Have you ever gone to see a film with a friend, and come out to discover you have two completely different viewpoints about what you’ve just seen? Obviously, it’s not that you’ve seen two different movies, it’s that you and your friend are bringing two different perspectives to a shared experience. I think that’s clear when we’re in that context, but we seem to forget it’s the same with life.
We’re always bringing so much to the table. We have our life experiences, our histories, our opinions and feelings and things we’ve been taught, in addition to our current mood and circumstances. This is really helpful to remember when we find ourselves totally thrown by someone else’s behavior or different take on a situation. It’s also good to remember when we move through conflict with those we love.
So much of the time, we get caught up in the story, or our need to be right. If we’re not seeing eye to eye with a loved one, we might expend a lot of energy trying to convince them to see things our way. We might dig our heels in, or shake our head, or throw our hands in the air in our attempts to “win” a fight, but when we separate ourselves form those we love because being right is more important than being close, no one wins.
If, for example, your partner feels jealous, and you know in your heart there’s no need for that fear, you might become impatient or angry or indignant. Maybe you go for reassurance once or twice, but then you feel frustrated that you have to spend time and energy putting them at ease when you aren’t doing anything wrong. You could take that tack, but you could also stop and breathe and consider your partner’s life experiences. Maybe they’ve been betrayed in the past, more than once. Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m not talking about pathological jealousy, or controlling or violating behavior. I’m not suggesting it’s ever okay if the person you’re with is checking your email or your text messages, or showing up unannounced. That kind of behavior chokes the life, trust and health out of any relationship.
What I’m talking about is clear communication and compassion. When we love people, we love the whole person, with all their beauty and all their flaws and occasional absurdities, just as we hope they’ll also love us. We don’t reject the challenging parts. We don’t walk away when a person we love is in pain. One of the most loving things you can do for anyone is to try to understand their perspective, because underneath words and stories, there are always feelings. Sometimes in the middle of a charged exchange, it’s incredibly revealing to stop listening to the words, and just look at your loved one’s face. Maybe you’re going to see fear or anger, because when we love, we make ourselves vulnerable, and when we feel threatened, it’s human for us to want to protect what we love. Generally, if you can see the pain or fear beneath the words, it makes it so much easier to be kind and understanding. That’s what we all want, right? To be seen and understood, to feel that if we’ve given someone our heart, we can trust that they’ll take care of it, and that they won’t shame us or reject us for our insecurities. We all have some, after all.
The other thing that’s such a relief, and often comes with time and distance, is just the realization that so little is personal. People can only be where they are, and they can only use the tools they’ve got. We’ve all had our experiences and our life lessons, and most of us have learned at least a few things along the way that we’re going to have to unlearn. Like, maybe you learned that “everyone cheats”, or “everyone leaves”, because that’s what you saw growing up, and that’s what you’ve unconsciously sought out as an adult, in an effort to rewrite your story. Maybe it just hasn’t occurred to you yet, it isn’t that everyone cheats, it’s that all the people you’ve picked, cheat. Ugh. Not a very fun realization, but key for your healing and happiness. Anyway, my point is, if you love someone, and I don’t just mean romantically, part of your job is to help them unlearn anything that’s blocking their happiness. I mean, you don’t have to take that on, that’s advanced love, but the option is there for you to be that person.
If you can really make those closest to you feel safe to be fully themselves, and to know that you won’t walk away, you set the stage to be received in the same way. Not everyone is going to accept that invitation, but you don’t need everyone, just a handful of people is a blessing. You can always have at least one person who accepts you entirely, because you always have the power to do that for yourself, and it’s a relief, really. We all have our struggles, fears and pain. That doesn’t make us less lovable.
Sending you a huge hug, and a lot of love,