Quirks. We all have them. Some of them are considered “normal,” meaning no one comments on them if they come up. Say the quirk of not eating broccoli, for whatever reason. No one will raise an eyebrow about that one. But other quirks elicit double takes, like “I can’t stand buttons,” or “I love ketchup on my cereal.” Who knows where these quirks come from?
Then there are the quirks associated with sexuality. What is normal, what is harmful, and who decides? If I say I like something that makes you uncomfortable, are you honor bound to “fix” me? Or, am I supposed to talk you into doing it until you get used to it? How do we accept each other the way we are on issues that make us squirm?
How much is a partner supposed to try things that the other partner likes if the thing in question is an actual turn-off? Is it okay in a loving relationship to simply not satisfy our partners in those areas? To say “no” to some things the other person wants? We’re supposed to respect ourselves first, so you could make a case for that. On the other hand, is it healthy to deny one’s desires for the sake of a relationship that is strong in every other way? To never bring it up or express a yearning for something we’ll simply never get? What do you do with that yearning? Or, as in things like movies or family holidays, could it be as simple as taking turns?
I love this quote from Gretchen Leary’s “A Call for Compassion“:
I can handle your quirks. Can you handle mine?
My hope is that a strong relationship would eventually be able to accommodate all desires of both partners, at least in some form. True unconditional love would accept and in fact strive to fulfill the partner’s desires even at one’s own (temporary) expense. This, at least, is my ideal. I wonder how often it happens?
A friend who has read my book Daddy Issues recommended this article to me:
Why Some People Hate Sex: the Fascinating Psychology Behind Sexual Revulsion
It’s a terrific, eye-opening article. I found much of it moving and instructive. For example:
The Latin adjective intimus means “inmost, deepest.” So real intimacy means, first of all, that both partners listen deep inside–i.e., get to know their inner worlds of emotion, desire, and vulnerability–and then reveal what they’ve learned to each other in an atmosphere of loving acceptance.
This is the scariest place for many people. In my own relationships, I’ve found when I’m crawling the walls and needing to reveal something deeper, often my partner doesn’t want to go there. Or, when he has a moment of despair, I misinterpret it and take it personally. It’s only when both parties can agree that they will do their best to meet that need whenever and however it comes up that the relationship can deepen and grow. Love becomes a decision, not merely an emotion.
A few years back, the book Love-Making from the Inside Out, by Dr. Bill Cloke, transformed my attitude about relationships. I had thought that I had to be perfect, to have all my issues settled and all my neuroses handled before I could expect anyone to love me. Dr. Cloke’s book taught me instead that it’s in our moments of weakness and vulnerability that we can feel the deepest and highest love. A love partnership is when both make the commitment to keep the love flowing when one or the other needs it, not merely being okay with the person when they’re totally fine.
My last relationship failed because while one of us was willing to make this commitment, the other admitted they were not. There was nowhere further we could go after this discovery. We couldn’t get any closer. It saddened me because in many ways it was the best relationship I’d ever had.
So my challenge to myself is: Am I available to hold someone when they’re going crazy? Am I willing to be there when my partner is defeated and hurting? Will I stay by his side when he’s filled with self-hatred or internalized anger? Will I listen and try to understand his childhood phobias without trying to change him?
That’s the love I want. And I think it’s the love we all need.
I wrote to my dear older friend to tell her about launching Daddy Issues. She’s someone I’ve known for years and really respect. She’s also the matriarch of an astonishing family and one of the most spiritual people I know. So, I had to warn her a little about the, you know, sex.
She wrote me this:
Whoo Hoo, yippee, hooray for you… I’m proud of you… Keep in mind that our sexuality, explicit or otherwise, is part of our humanness and should be celebrated, especially when we come to terms with, AND WRITE ABOUT, it… Your writing, it seems to me, is a blessing and a step forward. It’s your unique take on life. Now, go bask in the bounty of good all around you, and that includes your talent…
So grateful for that vote of confidence! And for the truth that I believe as well: that we should celebrate our completeness, see ourselves as whole, not as bits and pieces where some parts are good and other parts are bad.
It’s all good.
I got a new insight into this Bible passage this morning. I’d never understood the last part before:
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Matt. 11:5,6)
Suddenly this morning, the last part meant to me, “Blessed is he who is not offended when I help people most others don’t like.”
Which is kind of why I wrote Daddy Issues. To shed light on things some folks find offensive or disturbing. And yes, some people are offended by some of what I wrote. So I’m doubly, triply thankful this morning for those of you who are not. You are changing the world.