Sex: When Bragging's Inappropriate
I've never really considered the relationship my wife an I have as being a particualrly exceptional one. To me it comes easy, so it doesn't warrant much thinking about. And yet when it is compared to many others I have seen, heard about, or been a part of, it does stand out a little. Go fig. Having divorced parents when you're young is interesting, but a brother who's four years older (and far more charismatic) than you going through puberty et al can provide quite the education about relationships.
We've been doing a fair amount of hand-holding for others recently, what with one friend who has a husband who's away; another whose husband's a jerk; and a third who has had more than her share of rough patches in her private life. Not much to be done in the first case, except to counsel patience and let her have the occasional conversation with adults (she has small children). The third case we doctor according to her needs at the time (the wife makes a fine, fine martini). The rather flip response we frequently give her is that she needs someone to love her like she actually deserves to be, rather that how she thinks she deserves. Low self esteem has always been a bugbear of hers. The second case, however, got us to thinking.
She's more my wife's friend than mine, but as I've gotten to know her over the years I've certainly come to care for her too. Following her marriage from day one, I can say without a doubt that that relationship is better off dead. Yet, there is no doubt that he was quite devoted to her. I'm not going to get into gruesome details, but even with his love, this marriage should stop ASAP. But why? Can someone who still loves you be wrong?
You, in the back! Knock off the cynical laughter! That's not really the question. The question is: what is love? Is there an answer? Well, of course: Jenny and I love each other immensely; I love my family (well, most of it); we love these three friends. So wherein lies the difference?
Haven't the slightest. Yet. But we're working on it.
What we've got so far as critical factors are these:
1) Self knowledge. With this has to come acceptance of who you are, flawed psyche (or not) and all. Knowing when you're putting a mask on is the only way you can take it off again.
2) Courage. Trickier to define, we've come up with this: you not only take your mask off when you're with them, but it never occurs to you to put it on. They accept you as you are, better of worse. This doesn't mean they won't nag you about the dishes, but it's a noodge rather than a kvetch. For those whose Yiddish is a little weak, think of it this way: a noodge is what your mother does to encourage you to be a better person. A kvetch is what your mother-in-law does to make you worthy of their child. Best test I know of courage: you can be massively, terribly, stupidly silly with each other, and they won't think any the worse of you.
3) Ego. You have to consider yourself worthy of being loved, or it's just not going to make you happy. Apparently, sometimes this crops up after the relationship has started. I've read that in a coupld of novels. And seen it in the occasional movie. Otherwise, I'm not so sure.
Hokay, so that's what your resposibility is to bring to the table. What comes out of a good relationship?
4) Joy. Simple word, that; but the best I've found. I'm far happier with Jenny than without, and it's not so much that I regret her absence when we're apart, as I am delighted when we're together. Side note here: we've both agreed that if ever this isn't the case, we should get divorced. Not harsh, but logical: why would I try to stop her from leaving if she is happier without me?
5) Comfort. (Comfort and Joy? Are you kidding me?) This comes gradually, but at this point there is nothing I fear Jenny knowing about me. I know how I have to behave keep her around (mostly it's: don't lie to her), and she wants to be here. That confuses me slightly, but I'll take it. She, on the other hand, has no qualms saying "Honey, I want to learn how to tie people up and I've bought some rope..." to me. Knowing about your Significant Others desires before they get sprung on your is a lot better in every case, and far more fun that her being afraid to tell me. Sure, I'm still judgemental; but there's a lot more I'll be accepting of from Jenny than from pretty much anyone else on the planet, so she knows whatever she's thinking, she can tell me. I can likewise tell her my own thoughts, however odd they may be. And that is a great comfort to me.
Is there more to love than these? Oh, probably. But I think a lot of the fluff that surrounds the word is based on romance, rather than love. And romance, you'll note, is nowhere on the list.