Life Advice



Single File: Two-Handed Love

Susan Dietz on

Zen teachings include a lesson on the sound of one hand clapping. For Buddhists, that leads to deep and provocative wisdom, definitely instructive as a life lesson but not where we're going here. In a less lofty (but more realistic) world, where give-and-take is the name of the game, both hands must be clapping to create the sound of true love. If you feel like a one-man band when you're with your beloved, best to speak up. Loudly. And often. One person cannot and should not be the whole enchilada. There must be mutual effort to make togetherness work. Reciprocity is the mantra of true love.

A relationship that works is one in which both partners are expending thought, time and effort toward a mutually satisfying -- and workable -- solution. It takes dialogue, and plenty of it. Yes, at times one of you will do more of the talking, but then the other will catch up, choreographing a dance in which each of you takes a turn at leading. The dialogue could even morph into monologue at times, when one partner needs to vent feelings long suppressed. But it will always return to two-sided communication, because both partners lovingly give each other plenty of room for expression.

For that depth of mutuality, there must exist a gut feeling of total safety. Baring one's soul can come only after a long, intimate sharing of experiences. Honestly, that depth of intimacy isn't possible quickly. Its imposter is achievable more quickly, but it is limited and, in the end, unsatisfying. Far better (for me, at least) is the up-close, in-your-face melding in which there are no secrets and there is no holding back. Admittedly, one size doesn't fit everyone, because it takes nonstop scrutiny of one's deepest feelings, fears and insecurities galore. And not all of us are willing to risk that kind of nakedness. But for those of us who take the leap, singular in-your-face closeness pays off.

Being paired with someone who knows the best and worst of you is an experience like none other. Flashes of exotic arousal surface at times, of course, but friendship is the river coursing through it, the liking fundamental to the loving. To reach that pinnacle of intimacy takes generosity of spirit, a sharing of self only the strong can risk. Both lovers must allow the other into their inmost dreams and terrors. Definitely not for the faint of heart.


Love that isn't two hands clapping is pathetic imitation of the real thing, with lingering pain constantly reminding you of the deficit. Dreams of what might be or could be or should be crowd into your daydreams and demand to be recognized. One-sided caring is a painful farce, and those who allow it to exist are unspeakably cruel. The lover will never feel the closeness he or she craves, doomed to be perpetual outsider, his or her adoration merely tolerated. The loneliness of one hand clapping is a sound no one deserves.


Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at We've uncovered another treasure trove of "Single File" paperbacks -- in perfect condition, signed by Susan, ready to enjoy. Send $15 and your address: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.



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