Later in the week, Scott was helping a couple of our friends understand their own relationship and used examples from his and my relationship to get his points across. He cc'd me into the emails, and they were an incredible comfort to me. His words alone would have been enough for a great Valentine's Day. I know there are those of you out there that worry about me, and I want to assure you that I am fine, we are fine, and life is good for our immediate family. Here are some excerpts from his emails:
The relationship that Sarah and I have...
I'm pretty sure that she has thought: "I love him from the most inner part of my soul and yet, I don't think he feels that for me."
The thing about thoughts like these is that there's just enough truth in them to make them feel real, but they're really lies.
I do love Sarah "from the most inner part of [my] soul". It's true that the love that I feel for her probably differs from what she feels for me, and by some measures it may be "less", but that doesn't make it any less valid or real. Even if she does love me "more" than I love her, I still love her. This isn't a contest to see who can love each other more, and the love doesn't need to be exactly evenly balanced in every aspect for a relationship to work. Two people can be very happy together even if one loves "more" than the other. The trick is for both to love as much as they can (and for the one who is loved "less" not to feel slighted or cheated, but to be grateful for what he or she has).
Happiness and Commitment
Is Sarah keeping me from happiness? I can't deny that I've wondered what it might be like to be in a relationship with a man. I see you and him together and I wish I could be as close (physically and emotionally) to a man as the two of you are.
But would I be happier? If Sarah came to me today and said "I'm letting you go--go find the man of your dreams" I would be lost. I need her. I don't think I could be happy without her. The only way I could possibly be happy in a relationship with a guy is if she was involved too. If I have to choose between her and any man I'll choose her, hands down. I'd rather be with her and deal with the longing for something more than actually have that something more and lose her.
When Sarah and I were married we promised each other that divorce would never be an option. We told each other that no matter what problems arose we would find a way to work through them and we would stay together. Neither of us forsaw the doozy of an problem that a mixed-orientation marriage can present.
We're a bit more realistic in our view now, I think. I'm pretty sure that both of us realize that divorce is sometimes necessary and that it's sometimes the best choice. We still don't feel like it's the best choice for us, right now, but we recognize that for some people it might be.
But here's how I see our relationship... When we got married we made a covenant, not only with each other, but also with God. We're in a three-way contract, and the only way out of that contract is by the consent of all three parties. If there ever comes a time that we divorce, it will be because both Sarah and I feel like it is the right thing to do, and because we feel like God thinks it's the right thing for us to do.
You go into a relationship with that mindset and you maintain that mindset, and commitment won't be an issue. It's like they always told us when we were kids in elementary school: decide right now that you're not going to do drugs, so that when you're actually in a situation where someone is asking you to do drugs you won't have to make the decision on the spot, because you'll have already made it. Same concept. You decide before you commit to someone that that commitment means something, and that you'll never break it, and then the decision has been made and you never have to decide again.
I know it's tough. And like I said, I've lived with Sarah long enough to know that there's no switch that you can flip from "pessimism" to "optimism". It's going to take some conscious effort and it's not going to happen overnight. But you can change. Sarah isn't as negative as she used to be. She's gotten better, and she's getting better, and you can too.
A relationship works best when there's open communication between both parties. I firmly believe this. You don't have to share every single iota of every aspect of your days or your feelings. But when something matters to one person the other person should know about it.
Communication is a two-way road, though, and this is the part I haven't talked to you about, and the part that you probably both need to hear. It's just as important to know how to listen as it is to know how to speak.
Example: Not too long ago, it was not at all unusual for a conversation between Sarah and I to go terribly wrong. It would start out okay... One of us would sense that the other had an issue or a problem (for the sake of this example I'm going to say that Sarah's the one with the problem), and so I would ask what was wrong. Sarah would explain what was bothering her, and I would immediately get either (1) defensive or (2) distraught. The defensive reaction was when I felt like she was accusing me of something unjustly. The distraught reaction was when I felt like she was accusing me of something with justification.
No matter what, though, I always reacted as though the reason she was sharing how she felt with me is that she felt like it was somehow my fault that she felt that way. This went both ways--when I shared a problem with her, she reacted in much the same way.
After I came out to her, we promised honesty and openness, and part of that included a promised effort to not take anything personally. We've actually done pretty well at that. I can listen to her explaining how she feels without feeling like I've done something to make her feel that way, and she can do the same for me.
That has made all the difference.
Before, communication was something we did as a last resort, because a problem had gotten so big and festered for so long that it had to be let out. Otherwise, we kept quiet about things that bothered us because we knew that the other person would react defensively or despairingly. We didn't like the reaction, so we didn't say anything.
Now we can talk about things before they get out of hand, and our conversations are easy and pleasant. There is no blame, no shame, and no guilt. We are closer now than we have ever been.
I should clarify something... In truth, it often is the case that one of us is the cause of the other's distress. So it's not that we've stopped falsely assigning blame. It's just that we've stopped assigning blame at all, choosing to focus on the solution instead of the problem.
Just wanted to share his insights. He is incredible, and I am so lucky to have him.