Love is a Reciprocal Process
“Don’t worry, we’ll make up for lost time, my dear friend,” Julie replied. Dinner at seven?”
The sweet scent of incense mingled with an aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and tantalizing food met Megan as she entered the door.
“Hi, smells wonderful. What’s for dinner?”
“Would you believe roast pheasant under glass?”
“Ah, don’t think so!”
“How about homemade chicken soup and salad?”
“I’ll buy that,” said Megan, laughing. “No one ever accused you of slaving all day over a hot stove.”
“Not in this lifetime,” replied Julie.
Their smiles and friendly banter reflected a deep friendship and understanding of each other. As they ate, Julie revealed her dealings with Dr. Braun.
Megan asked at last, “So, how do you view your present relationship with Joe considering this information?”
“I see two things I was unaware of,” Julie explained. “First, we both suffered from low self-esteem. But because he’s successful in the business world, I didn’t recognize his emotional insecurities. It’s like a man to cover his uncertainties with a facade of toughness. Only when you’re aware of what to look for do you recognize it.”
“For instance, remember I mentioned the coldness of his childhood. Well, it seems he still feels unloved and unworthy of love, even though he wants it and craves it. When I reach out, he pushes me back. Later, he demands reassurance like a toddler and becomes possessive and jealous. And if that’s not enough to drive me crazy, he’s always ‘testing’ me.
He makes self-deprecating remarks, then waits for me to reassure him of my love. But when I do, he erects barriers. He will instigate arguments over nothing and continually criticize me. I ask myself, ‘Would a person with high self-esteem behave this way?’
“Now I know the answer. These last couple months I’ve discovered so many issues we never thought to discuss before becoming involved — Issues we don’t agree on now and probably never will be.”
Shaking her head no, she continued, “It’s evident he doesn’t see me. And in no way do I see myself reflected in him, either. We’re not in tune at all.”
Reaching for another roll, Megan said, Perhaps you’re right, Julie. And I remember our last discussion, how you were so frustrated with him. That is unbearable, I know. But don’t be too hasty. Being alone is not so great either. Around about midnight (you know what I mean), I still long for Marc even though he betrayed me.
It’s hard to find a good man these days. Sometimes we have to look past the bad times and think about the good times. Besides, you have more than a year’s time invested in this relationship. Now that you understand the reasons better, maybe if . . .”
“Maybe nothing!” Julie interrupted. I’m exhausted. Worn out. When love is ‘right’ you don’t experience roller coaster, merry-go-round confusion. You just don’t. Remember when I experienced that awful feeling after one of my arguments with Joe?
It terrified me. I’ve since learned it was my self-esteem that toppled and crushed me. Joe’s words and actions made me feel worthless, helpless. I panicked that he was rejecting me… I’m never going that route again!
Julie threw her napkin down on her plate and stood up, gesturing, “What you’re suggesting is that I ‘settle’ — That perhaps I won’t find anyone else. Consider that Megan. That’s a trap. If I continue to settle, then I become a prisoner of fear. Fear of accepting my aloneness. Fear of accepting self-responsibility. Fear of reaching out for what I deserve.”
She paused and looked straight into Megan’s eyes and said, “Think of your own situation. What happened? You tried. You hung in there …”
“But my situation was different,” Megan argued. “We were married, and I was committed to him.”
“Different?” Julie’s eyes flashed stinging darts as she continued, “I, too, was committed. In my heart, I was as committed as if I were married. The only difference here is that your husband was unfaithful. And you shut your eyes. You ‘settled’ and it still didn’t work.”
Megan flinched. Julie looked away. Shaking hands refilled their cups. Finally, Megan answered, “I guess it all boiled down to my own insecurities. Particularly as I aged, I became obsessed with youth.
I was constantly dieting, on the edge of paranoia about my weight. I even had Botox treatments and plastic surgery to keep my youthfulness. Still, she choked, “he wanted a younger woman.”
“So, whose insecurities are we referring to here, yours or his?” Julie challenged.
“Actually, he never said he wanted a younger woman, but he was always comparing me to the young professionals at the office,” Megan answered. He was always pressuring me to complete my Master’s degree and start a career. But I enjoyed creating a pleasant, loving home for him and the kids more than anything else.
That brought me pleasure. I felt fulfilled. I wanted to be like Barbara Bush, not Hillary Clinton. Why couldn’t he understand that? He always wanted me to be like someone else.”
“Ah, so that’s it!” Julie said. “He didn’t accept your individuality. And over the years, other problems grew from his non-acceptance. Love is a reciprocal process. Each partner must accept the other for who they are.”
“Oooh,” says Megan, understanding for the first time. “I see. Had he seen me as an individual, seen my uniqueness, and accepted and appreciated my being, my talents, my gifts, instead of insisting I become like someone else, we might have made it.”
Shaken by this realization, a tear trickled down her cheek. And she sobbed. Julie reached over and drew her close, resting Megan’s head on her shoulder. Comforting each other, they cried. Sad tears for lost love. Happy tears for a new understanding. Anticipatory tears of hope for love to come.