I’ve been keeping a secret for quite a while now but long enough is long enough. It’s time to spill the beans, time to let the cat out of the bag. It’s tempting to take credit for the secret but I learned it from a guru. You may find that hard to believe and let me assure you I found it pretty unbelievable too. You don’t expect to ever come across a real live guru, or at least I didn’t. Even had I thought meeting a guru some day was a possibility, I certainly had not imagined the encounter happening while I was sitting alone at a picnic table in my neighborhood park. If you have a few minutes, I’ll tell you the story.

It was a chilly October weekend afternoon, one of those tweeners, as we like to call them. I was taking a break from my walk, just relaxing at a picnic table near the edge of the park. There were a few children playing on the swings and slide across the park but it was generally quiet and peaceful. My thoughts had wondered and my attention was focused on nothing in particular. Rex, my guide dog, was sprawled on the ground at my feet and snoring.

Good afternoon.

There was someone sitting on the bench across from me, although I didn’t know whether he had just sat down or had been there all along. I responded, Hello. It’s a chilly afternoon. I know, that wasn’t very original but it was the best I could muster under the circumstances. Truth be told, I was a little startled. I thought I had the table to myself.

The voice which I quickly concluded belonged to a very old gentleman was quite clear, loud enough but somehow soft, and unusually soothing. He said, I saw you sitting here and can see you are quite perceptive and sensitive. That’s why I have chosen you to be the keeper of the secret.

No, I wasn’t flattered or anything even close. In retrospect, I hate to admit it but I figured I was having an encounter with a nut case. Rex kept snoring so I didn’t feel threatened, since danger would have likely alerted him; but I was clear I was experiencing one of those occasional awkward situations arising now and then. I said, That’s interesting. It was not a day for clever responses, that’s for sure.

My hesitation did not bother him or at least if it did, you would never know. He calmly continued, Please allow me a few minutes. I will pass along the secret and then I will be gone. You will have the secret and you and your handsome companion can continue your walk. It is a beautiful day for enjoying the spectacular fall we are having.

How could I possibly avoid what I figured would be strange if not down right weird? I was having visions of aliens or at least a ghost or two. I didn’t have a clue what his secret was but was pretty sure I didn’t want to spend time finding out. Despite my reluctance, I was curious too. Politeness and curiosity won out. I asked him to share the secret, and he began.

THE GURU:

Thank you for allowing me to share with you the secret to perfect relationships with people close to you. Achieving perfection is not easy but it is not difficult to understand either. This wisdom is not new but eludes most everyone. Sad to say, the secret was passed to me too late for me and mine. That is a story you have no need to hear. Today, your knowing the secret is enough.

Every close relationship has thirty parts, no more, no less. Perfection is not in the individual parts. Rather it is in blending all thirty in full measure, every minute of every day. Omit or short any of the thirty and imperfection grows, your relationship weakens, and relationship failure is nigh.

30 PARTS:

30 may seem like a lot of parts and too many to manage every hour of every day so I’ll put them in a 6–pack of five each. Remember, I mentioned relationship perfection is not easy. Nonetheless, an intelligent person like you will find it doable with time and careful attention. My personal experience tells me even you may be tempted to slack off. That would be a very big mistake. No less than complete vigilance is sufficient for perfection. When you are tempted, thoughtfully consider the alternative. There is no more to say on that. These are the parts.

ACCEPTING || AFFECTIONATE || AMBITIOUS || ASSERTIVE || ATTRACTIVE

Accept your co–relater (Lets refer to him or her as your CR.) as is. Changing is an individual choice, not a condition of your relationship. Acceptance combines with affection, always an instant away, always given. Ambition reflects eagerness to achieve perfection, to relate better and better. Be assertive, never conveying hostility, never making demands but always making your needs, desires, and personal interests known. Make staying attractive a priority, understanding attractiveness extends from physical attractiveness to include emotional, moral, social, and mental attractiveness. Each matters, each is a personal priority.

CONSIDERATE || CONSISTENT || DEPENDABLE || DECISIVE || ENERGETIC

Affirmatively consider the needs, feelings, preferences, and interests of your CR. Do not reflexively defer but balance the consideration equation as much as possible. This is relationship banking: making deposits and withdrawals. Keep your balance high and do not over–drawl your account. Relationship banking requires interpersonal consistency and dependability. Physical, emotional, moral, social, sexual, and intellectual consistency and dependability are hallmarks of perfection. Combine these parts with decisiveness and energy. Do what you need to do, choose what you choose, decide what you decide without being sullen or wishy–washy.

FAIR || FLEXIBLE || GENTLE || GIVING || HARD–WORKING

Be fair. Be flexible. Be open to and willing to adjust your plans and expectations to accommodate to those of your CR, without reflexively capitulating or giving in. Being gentle speaks for itself. There is never a justification for roughness, hurtfulness, or causing any type of pain or avoidable discomfort. In the give and take of your relationship, emphasize giving, keeping all accounts in balance. Work hard, doing your share, doing what is reasonably expected, doing what you have agreed to do.

HELPFUL || HONEST || INVOLVED || LOYAL || MORAL

Do what you can to help, to make things easier for your CR. Be honest, tell the truth, do not mislead or misrepresent. Assure your honesty includes emotional honesty. Be involved in your relationship, do not withdrawal or become detached. Be there every day, fully, all the time. Be loyal, stick with your CR, whatever the circumstance. Being scrupulously moral is, of course, a bottom line commitment. Do what is right and never knowingly do otherwise.

OPEN || PATIENT || PLAYFUL || POSITIVE || PREDICTABLE

Be open; Do not hide or disguise your feelings, beliefs, judgments, opinions, or what you are thinking when with your CR. Make “I am who I appear to be,” a personal philosophy. Consciously assure positiveness and playfulness characterize your behavior and attitudes when with your CR. Be a positive person and keep check on your occasional negativity and pessimism. Be predictable, easy to understand, familiar within the context of your relationship.

RELAXED || RESPONSIBLE || SPONTANEOUS || SUPPORTIVE || TOLERANT

Be relaxed with your Cr, keeping tense moments to the minimum, limited and under control. Being spontaneous and supportive need no explanation. Your CR needs and deserves your attention and care. Be tolerant when your CR is having a bad day, is not managing participation in your relationship particularly well, is not living up to your hopes and wishes. Expect perfection from yourself but accept your CR as is, without reluctance or reservation.

THE SECRET:

I was listening so intensely it was a while before it registered with me the guru had stopped. The silence was profound. Even the sounds from the playground had stopped. I waited, at a complete loss. I had no idea what to say, assuming there was still anyone there to hear me.

After what seemed like forever, I finally said, “That’s interesting.” No, I hadn’t gotten any cleverer. There was still nothing, not a sound.

Eventually, the guru said, “Thank you for listening. I will go on my way now.”

I quickly said, “That’s it, the secret to perfect relationships?”

“No, that is not the secret. The 30 parts are prerequisite, what you must know before you can apply the secret to your relationships.”

At least the mental fog had cleared by then. “I don’t think I get it. If all that isn’t the secret, then tell me. What is the secret?”

• “When you feel the magic slipping away, concentrate more on loving better than on being loved better.”

I waited but that was it; and this time, the guru really was gone. I’m gone too. Thanks for listening.