ocean with a tea-spoon.

    • Dorothy Canfield Fisher,
    • 1920, in Mark J. Madigan, ed., Keeping Fires Night and Day: Selected Letters of Dorothy Canfield Fisher ()
  • The hearts that never lean, must fall.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1881, in Mabel Loomis Todd, ed., Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 1 ()
  • I felt it shelter to speak to you.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1878, in Mabel Loomis Todd, ed., Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 2 ()
  • ... how much better to make no vow; then at least when the cord of attraction snaps, we can go free, still defying the lightning in our untarnished pride.

  • My hand is not at home in yours. / Your hand is lust — / my hand is longing.

    • Edith Södergran,
    • "Discovery" (1916), in Stina Katchadourian, trans., Love and Solitude ()
  • ... when we live with our lovers, more is sometimes less. There's more of him, of course. But there's less of just about everything else: privacy, autonomy, and closet space.

  • Then there are those mornings ... when we don't so much seem to be getting out of bed together as we do to be coming out of opposite corners.

  • If the apartment has to be neat ... why can't he just tidy up himself instead of asking questions like 'What's the magazine doing on the couch?'

  • Honesty is probably as necessary to a successful relationship as having both partners' parents live in another state.

  • She could not say whether being with this man was like finding something new or rediscovering something forgotten.

  • My solitude begins in your arms.

  • Monogamous heterosexual love is probably one of the most difficult, complex and demanding of human relationships.

  • To demand that another love what one loves is tyranny enough, but to demand that another hate what one hates, is even worse.

    • Margaret Mead,
    • letter to Gregory Bateson (1948), in Margaret M. Caffrey and Patricia A. Francis, eds., To Cherish the Life of the World: Selected Letters of Margaret Mead ()
  • The strength of each was so the being of the other that no thought could take form in the brain of one without the other's stirring with it.

  • Both Ron and I went to see our analysts twice a week so really there was no need to speak to each other.

  • Relationship is a pervading and changing mystery, it is not words that make it so in life, but words have to make it so in a story. Brutal or lovely, the mystery waits for people wherever they go ...

  • A fox is a wolf who sends flowers.

  • God said, 'When one man and one woman shine together, it makes the most perfect light.'

  • We didn't have a relationship, we had a personality clash.

  • ... romantic love is a biological ballet. It is evolution's way of making sure that sexual partners meet and mate, then give their child the care it needs to be healthy and make loving attachments of its own. This isn't a simple or fast process. The human brain is so complex, the mind so ingenious, that biology and experience work hand in hand. People usually undergo a series of crushes, infatuations, and loves between infancy and adulthood. They learn to make magnetic attachments, whose power they feel in their cells, in their bones. Thinking about the loved one steers their every thought, and they would die rather than break the force field of their devotion. It is as if they were two stars, tightly orbiting each other, each feeding on the other's gravity. Because nothing and no one in time or creation seems to matter more, a broken relationship rips the lining from the heart, crushes the rib cage, shatters the lens of hope, and produces a drama both tragic and predictable. Wailing out loud or silently, clawing at the world and at one's self, the abandoned lover mourns.

  • Breath is life, and the intermingling of breaths is the purpose of good living. This is in essence the great principle on which all productive living must rest, for relationships among all the beings of the universe must be fulfilled; in this way each individual life may also be fulfilled.

  • It was an old quandary for them. He needed sex in order to feel connected to her, and she needed to feel connected to him in order to enjoy sex.

  • I will bring you a whole person / and you will bring me a whole person / and we will have us twice as much / of love and everything ...

    • Mari Evans,
    • "Celebration," A Dark and Splendid Mass ()
  • ... I am not at all the sort of person you and I took me for ...

    • Jane Welsh Carlyle,
    • letter to Thomas Carlyle (1822), in Alan and Mary McQueen Simpson, eds., I Too Am Here ()
  • Because you're not what I would have you be / I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.

  • ... when two people unite, kindness must be mutual, or shocking things will happen.

  • Intimate relationships cannot substitute for a life plan. But to have any meaning or viability at all, a life plan must include intimate relationships.

  • Many of our problems with anger occur when we choose between having a relationship and having a self.

  • What initially attracts us and what later becomes 'the problem' are usually one and the same.

  • Harmony between two individuals is never given, it must be worked for continually.

  • The great myth of our work-intense era is 'quality time.' We believe we can make up for the loss of days or hours, especially with each other, by concentrated minutes. But ultimately there is no way to do one-minute mothering. There is no way to pay attention in a hurry.

  • There were gulfs between them — gulfs which, as it seemed to him, in a miserable insight, could never be bridged again. Oh, the frightful separateness of experience!

  • Any relationship is like a house with an upstairs: it's got two stories.

  • I have noticed before that there is a category of acquaintanceship that is not friendship or business or romance, but speculation, fascination.

  • All the movements in the world, all the laws, the drives, the edicts will never do what personal relationships can do and must do.

    • Lillian Smith,
    • 1943, in Margaret Rose Gladney, ed., How Am I to Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith ()
  • Let us not fear the hidden. Or each other.

  • Can I ever know you / Or you know me?

  • No woman need fear the effect of absence upon the man who honestly loves her. The needle of the compass, regardless of intervening seas, points forever toward the north. Pitiful indeed is she who fails to be a magnet and blindly becomes a chain.

  • ... Jackson embezzled Laurel's life. He pretended it was still in her account, but little by little, he transferred it to his own. And finally, she was bankrupt.

    • Gillian Roberts,
    • "Fury Duty," in Marilyn Wallace, ed., Sisters in Crime 3 ()
  • In the midst of the happiness they brought there was always a lurking shadow. The shadow of incompatibility; of the impossibility of being at once bound and free. The garden breeds a longing for the wild; the wild a homesickness for the garden.

  • It's only in silence that you can judge of your relationship to a person.

  • ... two pardners may set side by side, and yet worlds lay between 'em.

  • When, like me, one has nothing in oneself one hopes for everything from another ...

  • It was towards the end of June that incompatibility became established between them like a new season of the year. Like a season, it had its surprises and even its pleasures.

  • Ah, how much I like you, how well we get on, when you're asleep and I'm awake.

  • It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

  • It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

  • A therapist lays bare the 'inner workings' of your relationship. Who wields the power? Who is the 'Parent'? Who is the 'Fascist'? Who is the 'Big Cheese'? Who is the 'Cottage Cheese'? Who is the 'Little Tomato'?

  • ... in love, gallantry is necessary. Even when the first wild desire is gone, especially then, there is an inherent need for good manners and consideration, for the putting forth of effort. Two courteous and civilized human beings out of the loneliness of their souls owe that to each other.

  • He has a future and I have a past, so we should be all right.

  • I have a theory about why opposites attract. I think it's because we have a deep desire to get on each other's nerves.

  • Our primary relationship is really with ourselves ... Our relationships with other people constantly reflect exactly where we are in the process.

  • A deadness occurs in relationships when people are no longer willing to tell each other how they really feel. When people first fall in love they're more willing to do this because they're still getting to know each other and dependency has not yet set in. As soon as it does, though, people often stop sharing their true feelings out of fear of loss.

  • One hardly dares to say that love is the core of the relationship, though love is sought for and created in relationship; love is rather the marvel when it is there, but it is not always there, and to know another and to be known by another — that is everything.

  • I'm not sure there can be loving without commitment, although commitment takes all kinds of forms, and there can be commitment for the moment as well as commitment for all time. The kind that is essential for loving marriages — and love affairs, as well — is a commitment to preserving the essential quality of your partner's soul, adding to them as a person rather than taking away.

  • Hard to guess what people see in each other, fortunately for the continued existence of the human race.

  • A relationship isn't meant to be an insurance policy, a life preserver or a security blanket.

  • It's much better to be apart and wish you were together than to be together and wish you were apart.

  • The only way two ever live more cheaply than one is if one of them gives up what he or she wants.

  • Love, for both of them, had ceased to be a journey, an adventure, an essay of hope. It had become an infection, a ritual, a drama with a bloody last act, and they could both foresee the final carnage.

  • ... our greatest compatibility was in how we complemented each other's neuroses.

  • All relationships are fragile ... any moment they fall to pieces; they are bindings of old books; they crack at the very point of union; they rot with overweight of pages.

  • In the early years, you fight because you don't understand each other. In later years, you fight because you do.

    • Joan Didion,
    • in Sara Davidson, Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friendship With Joan Didion ()
  • There is probably nothing like living together for blinding people to each other.

  • What if you leave and never return, / and worse, what if you return and never leave. / I fear being alone, but what if I tell you that / even more I fear never being alone.

  • But I have known no loneliness like this, / Locked in your arms and bent beneath your kiss.

  • ... this was life, that two people, no matter how carefully chosen, could not be everything to each other.

  • ... bonding through dependence never works, whereas bonding through freedom always does.

  • Our daily existence requires both closeness and distance, the wholeness of self, the wholeness of intimacy.

  • Do we really know anybody? Who does not wear one face to hide another?

  • 'You are like me!' The deepest flattery one creature pays its fellow, the cry which is uttered when another enters 'our country.'

  • Still, she knew one thing for certain: never judge a relationship unless you are the one wrapped up in its arms.

  • ... relationships. That's all there really is. There's your relationship with the dust that just blew in your face, or with the person who just kicked you end over end. ... You have to come to terms, to some kind of equilibrium, with those people around you, those people who care for you, your environment.

  • We all act as hinges — fortuitous links between other people.

  • Relationships that do not end peacefully, do not end at all.

    • Merrit Malloy,
    • in Merrit Malloy and Shauna Sorensen, The Quotable Quote Book ()
  • We have, each of us, nothing. / We will give it to each other.

  • If two people are repeatedly alone together, some sort of emotional bond will develop between them.

    • Phyllis Greenacre,
    • "The Role of Transference," in Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association ()
  • There is a stage with people we love when we are no longer separate from them, but so close in sympathy that we live through them as directly as through ourselves. ... we push back our hair because theirs is in their eyes.

  • 'If only you were you and yet not you!' / There is no peace with you / Nor ever any rest!

    • Jessie Fauset,
    • "Enigma," in Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, eds., The Poetry of the Negro 1746-1949 ()
  • Loving isn't liking and it takes liking to live together.

  • The first great step is to like yourself enough to pick someone who likes you, too.

  • ... no matter how hard and faithfully we may try we can never compensate another for some lack in his or her life.

  • I feel we have picked each other from the crowd as fellow-travelers.

    • Joanna Field,
    • in Mary Jane Moffat and Charlotte Painter, eds., Revelations: Diaries of Women ()
  • What is the thing I would say to you / Ere the time when we can say nothing at all, / Neither you to me nor I to you, / And between us is sprung a smoky wall?

    • Amy Lowell,
    • "On Christmas Eve," Ballads for Sale ()
  • The complexity of human relationships is never simple to follow; it is like intricate lacework, but lacework made of steel.

  • If we are unhappy without a relationship, we'll probably be unhappy with one as well. A relationship doesn't begin our life; a relationship doesn't become our life. A relationship is a continuation of life.

  • Caring works. Caretaking doesn't. We can learn to walk the line between the two.

  • ... there can be too much communication between people.


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  • ... I believe in the afterglow of a good and long relationship, like the light of a star that keeps pulsing visibly to earth long after the star itself has been extinguished. It may not make your wishes come true, but it can light your way.

  • I realize that I can be with someone, but on a deeper level I'm not available to them at all. I have attention deficit disorder of the soul.

  • What is exciting is not for one person to be stronger than the other; not for the man to be stronger than the woman; and not for the woman to be stronger than the man; but for two people to have met their match and yet they are equally as stubborn, as obstinate, as passionate, as crazy as the other.

  • New links must be forged as old ones rust.

  • We do not yet know each other because we have not yet dared to be silent together.

    • Georgette Leblanc,
    • in Janet Flanner, trans., Souvenirs: My Life With Maeterlinck ()
  • I met him / We were thick / We said good-bye / on The Passing Years / River.

  • I wish you, from my soul, to be riveted in my heart, but I do not desire to have you always to my elbow.

    • Mary Wollstonecraft,
    • letter to her husband (1798), in Janet M. Todd, ed., The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft ()
  • Our love relationships have been based on the pathological model that two persons who pair will become one. Because this model does not allow for separateness in relationships, it has fostered dependency.

  • I was once asked for my definition of living in sin. It's this: any two people living together while one dominates and tyrannizes the other are, to me, living in sin.

  • Vanity, wounded pride, rejection, self-delusion. I could recite a litany of little pinpricks that finally produce a gaping wound. That's how marriages and friendships come apart.

  • Ah, the relationships we get into just to get out of the ones we are not brave enough to say are over.

  • There will be a time you bury me / Or I bury you in the garden.

    • Tomioko Taeko,
    • "Living Together," in Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari, eds., Women Poets of the World ()
  • The only relationships I haven't wrecked right away were the ones that wrecked me later.

  • Someone once said you could tell the people who were in the most successful relationships by the bite marks on their tongues.

  • There is a rule in sailing where the more maneuverable ship should give way to the less maneuverable craft. I think this is sometimes a good rule to follow in human relationships as well.

  • So each will have two lives, a doubled state; / Each in himself will live, and in his mate.

    • Louise Labé,
    • "Sonnet XVIII" (c. 1545), in Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari, eds., Women Poets of the World ()
  • My toothbrush is pink / Is this hard to remember / Your toothbrush is blue.

  • [On love on the rebound:] Remember, lives under construction are unstable and therefore dangerous foundations on which to build a new structure.

  • Your relationship with you sets the tone for every other relationship you have.

  • A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart’s.

  • i didn't leave because / i stopped loving you, / i left because the longer / i stayed the less i loved myself.

  • if you are not enough for yourself / you will never be enough / for someone else.

  • You may think it odd that there were three men to look after one tiny station, but the people who ran the railway knew that if you left two men together in a lonely place they would quarrel, but if you left three men, two of them could always grumble to each other about the third, and then they would be quite happy.