I know she is there.

My eyes are closed, the sun still sleeps, no movement or breath may reach me, but I feel her touch from inches apart. Hearts entwined through space and time, cocooned in love we will never be apart, but even in this perfect unity we must be alone, together.

When we fall in love, or even enter a new friendship, it is with an independent soul. We have little knowledge of the deeper they, we have not adapted our ways or views to compliment or compromise, our preferences and desires have yet to be projected upon this fresh connection.

This two-way street comes later, when the niggling habits begin to surface, the quirks and traits, hidden through shame or insecurity, that arise through comfort and relaxation.

But each of these, no matter their nature, from nose-picking to a hatred of jazz, have been nurtured over decades, drawn into the formula, an intrinsic part of the recipe that makes the creature we see before us.

Whatever nuances our partner may present, even those we abhor, we must love them all. For without any one of this myriad list of ingredients, the one to whom we open our heart, the complete entity we have fallen in love with, would cease to exist.

We may adapt ourselves, but to corrupt another is to destroy their truth.

Whatever we may find to which we cannot relate, it is not our place to quash or alter. If your lover’s 5 am Yoga practice infuriates you, breathe in, relax. She does not ask you to join her on the mat. Close your eyes and snuggle down, you needn’t wake just yet.

Walk the dog, go for a run, find your own morning practice, a space and place for your moments together alone, sharing time apart.

Just as we mustn’t try to mold another to reflect our egocentric projections, we must also remain true to ourselves. Honor the vision others have of you, accept that it is not your future actions or the ways you change that have drawn them to you. Respect that they have come to you despite themselves.

You were not influenced by their vision or desires when your paths first crossed and, but for your inner tides and changes, you were your purest self.

Listen to that voice, the one that found you in the womb, that soothed you through heartbreak, that taunts you at times but remains your truest teacher, your closest confidant and the only one that will never, no matter what, through every breath you take, leave your side.

But, just as you are you, they are them. Even the most perfect match has its differences. Though we may wish to share every moment in embrace, to immerse ourselves completely in our loved one’s presence, to do so is to deny our own needs and, ergo, diminish that person they fell in love with.

It can be hard to accept or justify a time of selfishness, to follow your passions at the denial of others. But this is who we are. We are the person that likes to watch horror films or eat spicy food. We are the one who is allergic to horses or who panics in crowds.

It is us who surfs or dances or chants or meditates. Just as it is us that they have accepted and fallen for, and just as their guilty pleasures, love them or loathe them, are as real to us as their blue eyes, their curly hair or their crooked teeth.

If we are to truly love, at whatever level that may be, we must love consummately, warts and all. But we must also recognize that  neither we nor they need endure those warts.

We do not have to like the habits of others to love everything about them. We can adore the way they walk the shoreline in silence, despite the pain of not being invited. We can cherish the way their eyes glisten from the ocean’s waters, but we fear the crashing waves.

We might not want to Downward Dog or utter an Om, but the free spirit awakened through our loved one’s practice makes us fall more deeply than ever before.

Respect is essential, in all of our relationships, and that respect extends to the respect of space and freedom, respecting time apart that we might reunite revitalized, stronger in ourselves and consequentially stronger for each other.

So let go, be free, feed yourself and allow space. Nourish each other to nurture the ones you love.

To love completely is to be alone, together.

– This article first appeared on Rebelle Society on Sep 11, 2014