I  believe I've said this before. I'm not a psychologist, counselor or psychiatrist, simply a 77-year-old Ozarks writer whose done more than his share of living, observing and learning lessons, often the hard way.

How we mesh romantic relationships between rational adults is the most complex challenge we will navigate over our lifetimes. Those entering into a relationship are attempting to successfully meld two distinct universes into a unified, unselfish package that only strengthens with the passage of years.

With current divorce rates for initial marriages hovering between 40 and 50 percent and subsequent marriages worse at 60 to 70 percent, it's apparent that it pays to make certain that what attracts you to another is based in reality and their needs as well as yours rather than eye candy, hormonal urges and unfocused emotional hopes.

Each of us enters into a romantic relationship for myriad reasons. Some love-at-first-sight types find another person physically irresistible and feel they must have them for their very own. Others are taken with another's charming or witty personality, believing that's how life together always would be. A person may impulsively act on a temporary oxytocin rush when relating to a possible long-term partner. Some feel pressure to marry a "you'll do" because the clock is ticking. Others are happy to find they have much in common early, yet slowly drift apart over time.

Seems to me many difficulties we humans share boil down to key issues we are oblivious to during the best-face-forward, heavy-cologne-and-perfume dating period when the fanciful joys and hopeful aspirations take precedence over reality.

Here's some reality life has taught me.

People inevitably change as they grow, which means a couple is always either growing closer or further apart over time, often unaware of the toll this distance has taken until it's too late.

A big part of this unawareness lies in taking many little thoughtful and reassuring things necessary for a close relationship for granted until they become enormous things.

It is complicated for many to realize that whatever little thing we do even out of affection for our partner also is setting an expectation that can create misunderstandings and lingering resentment afterwards that weren't intended.

The strongest, most enduring relationships are those rooted in a couple's shared faith and reliance on their creator and the willingness to always support each other with caring affection.

Each person in a relationship should always treat the other like they want to be treated. Because over time we all grow old, wrinkled and often in need of help, the question isn't whether your partner looks gorgeous today, but whether he or she has the character and devotion to be there when you will most need them.

Two willing "giver" behavioral types have a far better chance of a long relationship than do two "takers" or a "giver" and a "taker."

Since relationships are two-way streets, those in search of the right person need to realize they also need to be the right person.

Making deadly ricin

We read in 1978 about a Bulgarian government operative using the deadly bioweapon ricin to kill a well-known dissident by poking his leg with an umbrella tip that injected him with a metal pellet containing the poison,

That's the last I'd heard of ricin until last week when Jason Kale Clampit from the little burg of Winslow had his first court appearance after being arrested by federal authorities on charges of possessing and manufacturing the stuff in his mobile home. Yep, ricin, not meth or moonshine.

He was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and held at the Washington County jail.

According to the news story by Ron Wood, an anonymous caller informed the Washington County Sheriff's Department of Clampit's activities in mid-January, and the information was forwarded to the FBI.

Another news story said Clampit may have poisoned himself and his mother with the stuff he allegedly used to frighten others away from his property. Hope he didn't have a neighbor living downwind.

This should be more than enough to cause concern in everyone who shops for food or eats out where anyone with ulterior motives has access.

Those who inhale, ingest or touch ricin, brewed from the mash of castor beans, will, depending on the method, develop respiratory distress and a cough within a few hours. Nausea, diarrhea, fever, aches and pains will follow within 18 to 24 hours. If the dose is large enough, death can occur within 36 to 72 hours from damage to the heart, lungs and other organs.

Can't resist this aside: My imaginary conversation between two backwoods neighbors as one walks in on the other cooking supper:

"Whatcha fixin' there, Zeke?"

"Mashin' up some rice'n beans."

"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat, Zeke! Ain't you been a-readin'? That stuff kills people!"

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].

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