“Seems like everybody has a price. I wonder how they sleep at night when the sale comes first and the truth comes second.” (Jessie J. and B.O.B.)
I’m a music junkie not just because a great tune can take me out of a bad mood even before the first verse is over but also because music is also one of the best critical thinking and self-awareness tools we have. Just the other day I was listening to the song Price Tag and had barely begun moving when I was struck by the song’s first line, “…when the sale comes first and the truth comes second.” My first thought was how most of us falsely advertise ourselves in the pursuit of relationships, but feel confused when eventually the truth surfaces, yet fails to inspire and/or sustain those relationships.
We all engage in occasional if not frequent false advertising in the interest of securing and maintaining connection with our objects of affection, especially in the beginning stages of relationship. But what if there is a method behind the madness of love’s deception? Rather than feeling duped by our partners once the proverbial honeymoon is over or shamefully deceitful towards our partners when our own true colors reveal their shady hues, we might consider that the fraud perpetrated by both parties and our unhappiness with the “truth,” are actually motivators.
Mother Nature’s incentive behind the blissful state of falling in love could be to compel us to look at and change things about ourselves that we otherwise wouldn’t look at or change. So when we suddenly see the humanness of our partners and conversely start being seen by them, a nostalgic spin on the fault in question might be just what’s needed to remind us what and why we loved or “didn’t mind” that particular quirk in our object of affection in the first place.
For those whose “honeymoon recall” requires a stroll down memory lane, it may just be worth the trip to dig up those qualities, and most importantly those “quirks” you found so endearing when your relationship was still on the cusp of ‘changing your life.’ For those of you who are currently falling or still in love, this exercise won’t require much effort because you and your loved one will still have the glow cast from the hormonal halos you “reign” upon each other daily. Whichever category you’re in, please read carefully and heed the following advice: start making a note of every quirk and quality your partner has that you find/found irresistible, endearing and charming and the reasons you did. For you long-time lovers refer back, if you can, to cards, love letters, any mementos that hint at what you first fell in love with and what made your partner so lovable back then.
Now, before you start thinking that you’ve already tried this and it doesn’t work or it’s no quick fix, you’re right, it doesn’t and it isn’t. What I’m suggesting isn’t only to remember what’s good about your partner it’s to remember that the things you now find annoying are the very qualities or essence of the qualities you need to start being and/or doing yourself or see how you are also the same in a less obvious, possibly creative way: e.g., one partner never says no, is overly obligated and the other partner who ends up being involved in every thing he/she says yes to resents the one who got them involved in the first place. The first partner feels resentful because he/she feels obligated to say yes for you both. In this case, both partners have trouble saying yes and no, just to different people. This couple can teach each other by taking turns, swapping and sharing whom they say yes and no to.
You see Mother Nature in her brilliance, or perhaps a victim of the very love state she created, may have been overly optimistic to think we’d choose growth and awareness over our projections. But self-awareness and development is in fact exactly the opportunity that falling in love provides us if we choose to take advantage of it.
Unfortunately most everything we learn about love teaches us that love requires nothing but our presence. True love lasts forever, love conquers all, and if you love me you should know how I feel. The misconceptions are countless yet so is the number of Americans trying desperately to prove they’re true. So let’s instead channel all of that frantic energy into developing a curiosity about the lessons our partner’s qualities and quirks hold for us. Once we get over thinking, “Why won’t she/he…” we stop reacting, as if they were anomalies, to the repeated dysfunctional dramas we create and experience in every single relationship. It’s only then that Mother Nature’s brilliance catches fire and we realize our partners’ traits say as much about us as they do about them.
How to make use of this synergistic fit begins with facing the fact that a disturbance or quality in another wouldn’t even hit our radar if it didn’t somehow first exist in us. You may have trouble figuring out how it does, not because you’re stupid but because we have already, in our altered states of love and against all common sense, proven ourselves untrustworthy in facing these parts of ourselves. Why else would the Great Mystery use such a compelling love state? He, She, whatever you call this Force of Nature, knew that many of us wouldn’t go to those places in ourselves without something as seductively enthralling as “falling in love.” The falling may just be the one big hint at what this sublime state requires letting go of: our pride.
So summon your courage, treat a friend to dinner. Make sure it’s a friend who has no trouble telling you things about yourself that you don’t want to hear but you know is in your best interest. Your friend should be able to truthfully answer one or more of these questions. If you leave your friend feeling childishly vengeful because, “…well, they’re not perfect either,” then hold onto that friend. If your friend can’t answer the following questions, find a new friend! Write these questions down and keep asking until you’ve gotten the answers you wish you hadn’t but know why you did.
• How am I also that admirable or disturbing trait but don’t see it or how do I need to learn what I project is my partner issue?
• How does my partners’ trait, positive or negative, reveal how my words and behavior don’t match up? An example: One partner feels entitled to everything and never takes no for an answer. The other partner struggles with asking for support but is indirectly very needy or controlling.
Once you’ve stopped reeling from these revelations you’re ready to track and change those troublesome behaviors in your daily life. And all you need is a good long nostalgic look at your partner to show you how. Then, the next time you’re buying or selling, the purchase will not only live up to its hype; it will also be the truth.
First published on Dr. Rios-Rivera’s blog, MYTHoughts, on December 23, 2012.