“How’s the love life,” she asked? Ordinarily I’d laugh, sneak in a witty retort, and laugh some more. Instead my response was “It’s not too bad actually. Not that I’m seeing anyone, ” I shared. “OKay,” she responded, with slight confusion in her voice.
I went on to share with her that I’ve enjoyed getting to know a couple that models a healthy love for one another. I’ve spent time with them enough to learn about their stories as individuals, journey together before marriage, and life post the I do’s at the altar. She moved to Seattle a few years ago for his schooling and they were now in Buffalo for hers. I’ve been there when there was a sudden leak in the ceiling in the apartment the night before a camping vacation and they worked together to move things, put stuff in the wash, call maintenance, and just do what needed to be done to address the issue and still pack for their trip. No blaming, sighing, throwing things, just working together to figure it out. I listened as she talked about how her spending used to impact their relationship and she knew she needed to change. Or how she was aware her desire turn struggle to perfect at work, school, and a spouse was resulting in not being the best in all of those areas- knowing she needed to prioritize her marriage. I listened to him talk about rethinking his career and watched her listen openly and willingly and reaffirming his strengths. I listen to him talk about his feelings using feeling words. Whether it was frustration, confusion, sadness, surprise, or joy. Her response wasn’t one that shut down the communication of feelings or shoved him into the corner of just sharing thoughts or doing. There was no wrapping crime scene caution tape around feelings.
When you are privy to more bitter, resentful, “I tolerate you” marriages than not, this, witnessing this, regularly being around this couple, was working wonders on my love life. It was working wonders on my believing that despite the majority of unhealthy unions I’ve witnessed, there are some healthy ones out there. Emphasis on healthy. Not perfect, just healthy. Just real people, living with, learning from, loving one another. Just real people committed to being real with one another, being gracious and authentic.
If we think that what we have been exposed to has no impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we fool only ourselves and sabotage our goals and dreams. It took years, but I’d finally gotten to a point where I wasn’t terrified that if I were to marry it would inevitably be a replica of the unions I’ve seen up close and very personal. I knew I didn’t want what those folks had. I thought knowing what I didn’t want was enough. I realize it was only start. There also had to be knowing what I did want and exposure to non Hollywood versions of healthy. Some of what I wanted I knew I wanted regardless of exposure. I’d seen enough selfishness to want generosity. I’d sat in enough awkward silence and heard enough sarcasm to know I wanted laughter. But then there have been things that I was exposed to that I then wanted, like authenticity, compassion, and the power of self awareness.
So when I told her that my most recent move was good for me, and really good for my love life, I meant it. It’s been good seeing this couple modeling what I believe lays the groundwork for a healthy marriage. It’s also been helpful to hear their reminders of the choice it is to commit to the health of who they are individually and their union. It’s been helpful to know despite my intake, and if I change my intake, my exposure, I can have a different outcome. I can have a different outcome because what I am exposed to impacts my belief of a different outcome. It disrupts prior thought patterns and influences knew ones. As we think, as we believe, we act (or we don’t act).
If you have followed this blog for any length of time, or read the about page, you know I’m a firm believer in choice as choices hold so much power, more power than I think we often realize. Just the act of choosing to challenge our thoughts and beliefs, how they’ve been influenced, and how we can make new choices for new thought patterns/beliefs, and what we need to influence and sustain that makes a huge difference.
“I’m happy for you. I’m happy that you are getting to be around some healthy people and healthy relationships. You deserve that,” she said.
You too deserve that. You deserve people who say and consistently demonstrate respect, love, honesty, integrity, and compassion. You deserve people who have boundaries and respect yours. Just so you know, you deserve to be healthy and deserve healthy people in your life. Not perfect, just healthy.