I must confess, I glided through the first forty odd years of life without experiencing a bad break-up. I had plenty of relationships that never quite achieved what I hoped for, some that fizzled away and sadly some only for a night which I attribute to immaturity. You don’t have to do something just because you can.
Oh, there was rejection, but generally the kind you equate to walking across a room and asking someone to dance and they say no. It happens, you move on to the next one and put it behind you. It seems that most of the relationships that ended in the first 45 years of my existence (which I guess was all of them). They either never got too far or they ended more or less on my terms or through a mutual decision. I’d never been dumped by someone I love.
Then it happened, and if you’re waiting for all the sordid details you’re going to be disappointed. I will tell you there was one Thanksgiving evening that I was in Richmond, VA on business. Alone in a hotel and realizing I was away from my children, alone, and without the woman I loved. I experienced the kind of brokenness you read about in the Bible where you reflect on your whole life. In desperation I called the woman that had hurt me, she was tied up at the time because… Thanksgiving, but she said she’d call me back, which she did and we talked into the night. Nothing changed with our status and I eventually picked myself back up and got back into the race. Not the next day, week, or month… eventually.
I see people that have dropped out of the race. Whether they never want to experience the pain that often accompanies relationships, or they’ve given up for some other reason. I think it a true thing that the high points that love elicits far exceed the lowest of the low points. But that’s a decision people must make for themselves.
The second verse of the song, “I Hope You Dance” kind of sums it up:
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance Never settle for the path of least resistance Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’ Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’ Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I’d like to believe that reasonable people can hold different views and agree to disagree on any number of subjects. I’ve dated people both more liberal and conservative than I and generally it hasn’t made much of a difference. Although I am deep into politics and try to stay up on a wide variety of issues. It’s not important to me that someone I date do so, in fact. I would hope and expect that she has interests apart from mine, some of which we may share and some we don’t.
The Age of Trump is putting all of this to the test. I have (looking for the right word here) people I know, (friends would not have been accurate) that are Trump advocates. We rarely discuss politics but when we do, the divide between us is apparent. We are living in two separate universes with completely different sets of facts. We can coexist only because we ignore each other to some degree which works fine enough in a work environment but is not a good way to run your love life.
In a relationship, I don’t need for someone to agree with all my views, differing views are welcome as long as they come with an open mind. I would love someone to challenge my opinions with theirs, present new facts (facts are generally considered to be true things as opposed to say, lies) to be considered and another perspective. It is not important to me that I convince you that I’m right. It would be fine if we rarely discussed politics at all, assuming our life was rich with other topics.
There are no doubt some deal breakers. If you support pedophiles because they’re the nominee of your party, that’s not gonna work. If you want to work for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (aptly nicknamed CREEP in the Nixon years), it just won’t do. There are some boundaries that just can’t be crossed and it seems there are more of those lines popping up every day. Maybe opposites do attract? But they can also repel. I won’t tell anyone else how to run their love life but suggest proceeding with caution.
I was having a conversation with a close friend who was describing a relationship she was not in and sharing the reason why. She started telling me about what he thinks, but after a number of pointed questions. It became clear that there was that which he actually said, and those areas where she’d filled in the blanks. Because we’re good friends, I was able to suggest to her that she wasn’t engaging in honest conversation with the man but had superimposed many of her suppositions and created an outcome that perhaps neither wanted. Feeling smug, which I am wont to do after scoring a rare victory where she conceded the point. It didn’t take long before she turned the tables and asks me to consider my own history and wondered if perhaps honest conversations might have created different outcomes for me. She didn’t quite throw my two divorces in my face, I think she was saving them in case she needed more ammunition.
I looked back at my own failed relationships and decided that perhaps I could have done better in the honesty department. I conceded some of those relationships shouldn’t have gone past the first date. Let me be clear that honest conversation is not the opposite of lying. You can tell only the truth without ever sharing the important things that could end a relationship if you fail to discuss them or strengthen your bond should you dare.
An honest conversation starts with how you represent yourself initially. People will naturally try to put their best foot forward and try to make a good impression. I am great at that part of a relationship. Without bragging I’m smart, have a few good stories to tell about myself and am considerate and thoughtful. I’m tall (which by the way isn’t a character trait) and have some remnants of the athletic build I had in college. But an honest conversation would include weaknesses I’m reluctant to share. Pride has humbled me on more than one occasion and I don’t readily trust others to accept things about me which I would immediately accept in them. I’m slow to acknowledge (or discuss) that a relationship isn’t working and do what it takes to get it back on track.
I recently had dinner with someone with whom a relationship had ended badly. At her request, we met and talked and shared some of the things we didn’t say to each other when it might have mattered. She apologized for her role and me for mine. We might not have survived anyway but an honest conversation could have made a difference. I was able to remember the things I originally liked about her.
Another woman once asked me, “You seem too good to be true, what’s wrong with you?” I gave her an accurate list in that everything I mentioned was true. It was an opportunity to say the things I feared to say and I missed it. Second chances don’t always come around. There are some people I would say, I’m sorry” to. There are some apologies perhaps to me owed. The point is, we can all do better; me, my friend, perhaps you? When given the chance, try providing more than just a truthful answer. How about an honest one?