In art, masterpieces take time.
They are a work in progress that we refine as the light changes and our perspectives change. And that’s kind of like relationships, we just keep going, and someday we look back and see something beautiful, a culmination of frustrated nights and strokes of genius.
Some say that mastery comes with many hours of practice. While I cannot say for certain this is always the case, it’s true, I’ve had more relationships than I can count with names I cannot remember (or indeed ever knew?). This is not something I am proud of, but rather a sign of dysfunction and maleducation as a western woman. Some lasted only a few hours, others years overdue. Lots of racey and fantastical things that we think only happens in movies or novels. Ever since those teenage years I have spent my lifetime chasing down the dream of ‘happily ever after’, what makes a relationship a happy one, a loving and meaningful one, and even, a thrilling and exciting one?
Long ago I married a chosen man. He and I were not infatuated for very long. The very second those wedding bells stopped ringing our happiness crumbled into a very scary and dark abyss. We spent the first few years nearly killing each other or walking away. Then, many years healing the wounds, struggling to rewrite the patterns, and planting seeds to grow something beautiful.
So, I get it. I get sex as a western woman in this culture.
I get relationship highs and lows.
And I get feeling desperate for help to save a relationship.
And I get wanting to walk away as well as being terrified of being walked out on.
I get sacrificing myself for someone else out of insecurity, or out of love, and how the difference between these two carves a relationship.
I get the difference between romance, love and attachment.
I get that heartache is a result of attachment not love.
I get that the way we love another is not the way we will be loved by the other. And to expect it, is to lose the gifted opportunity of being loved.
I get that we can only ever love someone as deeply, fearlessly and unconditionally as we love ourselves.
I get being invincibly bold and I get being terrified of being seen.
I get that there is a huge variety of men, and their strengths and weaknesses are varied. And so too for women.
I get the humiliating low points of begging and bartering for love, affection, a kiss from someone you long for.
And, I get the power in prostitution, and the security of marriage.
I get that there are paradoxes in intimacy and relationships, and that we should not cage ourselves in.
And I get that the ways in which our partner hurts us are also the deepest wounds they need healing with.
I get that women have as much ability and responsibility to affect men to be our heroes as men do in being our heroes.
I get that our complaints say more about us than they say about our partners.
I get the longing for our partner to uplift us, to make us feel better. And the truth that he is, we just have to do the work.
I get that we can be any kind of woman for the man we love, because we adapt and learn so easily. And I get the special kind of gilded cage we step into when we do.
I get that what kind of man you are with completely affects what kind of woman you can be with him, and how this too can feel like we stepped into a gilded cage.
I get that sometimes we get what we ask for, and that sometimes we realize years later that this isn’t what we really wanted.
I get the many ways we hurt men just by being women.
And I get that a wise woman would never use her gifted strengths against a man she loves.
I get that we simply want to love and be loved and can’t understand why it has to be so complicated.
I get that the worst wounds are the ones we cannot see, and that they can become our greatest gifts.
I get that we didn’t have the best role models growing up and we have to figure out one of the hardest things in life without a good education.
I get that no one would expect you to fly a plane unless you had gone through proper training but everyone expects everyone to know how to fly a woman’s body into ecstasy without training.
I get that how she feels about her body is what she projects onto a man.
And I get that how he feels about her body can either heal her or scar her deeply.
I get that a woman’s hidden desire is to be admired and approved of, and that standing in front of a man she really admires and desires bare-naked and bare-faced is one of the most vulnerable steps she will take in a relationship. And one of the greatest gifts and opportunities from her that a man often overlooks.
I get that women cry when their hearts burst open with love.
And I get that women can drive a man crazy trying to understand what is deep in his heart.
I get that when we are with our partners we are the most likely to show our inner child, in play and in tantrum.
I get that relationships are the greatest opportunity for self transformation, healing and growth if we accept every challenge as a personal opportunity.
I get that an ideal marriage is one that is had from leading and loving by example, not from critiquing.
I get that women are infinitely complex, even to themselves.
And I get that he loves her even if he can’t understand a damn thing about her.
And I get the pain of not being understood and how that can feel like we are unseen, unheard, and even unloved.
I get that she delights in special occasions and rituals and flower gardens. And I get that sometimes, he can’t see the point.
I get revealing your most vulnerable sides proudly and beautifully, and receiving that one small critique that shuts everything down into a spiral of shame.
I get that committing to a lifetime with one person is one of the scariest decisions we’ll ever make.
I get that a man needs a woman even if can’t admit it.
And I get that a woman enjoys and needs the shelter and protection of a man even though it’s taboo to admit it (even to herself).
I get that there is a wild and untamed side that a woman can’t tell a man about, and that it’s her silent longing for him to give permission and the assistance to uncage it.
I get the desire to live the rest of my days in celibacy, and I get that this feeling is one of the greatest struggles a man and a woman will face in their marriage.
I get that sometimes it can feel like we don’t desire pleasure, and the truth that we do but we don’t believe it is probable.
And, I also get that, in the hands of a trained and skilled pilot, a plane does what it was built to do and it knows no bounds nor does it ever want to stop flying.
I get that being a good lover, a handsome man or a rich man does not guarantee he is also a good life partner or father.
And I get that some differences cannot be overcome.
I get that it looks like everyone else has it figured out (until they don’t and separate). And I get that very few have it figured out, we’re all mostly struggling with good days and bad days.
I get that it takes time and effort to connect with our partner and work things out, and that with so much time and effort we can still feel we’ve only gained an inch.
I get the ruts and the routines, the feeling of silent separation and ships passing through the days and nights.
I get unfulfilled longings and the feeling of disappointment when we compare our lot with what we see in others, in books and in movies.
And I get the feeling of exhaustion and the foretelling tears from losing hope.
I get racing hearts and sleepless nights, the blood-boiling passions that make you feel alive and act completely irrationally. And I get how seductive that can be but also, how short-lived.
I get wanting to be a better woman and failing.
And I get wanting to be with a better man and staying.
And I get leaving a good man because good just wasn’t enough.
I get the imperative biological mandate to have a child, even if it’s the wrong partner or the wrong time.
And I get the pain of waiting until it’s too late.
I get the joy of making a family with the one you love.
And I get the scarring sorrow of flushing those dreams away.
I get the resistance to reach for something you long for, because you don’t know if your heart can survive another heartbreak.
I get the pain of regret.
And I get the fear that time is running out.
I get the problem that there is no single manual about how to do relationships, sex and intimacy that will make it all better, and I get that if we stop trying to learn, everything will stop getting better.
I get that it’s hard, painfully hard, and yet I understand that nothing was ever called a triumph that was not also a challenge.
And so it is for all of us.