I was recently asked the following. What had I learned from past relationships, or about myself over the years, that has made me a better person to be in a relationship with?
It's a good question, isn't it?
After briefly dipping into my bucket of lessons, much as one might gently sort through shells collected on the shore, I chose two. I hastily dusted the sand off, but as I held them in my hand, I realized they were more like those pieces of green sea glass - pounded smooth but cloudy.
It was a face-to-face conversation, and I had not much time to ponder, so these were offered in haste.
One was this: I have learned to bite my tongue. That you cannot take anything back, and you cannot undo it. That sorry doesn't erase anything. So you should choose your words very carefully in anger and in hurt.
And the other, which just finally, finally sunk in, is that not everything is about me. I don't mean this as it might sound - that the relationship should revolve around me and my needs and my wants. But rather, sometimes things that I take personally have nothing to do with me.
For example, sometimes the other person's bad mood is just a bad mood that he wants to be left alone to deal with. I didn't cause it and I can't fix it. And sometimes, if someone backs away or rejects you, it's because of the place he's in - not that I'm an inadequate person.
That's the one it's taken me so damn long to get. Sometimes it's about what's going on with him, and not what's wrong with me. And you have to just let it go.
He asked how these lessons learned have been working out for me.
And I said honestly, I don't know yet. They're brand new. I'm just trying them out.
Truthfully, though, upon further reflection, I realized that the most important thing I've learned is this. You should never, ever take love for granted. And you should not be profligate with one drop of it.
Don't play the prove you love me game. Sometimes that's tempting, either because love has become hard to trust, or because you don't feel like you're worth it. But just don't. Don't toss a heart away to see how many times it will come back. Because at some point, the ebb tide will pull it out far enough, and you won't be able to retrieve it.
Even if you can't reciprocate, for whatever reason, you should treat the offerer nicely and with respect. And if you're letting them go, you should allow them to slip gently into the waves, rather than leaving them beached or crushed or so tangled in seaweed or nets that the effort of untangling is tantamount to drowning.
This, I'd say, is the biggest thing I've learned. Be kind and be gentle with love, even if you do not want to keep it.
I've pushed and I've pulled. I've skimmed hearts like smooth grey rocks out into the distance, and I've had mine slammed with the swirly grinding sand into the bottom. I hope to avoid the latter, and I'm damn sure never going to do the former to anyone ever again.