I love love, and I hate hate. Love is beautiful, and hate is ugly. It’s so simple, right?
But love––real love––actually requires a lot of strength and maturity and fortitude. Loving someone doesn’t always mean doing what your heart naturally wants to do. It means listening, seeking to understand, holding back, and even (gasp) sacrificing.
Sometimes I think I understand love. It seems like the obvious choice. But then something happens, some kind of conflict or unpleasantness, that exposes my lack of understanding of love. Those are some of the roughest times for me, but here is some wisdom I’ve gained from those less-than-pleasant experiences:
1. I wish people could read my mind, understand me, and anticipate my needs better than I even can, but usually, they can’t.
When someone is able to do that, you should really not take that for granted, because that is not something we are entitled to. We are all different. We often have different expectations and assumptions than the person sitting next to us. It’s just a fact, especially if we have a diverse set of friends/acquaintances. We need to learn to express ourselves and express our needs. We can’t expect people to read our minds.
2. Holding back during arguments is dangerous.
I am conflict avoidant, so arguments often make me uncomfortable. Even when I realize an argument is unavoidable and find myself in the middle of one, I am tempted to say and do whatever I can to get it over with as quickly as possible. This often involves me failing to mention some/many of my thoughts. The little things that made me angry. The ways I felt wronged or hurt.
As long as I resolve those feelings (internally), it’s okay if I don’t share them with the other person, right? What the other person didn’t know can’t hurt them, right? Wrong.
When I leave out such details, they often fester inside. Instead of leaving them in the darkness, I need bring them out into the light! In the dark, things become bigger and more twisted than they actually are. In the light, things become much simpler.
3. You shouldn’t just run away.
One of my biggest relationship-hindering fears is the fear of rejection, so when someone hurts me, my gut instinct is to run away. Before they can reject me, I reject them. But eventually, all people disappoint us and hurt us. The ones closest to us hurt us the most (because their words and actions have the most weight to us). So you shouldn’t just run away. You should learn to stay.
Again, I hate conflict, but I realized recently that after I have a conflict with someone and successfully get through it, our relationship is so much stronger. We hurt each other, but we don’t give up. We see ugliness in each other, but we don’t run away. Our expectations are not met, but then we communicate and work through them. That is so powerful!
So in short:
Communication is good, and fighting doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a means of breakthrough and deeper intimacy and trust!
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I will say that I think my future husband will be really glad I’m learning these lessons now, instead of during our first year of marriage. Don’t worry, future hubby, I’ll try to become an expert at fighting so we can have the most productive, least unpleasant fights ever! (And then spend most of our time not fighting.)