Love and Other Hard Things

* Any personal information I share in this tent of ours about someone else – Joel included – is always done with permission.

Joel and I are in counselling. Therapy. Intimacy Practice. Whatever you want to call it. I share this because I think it’s important to unveil the stigma around this brave and hard thing.

I recently read this and I believe it to be true – Thank you Jim Rohn:

The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, “If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.” Now I say, “I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.”

It’s not enough, I believe, to expect to navigate your way through a lifelong, loving relationship with somebody on blind faith alone. It’s not enough to simply say, “I will take care of you,” and hope like crazy that in five or ten years time you will want to take care of each other – that you will have the energy and patience to do so. And let me clarify what I believe taking care really means. It doesn’t mean living side-by-side, functioning well and getting the job done. It doesn’t mean coexisting in ‘doing’ mode, where although you never fight, you’re not exactly wild or joyful or giddy about each other, either. To me, ‘taking care’ means really seeing each other, all the time, continuously. It means holding that person’s hopes and dreams in your hand as though they are your own. It means choosing to fight for them, even when you’re tired and more than a little thirsty. It means softening to them, day in day out, amidst the hardness of it all and our own screams to be heard and known, and asking , ‘How are you? Where are you in all of this? Let me see inside.’

Who does that easily after years and years, a kid or three, and an “oh-it’s-you-again” attitude?

Not me, that’s who.

We bring to our relationships ourselves, and the older I get, the more I see that the conflicts I experience in my partnership are actually more about me than about my partner. I react to things I alone am sensitive to. I create my own stories about what is going on and how he does and doesn’t treat me and what he means when he says that, based on the way I just am inside. 

And so, every time I arrive at counselling, I get a little anxious and more than a little breathy because I know that a great big part of growing deep with somebody is taking a long hard look at myself. I know that what I want is a relationship where we treat each other with care, all the time, day after long hard day, and that staying silent and open long enough to really get to know this man I was given to love is the first step on that windy and courageous path.

It’s easy to see someone’s faults and flaws. I operate on this level most of the time. And so I think it’s my job to prove how smart I have become by pointing those faults out. I assume that anyone who is NOT pointing out other people’s faults is naïve- or just not smart enough to see the faults. It’s my duty to educate everybody about everybody else. It’s my job to educate people about THEMSELVES. And so I jump up and down in my relationship with Joel screaming, “But you are flawed – see right here! But that’s YOUR SHIT! But why should that be my problem! It’s YOU, it’s YOU.”

And maybe it’s all true. It most likely is. Most of us can see each other’s faults and gifts pretty clearly. But just because people aren’t pointing out each other’s faults doesn’t mean they can’t see them. The difference is, these wise people know that usually, it’s more gentle and more helpful to point out strengths and let weaknesses be sorted out by the person who owns them. A person knows her own weaknesses. A person knows. It’s when these weaknesses are shared in the safe and neutral environment of counselling and when they are accepted as just one aspect of the incredibly layered and beautiful person before you, we begin to understand what it means to love.

These days, Joel is hotter to me than he was back in the very beginning, because now I see him as a man who has fought hard to dig for the good rather than just stumbling into it.

And I believe with my whole heart that that’s really something.


red tent 37

And just a little something from my Instagram feed:

joel beach“One of the many things I love about Joel #103. When I say, “Hey, do you want to go on a driftwood scavenger hunt for this craft thing I want to make?”, he rolls his eyes for only 5 seconds – maybe even just 3 – then says, “Stick with me kiddo. I know just the place.”

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