True partners in life have balanced their needs and wants and given just a little more weight to the other’s happiness, and that’s what I’m talking about. It’s doing your share, and then some, not expecting the “you owe me” mentality from your partner.
A good example is my sister and her husband of 37 years; he loves baseball and when they would go to games, instead of staying home, my sister would take a book. She was with him, which he loved, but she wasn’t totally bored out of her mind. She was doing something she loved; reading, next to the man she loves. Eventually she started to watch and learn. I wouldn’t say she is a baseball fan, but she enjoys it more.
I think we should expect more and more, in the little ways as well as the big ones. Little things shape a life. Little things mean a lot.
In a true partnership, the kind worth striving for, the kind worth insisting on, both people try to give as much or even a little more than they get. “Deserves” is not the point. “Fair” is not the point. And “owes” is certainly not the point. The point is to make the other person as happy as we can, because their happiness adds to ours. The point is—in the right hands, everything that you give, you get.
I know love is hard. I know commitment in love is extremely difficult. I noticed that love can make you someone you thought you were not. I was under the impression that I was not a jealous person. If you had asked me, I would have told you that possessiveness was a sign of insecurity, not of love. Hell, I would have said more than that: I would have told you that no one can hold on to anyone, that a good relationship is one you choose. I understand jealousy now. I have come to appreciate Judith Viorst’s words: “It is true love because…when he is late for dinner and I know he must be either having an affair or lying dead in the middle of the street, I always hope he’s dead.”
So I already knew that love is hard. And that it makes you crazy. And it brings you in touch with parts of yourself of which you would have been happy to remain ignorant. Blissfully ignorant.
What I just really learned is that love sometimes isn’t enough. Love takes us further than we thought we could go, but it does not take us past the limits of our nature. And that is a hard thing to know.
It isn’t just that we feel close to the object of our affection; perceiving ourselves as separate isn’t an option. Some being that was this other person now matters to us as much as we matter to ourselves. Yet we have no control over either the love or the beloved. That is the hard part. Losing control kills me…I hate it. Yet I have no control over it and when I try it frustrates me.
Avoiding or refusing to love is emotional suicide. Yet many of us fight like warriors to guard ourselves from intimacy, boxing up our hearts in steel-hard false beliefs. “I’m unlovable” is one such lockbox. “He will hurt me if I open my heart to him” is another… Whatever your own heart-coffins may be, notice that they’re ruining your happiness, not preserving it. Ok, ok, I hear what that little voice is saying in my ear…the voice that has been with me since a major love blew up and went away. “If you let him in and you are vulnerable, he will tear you apart….be tough, be tough.” But I have learned this; If you’ve buried your heart to keep it from hurting, you’re hurting.
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams reveals the secret of flying. Just launch yourself toward the ground, and miss.
“All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it’s going to hurt…if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.”
This is the great advice for coping with fear of intimacy. Avoidance and control can’t keep our hearts from falling, or cushion the landing. Why not try throwing yourself forward, being willing not to mind that it’s going to hurt? Be willing anyway.
How do you do this? How? Simply allow your feelings—all of them—into full consciousness. Articulate your emotions. Ok, ok, I did this. I did. I opened myself up and articulated like crazy.
The first possibility was that my beloved would love me back. Then I won’t land; I’ll just fall deeper into intimacy, but with him…as my partner.
The other possibility is that I’ll throw yourself forward, yell “yippee!,” and smash into rejection. Will it hurt? Indescribably. But at least I attempted…at least I let myself fly for just a bit.
A man asks his rabbi, “Why does God write the law on our hearts? Why not in our hearts? It’s the inside of my heart that needs God.” The rabbi answered, “God never forces anything into a human heart. He writes the word on our hearts so that when our hearts break, God falls in.” Whatever you hold sacred, you’ll find that an unguarded broken heart is the ideal instrument for absorbing it. I love this story.
If I fall into intimacy without resistance, despite my fears, either I will fall into love, which is exquisite, or love will fall into me, which is more exquisite still. If I do it enough,I may just lose my fear of falling.