Love, But Verify

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

One of my best friends in town is pushy.  He never means to be, but he came from a household where he was encouraged to ask, enthusiastically, for everything he wanted – so when you go out to a restaurant with him, he’ll strongly suggest what you might like to order from the menu, based on what he would like to taste.
Now, before you go, “What a jerk,” keep in mind that he is also the most giving, loving friend you could possibly ask for.  Got a problem at three in the morning?  He’ll be there.  And, as a saving grace, he takes a strong “No” without complaint, so once you’re smart enough to go, “I’m not having the scallops, Ken,” he backs off without a word and never takes it personally.  He just feels – and perhaps not incorrectly – that if he wants something, it never hurts to ask.
Still.  It means you have to be aware of my friend’s foibles.  If you’re going on vacation with him (as we have), you will spend every day doing what he wants unless you speak up and go, “No, I am not interested in another wine tour.  We’re going to the docks instead.”  And then everything is wonderful, as once he gets to the docks he will be cheerful and happy and probably buy you dinner.
You might think this is an indictment of my friend, having to act differently around him.  But this kind of altered behavior is something I do for every close friend I have.  Because they’ve all got their weak spots.
D means well when he promises things, but never follows up.  K will disappear for months on end when she finds a new boyfriend.  B needs to be the smartest person in the room or he’ll get pissy.  N gets uncomfortable whenever you discuss deep emotional topics.
Hell, Gini has those warnings for me.  F gets snappy when he’s neck-deep in a tough work problem.  F has six weeks out of the year when he’s useless.  F will argue you senseless if you concentrate on the logic of your argument as opposed to discussing how his action make you feel.
To be aware of, and react accordingly to, your friends’ negative traits, is not a betrayal of friendship.  It’s reality.
Which is tough, especially for people in deeply dysfunctional families who were taught, “You never speak badly of us.”  What gets internalized is this fucked-up lesson that “If you really love someone, you won’t notice their bad points.”  Which is crazy!  Everyone has soft spots in their psyche, where trusting them to do X will lead you to ruin.  That lesson is basically saying, “You need to fall in love with an android who will never let you down.”  That’s not going to happen.
So what they do instead is shove aside reality.  They date someone who’s bad at paying the rent but act as though their partner was going to come through this time, then wonder why they’re living in squalor.
Look.  It’s a more honest act of love to look at someone and say, “Yes, she’s terrible at paying the bills, but I love her.”  Loving someone doesn’t mean slapping on blinders and running into things; it means going, “Okay, if we move in together, I’m going to have to make the sacrifice of taking control of the finances, because she can’t do it.”  Which gets even more complex if your partner really thinks she’s quite GOOD at paying the bills despite the copious evidence otherwise… But that’s part of negotiating a solid relationship.
There’s this whole attitude of love where saying bad things about your lover means you’re a bad person – and yes, if you’re bitching more than you’re adapting, then you’re probably not that nice.  But you can be realistic and be deeply in love.  You can commit, wholeheartedly, to someone who’s not perfect .  And it is not a betrayal to go, “Okay, this is something I know they won’t do, so I’ll either do it myself or find a way to get around that.”
Gini loves me more than any lover ever has.  She also knows I’ve got a lot of bad points.  Her real love comes not from ignoring those flaws, but in circumventing and reshaping them.  Because I’m human, as is everyone we’re ever going to date, and flaws don’t mean you’re unworthy of love.

1 Comment

  1. Shandra
    Jun 19, 2012

    Love this. You might also, re: the asking thing, love this post on Ask vs. Guess culture if you haven’t come across it yet: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/may/08/change-life-asker-guesser

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