It’s natural to imagine that the highest virtue in love would be kindness
and, a close second, politeness.
But there is an odd danger lurking here:
a relationship where we are overly polite, where there is not enough directness,
where things go wrong not because of a lack
of tenderness or serenity
but because of a stifling excess of manners,
because there aren’t enough raised voices, insults, legitimate furies
and moments where both partners feel free
to call each other idiots and much worse.
When we hear arguments between lovers,
perhaps through a hotel bedroom wall,
it is easy to fear for them and their union.
We have most of us been deeply and rightly sensitized
to the horrors of abusive relationships.
But there is, within reason,
and we stress within reason with great seriousness,
there are something extremely vital and redemptive
that can unfold within the occasionalheated discussion.
Living around someone
is bound to be, at points, extremely disappointing.
For love to remain vital,
we need the freedom to give this disappointment expression.
It seems we cannot love
if love is all we are allowed to do.
Many of us have implicitly been taught in childhood
that disappointments are best swallowed quietly.
Perhaps a parent was very fragile or they were very volatile,
so we feared either annihilating them
or provoking them unbearably by giving vent
to our more honest and troubling feelings
We grew up polite and good
but also in danger of feeling inwardly dead
and convinced that no one could witness us as we are
and still love us.
A certain kind of politeness is the enemy of love.
We cannot love, or be properly in a relationship that feels alive,
and simply lock away too many of our reservations.
We need for love first and foremost real
and this will involve giving expression
to all kinds of more ambivalent feelings.
In most arenas of life, mere politeness will do;
there should be little else around friends and colleagues.
But love needs something riskier:
we have to be able to say that we hate when we hate –
so that later we can properly love
when it’s time to love.
This is why, in the interests of the relationship,
we might need to tell the partner
that they have ruined our life,
that they are selfish and infuriating and
that we have had more than enough –
and the partner, far from getting simply offended
(though that has its role too)
they should take it, and read the explosion for what it is:
a homage to the trust and bond between us.
That a red faced accuser would never speak like this to anyone else on earth.
it should be interpreted as the greatest privilege.
They don’t just hate you,
though they do at the moment,
they have a lot of hope in you, and a lot of faith
that you love them enough to take their reality –
and when it’s blown over,
their love will be as sincere as their anger once was.
We should get angry when the occasion fairly demands it;
we, the overly meek and coward ones,
should experience how good and necessary it feels
to dare to let go and vent our annoyance and irritation
without the usual huge (and valuable) inhibitions.
We should not be overly scared of the odd loud argument,
we should form our irritations
into some beautifully creative insults;
it is not a sign that everything is coming to an end and love has died,
It’s a sign that our relationship still has a lot of
kindness,sincerity and tolerance left within it.
Love is a skill you can learn.
Our relationships book calmly guides us with calm and charm
through the key issues of relationships
to ensure that success in love
need not be a matter of luck.
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