Whenever a friend has trouble in their relationship, I always ask the same question.
“Are you the bird … or are you the hand?”
Some friends think the question suggests that one of them in the relationship loves the other more. That’s not true. Their love is equal. It’s just expressed totally differently, the way the word for love isn’t pronounced the same by a German as a Korean. But it’s definitely the same feeling.
The idea is childishly simple. Which is why I know it’s true. Albert Einstein said if you can explain a complex idea in simple terms, it means you understand it. I’ve thought a lot about it and this analogy works for all love relationships.
“The bird and the hand” is pretty much the E=mc2 of love.
In relationships, there are two roles: the lover and the beloved. You’ve seen this dynamic at play in your relationships, as well as your friends and family. It’s a variation on “opposites attract.” And it’s as natural as magnetism.
You may not believe me. So let’s use some celebrities we all know and test this “bird and the hand” dynamic.
Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne have been together for ages and clearly they love each other. Ozzie is the bird and Sharon is the hand. Ozzie needs to be free to fly, to go off and be as weird as he is. And Sharon needs to nurture Ozzie. She understands his nature and knows he will always return to her. If Sharon tried to keep him tightly to her, Ozzie would fly away for good. And if Sharon thought Ozzie wasn’t going to return, she’d find a new bird to love. She knows Ozzie will come back, so she leaves her hand open. Ozzie’s certain Sharon cares for him and won’t smother him with her love, so he happily returns.
This dynamic requires trust and confidence. This is where most folks run into trouble. A lack of trust and confidence dooms relationships more often than the word “Facebook” shows up in divorce filings. Birds need to be confident the hand will hold them, yet will also let them go. And the hand must trust the bird loves them, even when it flies away.
Think of Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake. Jessica’s a total hand. She wants to hold Justin, who’s about as flighty as they come. She’s learned to trust him and keep her hand open. He’s confident she’ll be warm when he returns, yet will let him go again. They finally got married when she understood a caged bird doesn’t sing as prettily.
Let’s be clear, it’s not always a woman who’s the nurturer. Sometimes, it’s the dude.
Jay-Z is a hand and Beyonce is the bird.
The same for Brangelina. Brad Pitt is a total hand. Angelina Jolie is his beloved bird.
Angelina wants what she wants and he goes along with it. Brad’s happy to have her in his life. He was content to build “green” houses in New Orleans, while she flew around the world on U.N. missions. It works for them.
Read more: Zaron Burnett III, ThoughtCatalog