True Love: It’s All About Timing

Katie Young
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Wednesday - December 07, 2005

There’s a story that my friend, also the expert in this article, told me recently.

It goes something like this: Years ago on the Tonight Show, host Johnny Carson had two comedic guests in the lineup. The first was George Burns, the second was Richard Pryor.

Burns, being the master of comedy he was, came out and did his routine and had the crowd roaring with laughter.

Next, Pryor came out and did his routine, which also put the crowd in stitches.

When the two sat down together to talk to Carson, Burns cracked another joke that had the audience laughing so hard they were practically crying. But when Pryor came back with his own joke, there was dead silence. Crickets chirping. It wasn’t the right moment for the wisecrack, I guess.

This is when Burns leaned over to Prior and said, “Son, like I told you backstage - it’s all about the timing.”

That statement is true not just in comedy, but about life. We are constantly being presented with opportunities - from careers to relationships - and when faced with deciding which opportunities to take, timing is one of those essential factors often overlooked.

“When an opportunity comes along, for that opportunity to work, all the context has to be in place,” says Don Kopf, psychologist and owner of Positive Potential.

“Say you get a great job offer your junior year in college. The timing would be horrible because you really need to finish your schooling so you’ll be prepared for your future.”

Kopf says it’s amazing how many careers are messed up by poorly timed offers or opportunities that come up when you’re just not ready.

The same is true for our romantic relationships.

“Just because two people are interested in each other doesn’t mean they’ll be able to be together,” says Kopf. “Maybe one person is too focused on their career or one just got out of a relationship. Timing is just as important as other factors like attraction and common interests.”

My friend Amanda doesn’t agree with the whole timing thing. She’s more the type who believes that true love can conquer all - no matter what.

The problem, however, is that Amanda has wasted a lot of time wondering why some of her relationships have failed.

“There was love!” she’d say, scratching her head. “Why wasn’t it enough? Isn’t love hard enough to find without worrying about timing?”

“Of course it is,” we, her friends, would reply. “But that’s really what went wrong: the timing! Scott was moving to San Francisco, Evan had just gotten out of a serious relationship and needed some ‘me’ time, and Les was focusing all his energy on building his career and didn’t have time for a girlfriend.”

The practicality of “the right timing” was too unromantic for Amanda to fathom. She continues to believe that love will conquer all.

Kopf explains it’s like baking a cake. You need all the right ingredients - flour, eggs, ... - and if one of those things is missing, your cake will taste like, well, dirt. Timing in relationships, like eggs in a cake, are critical ingredients.

“With bad timing, it doesn’t mean that two people aren’t meant for each other, but they just have to wait for the right moment,” says Kopf.

A different moment. And no amount of forcing something to work - no matter how good the potential seems - will make it work.

Aren’t there things you look back at now in your life and think, “Gee, if that job opportunity in Vegas had come along when I was single, or if that guy had come along just a year later, things would have been great.”

We can wish for the right time, more time, a different time, but the bottom line is: Life’s rhythms must be in synch for the punch-line to work.

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