A car parks at dusk in the gravel driveway of a picket-fenced suburban home. A square-jawed man steps out, joyfully greeted by a bounding dog. His photoshop-perfect wife, just back from her high-profile job, kisses him at the doorstop: ‘Oh honey, you must be so tired. Let me fix you a cup of tea.’ As they settle down on their favorite couch, they share the funny incidents of their day. Laughter. They move to kiss. Fade Out.
If this is not what your relationship looks like, this post is for you. If this is what your relationship looks like, come back again in a year.
This post is about the box into which we try to fit our relationships, the parameters of which we have got from books, movies, advertising, sitcoms and ‘80s pop songs. We have an investment in believing things can and should look a certain fixed way. Which involves impossible words like unconditional and eternal love, total trust and unbreakable commitment. With mind-reading ability thrown in.
After the first flush of hormones, it becomes clear that these aren’t happening as natural by-products of romantic love, as we had secretly hoped. So we begin to ‘work’ on our relationship. Instead of altering the ill-fitting suit, we bind and cut off parts of ourselves to fit into it. The beauty is that we are mostly not aware of this at a conscious level. It’s an unspoken struggle between a couple employing cajoling, rewarding, shaming, aggression and threat to get to the picture perfect.
Is it possible that instead of one perfect relationship, there are seven billion different possibilities of perfect relationships, my mentor GD asked me the other day. What if our relationship didn’t need to look like our parents’ relationship – or the rebellious opposite of theirs – to be right? What if a relationship was as unique as our thumbprint?
I find just being open to this possibility immensely relieving and freeing. As I deeply open to this question, I find I am present in this moment to my partner instead of trying to load upon her the heavy shell of how-she-should-be. Even if there is a ‘problem’, instead of an umbrella judgment and rejection, there remains a simple statement of what action of my partner doesn’t work for me.
The best part is that in giving her the freedom to not be the picture perfect wife, I free myself. In this freedom, love, like a happy little brook, comes quietly bubbling up.