I am a person with sometimes great complexity. For example, I am all about romance. But I am not so much about marriage. And I find that the aspect of marriage being the “goal” of romance is one that will make me turn and run so fast it will be like watching the Road Runner in action. I suppose that this can be expected when I have been through three marriages already. Truthfully, the relationship I am in is very much a marriage to me. But the idea of signing a legal document to make it so is, for me, something that smacks of submission to the status quo.
I am also not one who throws around the word “love” a lot. Yes, I might say something like, “I love that.” But I will only say “I love you” if I actually mean it. When I was a teenager I became extremely aware of how people would say, “I love you,” with the hope that they would hear those words spoken back to them. I have begun calling it the “L” word, and no, that does not mean “Lesbian.”
There are many people whom I do love and I tell them so. But I often, when being told by someone, “I love you,” will divert the conversation in often awkward ways, such as, “Okay, see ya later.” I sometimes remind myself of the character of Sean Murphy on the series, The Good Doctor. Not that I am so extremely awkward, but just in how he displays his uncomfortability with emotional expression, which he does in absolutely hilarious ways.
It has been my experience that when you don’t say the words back, simply because you are not yet there, people get very affronted. Yet how many times in our lives do we find ourselves doing things because it is expected that we should be doing them instead of it being because we actually want to? Far too many. That is the answer. And yes, if someone I love tells me that they love me, then I absolutely will share the same expression with them. But it has to mean something for both parties involved.
I remember a girlfriend I had in high school who, upon our first date, told me she loved me. My response was, “How is that possible? We hardly know each other yet.” She burst into tears and ran away. I was left with a huge question mark above my head because I was so shocked at not just her declaration of love but at her reaction to my response. I prefer honesty in relationships, even in my relationship with myself. And if I am not feeling it, then I am completely honest about that. So my teenage self had to learn, over the years, that sometimes people say that they want an emotionally aware man but then when they get one they really don’t know what to do with him, because he is not just aware but completely honest about it. Honesty has killed many a relationship, but the thing is that it has enhanced quite a number more relationships. It is just that people need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable aspect of hearing that honesty spoken aloud. When you think about it though, an emotionally and spiritually aware man is not going to just blow air up your skirts (or kilts) with lavish praises and flattery. He will be honest about what he thinks and feels, whether or not you are going to like what he has to say. And he won’t necessarily begin the conversation with stuff like, “I am just going to speak my truth here…” because people know that when someone begins with that what they are actually doing is just giving themselves permission to be an ass. No, he won’t give warning, because he is not going to be an ass. He is going to be honest. This is why, for example, women like taking me shopping for clothes for themselves to get my opinion. I will be honest. Does it make you look fat? Yes, it does. And that is not because you ARE fat, but because the cut on it is completely unflattering, regardless of the current style or the fact that you really like that color.
But when we are not prepared for that level of honesty, what are we left with? Illusion. We will live in an illusion that everything is all Apple Pie, Rainbows, Unicorns, Dew Drops, Roses and Fluffy White Clouds. It becomes, therefore, earth shattering when we hear the honest truth within the relationship. People also get into the illusion that if you are living together then you will always have to be living together. That is hogwash. I have always taken the stance that if someone in my life is being an jerk then that is their choice. But it is my choice as to whether or not I will be living with said jerk. Some find that to be cold-hearted. It really is not. It is being open-hearted to yourself and being brave enough to make life’s adjustments as needed, in honor of the fact that you are worth better than how you are currently being treated.
Yes, living life to the fullest is important. After all, “none of us are getting out of here alive” (in the words of my friend, Gary Ramsay). But living life to the fullest does not necessarily have to mean living with another person. And some relationships are best when each has their own living quarters anyway. We really do have to turn our concepts of what is a “valid relationship” on its ear in order to find what actually works for us.
So don’t use the words, “I love you,” flippantly. If you say it, then MEAN it. And don’t take it personally if the other person does not yet feel the same way. If a relationship were viewed as a flower, we have a choice. Do we pluck the flower, thus ending its life prematurely, or do we water it and fertilize it in an effort to make it grow and flourish? I feel that when we love someone, we want them to grow and flourish and change. We don’t want to try to capture just the perceived best of their life. We want to bear witness to the cycles and changes and the events that make that person who he or she is becoming. If we can allow ourselves the moment of quiet observation on a daily basis, we will be able to see the evolution of that person’s soul. That is far more valuable than simply hearing the words, “Love you.”