Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Best Love Lesson I Never Realized I Needed to Learn
It is Valentine's Day, and so I feel inclined to share a little something I've learned about love.
This, like so many love lessons, is one I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't understand for a very long time. Actually, it's worse than that, I didn't even know that I didn't understand it. I didn't know it was missing from my knowledge base at all. It's like I was functioning under the assumption that the sky is blue, and then somebody came along and showed me it was actually whatever color you see. I had under-thought it (yes, me), but thankfully I met someone who thinks three steps ahead (yes, R).
We were sitting on the bed in my old room on La Jolla sometime around our second official month of dating (which could be anywhere from June of '10 to January of '11, depending on which of us you ask). I was reacting to some frustrating scheduling problem. All I remember is that one of us was being inconvenienced by the plans of the other. I'm assume it had something to do with eating because that's what 90% of our plans involve. All I remember is that I said, "I feel like there's something you're not saying."
"What do you mean?" R said.
"I just feel like you're saying it's okay, but really you mean it's not okay."
In the dramatization this story R takes both of my slim shoulders in his hands and looks deeply into my eyes before he says what he says next. In reality he looked at me like I was insane, then said:
"I'm never going to do that to you, okay? I'm always going to tell you how I
His voice was as matter-of-fact as any I'd ever heard. He was not kidding, and he wanted me to know it.
"I'm serious," he said.
By that point he could instantly read my face, which must have been saying, "you can't be serious."
I didn't understand the gravity of his promise right away. To be honest, I thought he was being defensive about my suggestion that he was hiding his true feelings. Yes, I thought he was hiding his true feelings about the importance of not hiding ones true feelings. That is how conditioned I was to believe that people play games and hide things and are misleading because that's easier than being honest.
After the third time we had that exact same exchange, I started to realize this guy was for real. He was not going to pretend with me. He was not going to hold back, even if it made things more frustrating. He was going to always tell me the truth. He was nuts.
I don't know when I figured out how important R's consistent pledge of honesty was or that it was actually more important that he made such a point to remind me every time it came up. I'm actually not sure that I figured it out until I failed to uphold that same level of honesty with him.
Once again, it was some plans-based inconvenience. I distinctly remember saying, "it's fine," when it wasn't fine in my book. I didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want to get all pissy only to have him get all frustrated and then us get all weird with each other as a result. It was easier to just bury it, right? That's what people do, right? It's definitely what couples do. They tell mini lies to get through the rough patches. They "just deal with it" rather than hash it out together. It's only human, isn't it?
No, it's not, or at least, it doesn't have to be.
R doesn't function that way, and I can say with complete security that he has never in our almost three years together. At first I thought it was because he either didn't know how or couldn't be bothered. He's like that about convention. Like, he keeps wearing stained polo shirts because he thinks stains should be an acceptable part of life. "Sometimes shit gets messy, J," he says, "People need to accept that."
Now, after the his most recent reminder that he is absolutely not kidding about this whole complete honesty situation, I know that it's because he knows that's how you properly love another person. That is how you create a space in which both people feel trusted and trusting. That is how you fully come to know one another, and that knowing is one of the only ways two people can hope to make the very difficult task of a life together work, hopefully forever.
I didn't know that at first, but now I do, and hard as it may be to follow this relationship rule, I do it for R, because R does it for me. I'm now functioning under the belief that if we keep going with that mentality as our guide, everyone will be taken care of, always.
Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours.