If ever there was a fear with a justified place in the human experience, it is fear of intimacy. This pen is not referring to sex. People have sex every day in this land and beyond without a single iota of emotional intimacy. Sex and love-making are two different worlds.
This pen is talking about emotional and intellectual intimacy. I’m talking about allowing oneself to be yourself with another person and trusting it is safe to do so. No relationship of any kind can be a healthy, flourishing place to be if both people can’t fully be themselves with each other.
When you’ve absorbed enough wounds in life, such intimacy feels like an impossibility. However, because it feels like an impossibility does not mean it is one. For many of us, myself included, taking the risk of trusting is not a chump change endeavor – not by any measure. There is a close-to-my-heart saying I believe in. It’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you. Meaning, if any of us wait for the fear to pass before we take the risk, we will remain stuck in place.
I have a relationship with my past wounds, my history. And, if there is one thing that gets my back up, it’s the very notion of giving my past wounds decision-making power. Yes, caution and patience are worthy allies. And with them at my side, I’ll be damned if I will allow my history to obliterate the possibility of a deeply loving relationship.
I am glad you’re alive,
sweet ears listening from afar.
I can see you, out there!
I can send my words loving
you full length, all depth and wonder.
I can see you, out there!
On the crest of every sunrise,
and every sunset too.
I had an ocean-wide crush on Julie Andrews when I was a boy and it was all for naught. You don’t get to choose who you fall in love with and, sadly dammit, you don’t get to choose who falls in love with you. You do, however, get to choose how you respond to either reality. When two people realize they have fallen in love with each other, the choices are relatively clear, if they are honest.
When one person falls in love with someone who has not responded in kind, the choices are again relatively clear, if honesty is the guide, though not always easy. But, perhaps, easier, though not pain free, if the love you feel is in fact, genuine. You cannot and and should not look to impose your will, to manipulate the other person into feeling the same way you do. The results of such an effort are never healthy. This last is not my instinct in the least. I want and deserve to know someone loves me freely and truly. Period. End of story.
There is another element to love, real love, as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t seem to get the notice it deserves. Kindness. I don’t know how on earth you can love anyone without kindness being present. You don’t have to abandon loyalty to self to be kind. And, part of kindness, part of being kind, is supporting the other person’s right to be who they are safely and happily in life, regardless of your specific role in the person’s life.
The task is to find a way to love the person that is healthy for them and for you. There are times when the healthiest choice is to disengage from them. However, there are times when loving human connections find ways of flourishing, if they are given honest emotional soil from which to grow. Love can cause many beautiful relationships to bloom into beautiful “flowers.” Any angst you may feel at not always being able to choose the “flower” fades over time, if you really loved the person in the first place.
Maybe I am a foolish dreamer but I believe love – real love – is very likely the greatest gift life offers us. I think if you are afforded the possibility of real romantic love you are, well, a fool if you allow things like a single tattoo (which I don’t have) or facial hair (which I do have) to be deal breakers. You are equally foolish if you let the size of a woman’s breasts or the length of her legs guide your decision making.
It seems to me many have a plethora of reasons, some conscious, some not so conscious, for avoiding real love. What is his or her schooling? Have they been to college? What did his or her parents do for a living? She or he has a child already? He or she has been married before? She or he is five feet tall? Six feet tall?
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the human species is ineffably gifted at coming up with reasons to avoid real love. I remember many years ago going out with a woman for a brief time. We liked each other and all was going well and one evening over dinner she said, I’ve been meaning to ask, what sign are you? Not seeing the bear trap on the ground in front of me, I said, Libra. A look of unutterable horror came over her face. Oh Peter, she said, in a tone so troubled you’d have thought every one she knew just died, We don’t get along. Instantly realizing I was facing a mountain that called for oxygen tanks to summit, I said, What the hell we been doing up to now? She shook her head, put her fork down on the table and said, I should go. I agreed. She left. I finished my meal.
Now I know there are underlying reasons for why we run from or avoid the possibility of love. Nearly always these reasons are found in the soil of our histories. We’ve been wounded before, we’ve been betrayed before. We’ve turned our hearts loose before only to have them gutted. In some instances we were raised in ways that taught us we weren’t much worth loving. So, if you find yourself falling in love, or faced with the possibility of falling in love and being loved, just think, if you run, your history wins – again.Your history does not deserve that kind of decision making power. You do.
Many years ago I wrote a script that went nowhere called It Was Your Heart I Wanted. The story was about a woman confronted with the possibility of entering a relationship but found herself fearfully hesitant because her last relationship had been such a brutal one. An all too common reason for hesitancy many have when facing the possibility of new love. And so, in a very real way, they are trapped in the jail cells of prior relationships. I called the piece It Was Your Heart I Wanted because I do believe most of us can say that and mean that when we enter into a relationship.
But there is another kind of relationship jail cell. The relationship we are are already in, we know are not happy, and yet we stay in them anyway. The love may be gone, if it was ever there, and the environment is toxic, but we stay. Blessedly, I am not in this situation and after nearly seven years of sobriety would disengage from a situation like this were I in one. But, believe me, I’ve been in toxic relationship jail cells before.
I know a few people who are in them now.
I know one extraordinary person who is an American History buff. I mean this is someone who really knows and loves American History. But their spouse stops them from any involvement with history clubs or other people who love history. I know another person who is in a relationship with someone they like but don’t love but figures the person is good to the kids so why not.
I level no harsh judgment towards anyone who is trapped by their history in a way that stops them from daring to love and daring to be loved. What I will say is this. All of us have the right to love and be loved, and no one’s history deserves so much say it stops them from experiencing the heart-and-soul wonder of a relationship that works gloriously, and believe me, there are relationships like this in the world. I know people who are in them.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll take the risk of loving and being loved. My history be damned. If the possibility of a deep-in-the-heart relationship is there, I don’t want to miss it, at least not because of my history.