Last week, I’d make a crack on my radio show(s) that Jan and I had had a squawk, and after he’d left for work, I wrote a passive aggressive note in the alphabet magnets on our fridge.
Some people were horrified. Some in particular reached out and commented that they were worried about us, and worried that people now knew we were “already fighting”.
Already? I’ve addressed us squabbling in the past. Should people be concerned?
I read an article this morning about Dax Sheppard and Kristen Bell. Now, neither of these people are my friends – they’re simply celebrities trying to keep it real in an online world where their spats – or alphabet magnet notes (wink) – will surface to the public before either of them had a chance to breathe, or work it through. I assume this is their way of getting ahead of the noise, and living, and loving on their own terms. Neither of this pair shy away from “admitting” that there were no sparks between them when they met, that they utilize counsellors and therapy to edge through the difficulties of marriage, and in this particular article, Kristen is quoted as saying the two “blacked out” from fighting over a note that ended up with her sleeping on the couch and they not speaking for three days. That’s a fight. That’s an intense fight.
I bring it up because so many of us are concerned with getting it right, that we’re not sure how to navigate when it’s going wrong. And we’re not giving the love that we share enough credit to do the one thing we count on it for – to keep us grounded and centred during the waves of conflict. In this situation between Jan and I on Friday, it was merely two people who are trying to grow out of independents lives, and ideals, and ways of thinking to combine into one life – new to them both. And if we don’t think there isn’t going to be some friction in that, well, I think we’re fooling ourselves.
But let’s get to the point – Jan and I aren’t “already” fighting. In fact, we care enough to make this (common law marriage) relationship work. And it’s taking work. Sometimes that work is saying – I don’t like the way this is being done. Or I don’t appreciate the way you spoke to me. Or something else of the like. And when the friction starts to drive a wedge, a fight ensues, it’s time for love to step in and deal with it, in its own way. For some couples – like Dax and Kristen, no apology was necessary. They apologized without words. They found other ways to come back to each other. For Jan and I, it was me admitting – on air – that I was Tom Petty enough to leave this note on the fridge, and I ended up beelining home before him so I could change it and make dinner. That was my love coming through and saying – Imma fix this.
So how do we address that Dax & Kristen, as celebrities, use their platforms to get real and honest about the good, bad, and ugly in their marriage? How do people cope with knowing Jan and I are unafraid to write what’s happened – he on Social Media, me in these blogs or on the air? Is it oversharing to be honest?
It’s easy to curate the cutesy lives of selfies, and romantic dinners, and pinterest worthy memories of time together as a family. It’s simple to design a timeline that breathes of bread and roses and awesomeness and wholesomeness. It’s nicer to simply pluck apart the highlight reel of relationships and marriage.
But here’s what it is about love. Beyond owning the ups and downs, the bads and goods, Jan nor I, Kristen nor Dax, would Judas our partners. Key word being partners. When Jan had heard I was talking about our spat on the air, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t take a sharp breath and worry. He didn’t bite his nails that I may have proverbially “thrown him under the bus”. That isn’t love. Let me re-write that. Holler it for those in the back – that isn’t love.
Love is messy. But it’s honest. Love is frustrating. But it irons out the kinks of conflict through resolution and hard work. Love is trusting that your partner can write, or speak about you in a way that is truthful without being hurtful. Love is knowing your partner can apologize. Love is knowing your partner can forgive.
Love is not just pretending that everything is okay. Love is knowing that you can go to bed angry – even when you swore you never would – but waking up the next day and promising to do better next time, even if all you’re doing is trying to do better next time.
Love removes doubt, and worry, and fear. Love accepts conflict, and anger, and hurt because it will find away to repair.
So, to those who were worried that Jan and I are “already fighting”, I assure you, even as friends we had the occasional debate on what did/didn’t like. Even when we were first dating, we didn’t agree on everything. And now that we’re in this – building this life together, with these five kids, and what feels like twelve past lives chasing us at every corner – I promise that we’re counting on love to get us through even the roughest storms.
Don’t be afraid to say – my partner and I just aren’t getting along today. Or we’re counting on a counsellor to mediate this conflict. Or we just aren’t speaking. My best friend once told me – when the world is off its axis, look to the centre; that’s where I’ll be standing.
That’s where love is. The centre. Leave it there.
— c ☆