1. Say something nice about someone people expect you to speak ill of.

As soon as we met, I knew that my future wife was nothing like me. She was nine years older than I was and almost 6 inches taller. She was blonde and blue-eyed, which to me, as an Indian, was not immediately attractive. (Blonde suggests malnutrition, since the hair of starving children turns straw-colored; blue eyes seem eerie and alien.) I say all this because, though my wife is conventionally beautiful, her looks did not play a large part in my falling in love with her. I was more interested in her attitude about a woman who had bad-mouthed her as a way to get a promotion.

Lisa, instead of saying something angry, talked about what a good mother this woman was. Her generosity made me think: This is a person who will be kind, not just with me but with others.

2. Ask a boring question.

As we were walking through a park on a date, my future wife said, "Tell me something boring about you." I felt enormous relief when she said this. It made me feel that she wanted to know me, not just the public face that I put on. I told her about how, when I was a child, my parents used to put me to bed early and, as I would lie there unable to sleep, I would hear the children on the street who were allowed to remain outdoors and felt that life was elsewhere.

My wife still asks me things like what I had for lunch or whether the coffeemaker at work has been replaced. This makes me feel known. We are as much the minor details of our lives, and our responses to these details, as we are grand spiritual things.

3. Talk about work.

When I met her, Lisa used to work for Planned Parenthood. She would tell me about her job, about the clinics she supervised, about the schools that she visited and when I tried to imagine her doing these things, the idea of her competency made her appear mysterious and strong. There was also something comforting about knowing that she could take care of herself, that she was not somebody who would be dependent on me. For us ordinary human beings to fall in love, we need the right ratio of dependence to independence in the other person.

4. Grab the man's hand and pull him somewhere.

At the beginning of our relationship, my wife saw a cop approaching the car she had parked illegally. She grabbed my hand and ran to get to the car before the cop did. She could have run ahead without me, but her grabbing my hand and pulling me meant that she could not bear to be apart from me. For days afterward, I remembered how tightly she had held my hand.

Even now, she periodically grabs my hand and starts tugging me forward, through train stations, across stores; and when she does this, I become aware of how essential I am to her.


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