Perfection does not exist in the human race. Don’t get me wrong; babies can be really adorable when they aren’t crying or ejecting some revolting bodily fluid. But as far as I can tell, it’s all downhill from there.
I have said many times that I’m not looking for someone who is perfect. After all, if he’s that wonderful, he could do much better than me. I am simply looking for a man with idiosyncrasies that work well with mine. For starters, I need a man who is not easily driven crazy.
We all have a past, and the older we get, the more we see in the rear-view mirror. There will be regrets, wounds, baggage and skeletons in our closets. Some are worse than others. So here is my question: What is more important in determining the long-term success of a relationship: an ABSENCE of mistakes in the past, or an ability to accept and learn from the past while moving forward?
I had an interesting conversation with a friend today about relationships. I will start by saying that I have a reputation for jettisoning men quite early in the relationship. As we started working down the roster of my ex-boyfriends, I explained why I ended it with each of them. With the exception of one, it was always because there were problems that they would not address and as a result, any time there was a conflict, we couldn’t move through it. I’ve written about one prime example (https://howhardcoulditbe.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/i-am-listening-to-you-i-just-disagree/), but there have been others that were worse in different ways.
I’m not implying that I don’t have problems. Just ask my daughters and they will have a hard time getting the font small enough to contain all my faults on just one page. I’m saying that I am on a continual quest to grow as a person; to become more loving, patient, caring and generally useful every day. That means confronting the things in my spirit that are obstacles to that goal. I need to have a partner in my life that is on that path, too and not so I can whip him into shape. Just the opposite; if he’s working on his “stuff” too, then he’ll really understand what I’m going through and we can do it together. We understand the struggle of facing our inadequacies head on and the courage that requires. What a great thing to bring two people together.
I seem to recall research done at Denver University back in the 80’s and 90’s that showed that the number one determining factor in the success of a long-term relationship was the ability to handle conflict. That certainly rings true in my life. I like to tackle things directly and get it over with. When I’ve been in relationships with men who won’t even admit that there’s a problem, we spend all of our time dancing around it. To them, there was either no problem, or the problem was 100% on my side. It was exhausting.
So now I am involved with a wonderful man and I am very much in love. He has a past. It isn’t attractive. He has taken full responsibility for the pain his choices created in his life and the lives of those around him. He has engaged in a tremendous amount of work over the past few years to grow into a better and more loving person. When we have conflict, he has never once accused me or tried to lay the blame on me. This is a new experience for me and I really like it.
So here I am in the kind of relationship I always wanted. We communicate. We talk about our thoughts and feelings. We take responsibility for our issues, struggles and mistakes. I feel safe speaking my mind (in love). I have a past and I own it. I am doing my best to be a better person every day. He has a past and he owns it. He’s doing his best to be a better person every day.
There is a belief is that when a person becomes a Christian, they are a new creation. This is not to say that they are instantly transformed, but it is like a spiritual rebirth; they have the opportunity to start over. They are called to put down destructive and hurtful behaviors and to stop trying to control everything and everyone. Yes, I know that there are many so-called “Christians” that didn’t get that memo. Let’s not get sidetracked.
As a Christ-follower, shouldn’t I be willing to see my fellow Christ-follower as a new creation and assess him on his CURRENT behaviors rather than his checkered past?
Yes, it is risky. It scares the bjeebers out of me sometimes. To love another human being is always a gamble. I can guarantee that if you really love someone long enough, sooner or later they are sure to hurt you. Even the most idyllic romance will eventually end when one partner leaves the other in death. That hurts tremendously. Even the very best parents will eventually abandon their children in the same way, or sometimes earlier due to dementia or Alzheimer’s.
So what’s the solution? Maybe I shouldn’t take a chance on getting hurt. I could just wall my heart up and focus on my career and my kids. I could have a tidy relationship with a “nice” man where we never really share anything of depth or meaning and we never challenge one another. It could go on for years without ever really moving forward but it would feel really comfortable and safe. I could have a successful life that looks really awesome to everyone around me. Is that what I want? Would that be satisfying?
For me the answer is “no”. I want love in my life. Romantic love. I want to be with a man that will share in my adventures and that will create adventures to share with me.
We’ll get banged up and dirty and sometimes we’ll go down in flames.
Yes, sometimes we will hurt each other. But we’ll get up, dust ourselves off, repair the damage as best we can and move forward… together.
I will take that chance, knowing that the feeling of truly loving and being loved, of understanding and being understood; the experience of emotional intimacy is completely and totally worth the moments of imperfection when we fail each other.
I have decided to love him because of who he IS based on the choices he makes TODAY, not on who he used to be, not on who I hope he’ll be “some day”.
I mean, hey. That’s how I want him to love me…right?
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