You know, sometimes – lots of times – maybe even most of the time – you won’t get your needs met.
(I’m saying you but I mean I.)
It’s weird how we structure romantic relationships as transactions. You’d think that when someone takes up residence in our hearts, we’d let them settle in. Stay. Take on that mortgage.
(Mort, in French, means death. Gage means pledge. Romantic, if you take the long view.)
Instead, they’re squatting. We’re looking for reasons to kick them out.
Girlfriends give the worst love advice. Best practices fall from their lips and their love for us makes them intolerant. He’s hurting you, he’s screwing up, he’s gotta go. No matter the obstacles that she and her husband/wife/lover have themselves overcome or that overcoming obstacles – most of them internal – is how we love.
Most of us quit when we run into obstacles. As a culture, we’re not hurdlers.
I’ve written before – and it’s too terse and cogent to be mine so I’m sure I’ve stolen it from someone, my apologies – that the essential injustice in relationships is that it takes two people to get into one but only one to get out.
That’s why death pledges - ’til death us do part – are so rare. We’re looking for gratification, mostly instant, in our relationships. When things aren’t gratifying, when they’re boring or hard or even hurtful, we give up.
I gave up a lot this year.
I often do that.
And the last three months have been drama. Trauma. Drama and trauma and not all of it rooted in relationship woes but a huge chunk of it was.
And I didn’t do what I usually do. I didn’t give up. I didn’t ask for advice and I didn’t follow the rules or best practices. I went all out and all in.
I didn’t give up.
Well, I did a couple of times.
I chose someone else over him. He said, I love you. I know you’ll come back.
I came back.
And then he wasn’t giving me what I wanted – something important, that he should have done – and on the phone, I said I’d had it. I said I can’t do this anymore. I said, Call me when you’re ready to be my partner. I said, Good-bye.
And I was right. He was deeply mothafuckin’ wrong. We both knew it. Anybody to whom I would have told the story would have agreed. Applauded me. Brought wine and ice cream.
But when I got off the phone, I thought, What do I want?
I want us.
I dug in. I leapt that hurdle. I trusted myself. I told him “I can’t do this” but I thought I can do this.
I can get through this bullshit. I can endure. I can settle so hard into my shoes that I feel the earth or the stage – whatever occasion and opportunity presents – through my five-inch heels.
I can do this. I will do this. I will fight. I will not give up.
Because, for the most part, the things in life I regret are not the things I’ve done.
I regret the things I haven’t done: when I didn’t defend someone, when I didn’t say what I really thought, when I played it safe and gave up, when I walked away without knowing that I tried everything.
And so this time, I thought, no regrets. I will not be the one who gives up. I will not give up on us before I’ve even started to try.
And so I got off the phone, even though I was right, and got into my car and drove to his house, which was probably wrong.
He answered the door with blanket wrapped around him. He looked like someone had been beating him for days. Someone had. He didn’t smile at me. I didn’t smile at him. He extended one arm to me with his green comforter draping off it like the cape of a superhero. I walked into his arms and we took that comforter to bed. We talked. Cried. Kissed. Talked. Cried. He sighed and said, Why is this fucking bitch so fucking persistent?
And I knew we’d be ok.