My guy comes with an instruction manual. It’s verbal. It’s a blessing. It goes something like this:
“Don’t try to convince me.”
And this is the most significant, life- and relationship-changing advice anyone has ever given me.
But he had to tell me twice. I didn’t really get it the first time, because getting it would have required some hard work.
As in, changing my ways.
Because I have spent half my life convincing men. And with this much experience, a skilled tongue and an inborn facility with language, I know I’m pretty good at it. I can almost always get the man in my sights to do what I want.
And this, dearest darlingest reader, is a terrible skill to have.
Inveterate partner-convincing is both the product of and root conditions necessary for insecurity. It is also very closely related to The Shit Test, which can be a useful pre-relationship filter but, later, is a relationship-fracturing device.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say I want something. Let’s say that something is a trip to Cuba. Let’s say my partner doesn’t want to go to Cuba. He’s not opposed to Cuba, per se, it’s just that this year he wants to go to Vienna. But I want to go to Cuba. And so I mount a campaign. I talk and I talk and I talk. I talk about the classic cars (oh, he LIKES classic cars), the dancing (he likes dancing), the gorgeous Cuban women (perhaps uniquely amongst heterosexual males, he likes gorgeous women), the language, the culture, the pictures of Che EVERYWHERE (he likes Che and wonders when there will be an epic movie already). And then I find a screaming, smoking hot travel deal wherein the travel agent and Castro himself will pool their pennies to pay us to travel to Cuba. That’s how the universe works. God and Castro are insisting we go to Cuba. We’ve got to go. I mean, what would Che say if we said no?
My guy is convinced. We’ll go to Cuba. You’d think I’d be happy, right? I got my way.
But the entire time we’re there, I will worry that he’s not having a good time. I will worry that secretly he wants to be in Vienna. When we are driving some rustic, ancient Cadillac through Havana, I’ll worry that secretly he’d rather be on a train on the outskirts of Vienna. When we’re drinking mojitos I’ll suspect he’s craving coffees with whipped cream and liqueur. When we’re at a salsa club I’ll wonder if he’d rather be waltzing.
And so I’ll shit-test him. I’ll set conversational traps designed to get him to reveal the hidden depths of his resentment and his covert eagerness to be out of Cuba and away from this woman who makes him do things he doesn’t want to do.
That’s where convincing lands me. In a staked pit of insecurity.
And that’s just a vacation. Imagine the results when I apply my dubious art of convincing to commitment, marriage, mortgages and babies.
When I convince my partner to do something, I deny myself the certainty that he chose it. That he chose me. That he chose this thing we’re doing – a movie, a vacation, a happily-ever-after – because he wants it too.
The sweetest moments in the history of my love with my loverloverman are the moments when he said or did something incredible that I did not see coming. I did not engineer those moments or those words. I did not prompt them or bait them. They surprised me.
And when that happens – and it does, over and over again – I feel secure. I stop laying traps. I stop wondering if he’s ensnared by my powers of convincing and trust that he’s here because he loves me.
Learning this – not just knowing it on an intellectual level, but knowing it on a cellular level – has changed the way I walk in the world.
Now, when I want something – whether it be commitment or Cuba – I tell him what it means to me and then I give him the space to give it to me when he’s ready. When I don’t like something, instead of marshalling the evidence and structuring my unassailable case – you know, convincing him to stop that shit – I simply tell him how I feel. I tell him I don’t like something, it hurts me, and I leave it at that. I walk away from the issue and the wannabe argument for a couple of days.
And I trust. I trust that his heart is good and that his conscience is even better.
And I know both of these things are true.
And here’s what else I know:
You don’t have to convince the right man to do the right thing. That’s who he is. That’s what he does.
And what I’ve learned in love also applies to business: you don’t have to convince your people to be there with you. If you’ve got a skill and can help people, you don’t have to lay traps (aka conventional sales pages, gimmicky offers, false discounts, faux scarcity, fake prices – $99.99 isn’t fooling anyone) to catch ’em and keep ’em.
In matters of business and the heart, you don’t have to be a lonely hunter.
You can be a loving, vegan, stiff-spined social justice mystic. You can be an everyday Gandhi. You can be the change you want to see in the world.
(Or in your bedroom, at a coffee shop in Vienna, in your workshop or at a conference table.)
You don’t have to convince. You just have to ask. Then be patient. Trust.
Trust yourself. Trust your love. Trust that you’ve picked the right passion, the right partner and the right people.