Friday, February 11, 2011

I’m a demanding lover.

We learn about relationships through friendships.  I was a very isolated and lonely kid, so when I first came out of my shell and started making friends, those who ventured to connect with me were probably overwhelmed pretty quickly. I thought affection was static. If someone said we were “best friends,” I took that as a lifelong commitment; surely a “best friend” is going to stick by me, no matter what, right? Even if I act obnoxious, eat all their potato chips, and wear something completely embarrassing to the winter dance? I would throw myself into friendships and then be terribly hurt when my beloved friends wanted to move on. Over time, I learned that friendships come and go, they have dawns and dusks and, in the end, it is very rare that anyone will truly care about you “no matter what,” or even appreciate the kind of devotion that I was so anxious to offer. 

I caught on to the transitory nature of most friendships, but my early romances were similarly misguided. If I uttered the word “love,” let alone heard the word “love” uttered in return, that was it. That word was never casual to me; it carried the weight of intense commitment. I could have ended up a very broken person, had I attracted more boyfriends. As it was, I was lucky and few took interest. I endured just one, pivotal heartbreak. My parents’ marriage ended shortly after that, and between the two failed relationships, I came to the hard realization that human beings cannot love each other “forever and no matter what.” Being in love, it seemed, was just not the magical bond I thought it was.

I set out to test my theory that no one could love me unconditionally. I dated more than I ever had before, but introduced every guy to as many of my thorns as possible. If I disagreed, I challenged them. If I didn’t like the meal, I said so. If I had a paper to write, I wouldn’t make time for a date. Sure enough, guy after guy would last two or three weeks, then head off to find easier prey. I didn’t mind, because I honestly believed there was no other way to find a guy who was going to love me the way I needed. Why waste my time or theirs, if they weren’t the one for me?

My husband wandered into this snare of mine, right as I was hitting my groove. The night we met, I wouldn’t give him my phone number. He didn’t have a piece of paper, and I just knew he wouldn’t remember it; he wasn't even drinking, he was the driver for his friends. I told him my last name and said if he really wanted to call me, he could find a college phone directory and look me up. I was shocked when he won my scavenger hunt and left a message with my roommate that weekend. I called back and he sounded so happy I almost hung up on him. He had to be putting me on; no one had ever been that excited about a return phone call from me.

On our first date, he was smiling so big, driving along, that he looked to me like the happy skeletons you see as Day of the Dead decorations. Not one to keep these things to myself, I told him, “You’re smiling so big, it’s like I can see the shape of your skull.” He just took it in stride; I don’t know why he didn’t turn around and take me home, but he didn’t. Mini-golfing was fun, and I even had a night open in about a week and a half for a follow up date. I knew he wouldn’t call. He didn’t. He left me roses on the doorstep, instead. No guy had ever given me flowers before.

One of our first pictures together - 7 months into it.
Was I that hard-headed that we don't have any pictures?

To this day, my husband has stood by me, thick and thin. He’s taken my crap and dished enough in return for me to know he’s for real. It was Valentine’s weekend, 1996, 15 years ago this weekend, when I first told him that I loved him; I’d already known it for a month, but didn't tell him. I still feared that his infatuation was going to wane and he would realize I’m not as exciting a catch as he seemed to think. I warned him when he proposed six weeks later that he better think it through, because if he married me, there was no escape clause; nothing was going to keep me away from him short of a restraining order. He told me that sounded good to him and gave me permission to love him with all my insane tenacity. And I do.

In general, I don’t love as easily as I did. I share a generous portion of filial, “friendly love,” but the agape – the bottomless, endless, tenacious love that says, “no matter what” – you might have to be a little unstable yourself, if you even want me to love you that way. It could involve a restraining order someday, after all. I feel incredibly blessed for the daring man who was brave enough to want that kind of love from me - and keeps right on giving it back.

I hope for each of you this Valentine's Day that you know the blessing of love unconditional.  That kind of love is a glimpse of the Divine - the only truly dependable source of "love no matter what."

Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a

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