Tag Archives: Commitment

This I Experienced as Love

Love

My friend Jenny emailed me this week to thank me for a blog post I published on Valentine’s Day 2012. On Love and The Price of Admission was about recognising what a good thing we’ve already got with our partner ~ and learning to let go of the small annoyances that accompany deep familiarity.

That post was inspired by an idea from Dan Savage ~ an idea that has, over the past four years, saved me from saying/shouting many crazy-stupid things I would have regretted exactly one nano-second later. Ultimately, my partner Damien and I consider ourselves really lucky and we let lots of small stuff go in order to bask in the yummy-melty-yellowey company of the much beloved other.

For me, there’s another idea that always hold hands with the Price of Admission. In the short movie that plays inside my brain these twin-ideas are represented by seven-year-old best friends playing on a swing set. Higher and higher they swing. One girl wears a t-shirt that says “The Price of Admission” while her kindred spirit wears the slogan, “This I Experienced As Love.”

We all want to be loved. Yup. I’ve been thinking about this one for decades and I could not be more certain about it.

But here’s the tricky bit… we all want to be loved but the way in which we want to be loved varies SO greatly from person to person. Me, I grew up looking for a big, juicy love-fest featuring deep and meaningful connection 24/7. I could talk to Damien all day long every day, analysing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, planning our dinner menu, and updating him on the constantly shifting cloudscape within my brain. That kind of intensity would blow his circuits. What he needs is connection punctuated with stretches of time on his own, and the ability to move back and forth between the two without too much fuss. That feels like love for him.

We are not alone in this conundrum, this particular love-dissonance. I often think how miraculous it is that any of us are able to form long committed relationships.

Today, May 1st, marks 22 years of Damien and me. {We celebrate the anniversary of the day we met as there is still a bit of disagreement regarding when we actually became a couple.}

22 years of miracles.

In that time, I’ve come to need a less intense connection. Over those two decades, he’s chosen to spend more time hanging out in my little cocoon. Our Yin and Yang have cuddled up somewhere in the middle.

But there’s another thing we’ve done that isn’t so much about change as it is about noticing.

I’ve gotten better at noticing HOW he loves me.

Inside the front door of our place in Japan we have a storage closet that contains approximately half the contents of our apartment. It is seriously scary… piled high with pillows, duffel bags, suitcases, the vacuum cleaner, decorative items we don’t have space for… ETCETERA. I avoid that closet as if it were filled with bubonic plague laced with plutonium. Recently, I was preparing for a trip and Damien, who had been in the dining room editing his film, came into our bedroom and said, “Which suitcase would you like to take?”

Oh. Sweet. Man.

He doesn’t make a big deal of things. He doesn’t call attention to the ways in which he is generous. Just, “Which suitcase would you like to take?”

Love does not always show up with chocolates and fresh flowers. Love does not necessarily have the time or inspiration to write you a sonnet. But when Love volunteers to brave the perils of the front closet to pull out your big black suitcase, it’s swoon o’clock.

This I experienced as love.

Your Homework Assignment (should you choose to accept it):
Pay attention to how the people in your life show their love ~ especially if it’s different from the way you show love.

Cheers,
Monna
xo

*This post was first published as The Sunday Reader on Sunday 1st May 2016.
 

What love does

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Love pays attention when you say you’re feeling nervous about 20 hours in the air and a tight layover.
Love does not diminish your concerns or try to cheer you up.
Love asks if you’d like him to come to the airport. A taxi and a bus ride to Haneda and then the return trip for him at ten o’clock at night. You say no. “It’s too much, love.” The truth is that you want love’s company in the back seat of that dark taxi.
Love lifts your suitcase, which already weighs 19 kilos, into the trunk.
Love reaches for your hand.
Love stands with you in line at the airport, holds your coat while you check in, reminds you to take out your residency card.
Love looks back after he’s left you at Security.
Love looks back and waves even though love doesn’t normally look back.
Love still surprises you.
 

On love and the price of admission

{Photograph by the lovely Kyle Hepp}

My partner is a really lovely person. He’s intelligent, funny, and kind and he possesses many other impressive character traits such as being a good speller. We’ve been together for 17 years.

Every once in a while, however, he does something that makes me absolutely crazy. (Perhaps you can relate!)

He leaves his dirty dishes beside the sink instead of in it. He thinks that our gorgeous teak dining room table is an extension of our filing cabinet – just way easier to use.  The idea of hanging his clothes up after he’s taken them off is completely foreign to him.

Listen, there are more of these little annoyances but I’m not going to list them here because:
a) you and I don’t really know each other very well yet
b) you already get the idea and
and
c) because he is so lovely that anyone who actually knows us is now thinking (or shouting), “Monna… come on!”

And that (item c) is exactly the point. I’m quite confident that some of my habits and preferences drive him to a place of deep distraction. I sleep in the middle of the bed, no matter how large (or small) that bed is and, apparently, I hog the blankets. Sometimes I think I can read his mind so I’ll tell him exactly what he’s thinking… I am often wrong. I want to plan every trip months in advance even though his preference is to wait and see how he feels as that vacation approaches.

I sincerely believe that many couples let these kinds of issues – the dishes and the blanket-hogging – turn their once-lovely relationships into battlefields. When you spend your energy arguing about this stuff, it is easy to lose sight of your partner as the intelligent, funny and kind person whom you chose to love. The bickering and score keeping makes it increasingly difficult to remember who you were as a couple and you may slip into a state of relationship-amnesia.

Honestly, it occurs to me that some people have affairs for reasons that have very little to do with the age or attractiveness of their partner (or new lover), the quality of the sex or even notions of love/in love… but because they want to be intimate with someone who does not lecture them about how to put the roll of toilet paper on the dispenser.

After a while, talking about toilet paper leads to a fall from grace; it’s the kind of thing that gets you booted out of your own personal Garden of Eden. And when you are expelled from Eden, in the dim-light of relationship-purgatory, it’s impossible to recognize that the small things are small because the relationship is now filled with resentment and bitterness. The partners stops talking and laughing and remembering.

We’ve seen it happen and, since we don’t want it for our relationship, my partner and I practice what Dan Savage calls the price of admission. (Thanks to our friend Jenny for sharing this idea with us!) Savage defines the price of admission as “the personal sacrifices, large and small, that make long-term relationships possible.” (I think this idea is the best thing since nutella.)

In our interpretation of the price of admission, the principle begins with the recognition that both partners are flawed. Deeply so. Repeat after me, “We acknowledge that we are flawed creatures with more baggage than the Hilton.”

It’s not just your partner who is flawed… but also you. (Don’t worry, I also find this part difficult.)

The second understanding of the price of admission is that we are both AMAZING. Not me more than him…not him more than me. We are both talented, interesting and unique souls deserving of love and respect. Nowhere is this more true than within this relationship that we created.

The third understanding is that it is perfectly natural for humans to get on each other’s nerves, especially when they live together in a tiny apartment in Japan. (Wait… that’s just us.) Let me start again… it is perfectly natural for people who have become very familiar with one another to be annoyed by traits and habits that once charmed the pants off them.

The fourth and final understanding is that you must learn how to let most of it go. The price of admission – the price that you willingly pay to be with this lovely person who brings so much to your life, with whom you feel utterly safe and heard and at “home” – is that you do not hold on to the toxic little things that are choking the life out of your love and affection for one another.

When I see my partner’s clothes piled up on the sofa bed, I remind myself, gently, about the fact that I woke up on his side of the bed with my arm across his face. I remember that last night, it was this man who went out to get Chinese take-out even though he was tired and working on his thesis. And I recognize that this is the price of admission.

(I sort of love that this idea is both Buddhist and Capitalist.)

When I recognize a POA moment, I just let myself feel the annoyance… yup, there it is. I let it stay for as long as it wants but I try to sit silently with my annoyance. (The truth is that sometimes it is difficult not to let a little sigh slip out.) Then I take a deep breath and release the crap out of whatever had me by the throat.

Now I have a choice:
1. Hang up the clean clothes and place the clothes he has worn in the hamper. (After the ecstasy, the laundry, right?)
2. Decide that a few clothes on the sofa are actually not that big a deal and walk away
3. Acknowledge that I am not that crazy about this particular task as evidenced by the pile of my clothes on top of my own hamper. (Damn!)

Finally, I thank the universe for sending me this person with whom to share my life. Sometimes I’ll find my partner in his office and kiss him on the forehead… or I’ll turn on the lights so that it is easier for him to read and write.

Although he never mentions it (he’s so much better at taking the high road than I am), I know he’s also been paying the price of admission. The truth is that not talking about toilet paper leaves us with more time to discuss other things… like his thesis, our work, loving each other and planning our next vacation. Not fighting about the little stuff leaves lots of space for love.

*I’d like to make it clear that this price of admission approach does not apply to abusive relationships.