We sat side-by-side in our underwear, our backs propped against my flattened pillows. My arms were pulled tight across my chest; his fingers played nervously atop his.
Our emotional vulnerabilities were made only more transparent by our physical state—half clothed, I had the sleepy crust of just waking in my eyes. He was wired, having been up for hours.
There were moments where it seemed you could watch our words tumble downhill, gaining speed, velocity, power. And other moments where the dust settled as we sat quiet with eyes straight ahead, pausing to take it all in (or simply, maybe, hopefully, to bite our tongues).
It was one of those conversations, one of those situations, where we had both been wrong—in ways big and small—and we were both still struggling to come to grips with it. To accept it. To admit it.
He went first.
“Tell me what you see,” he finally asked me after several starts and stops. There was still an edge, but his voice, his face, had softened. “What am I doing? What are my patterns? How can I be better?”
Though hesitant, I shared. I told him what I watched him do time and again; what flared up inside of him and out through him when triggered. I told him how it made me feel; how I felt right then.
He listened. He pushed back a little, but mostly . . . he listened and acknowledged and accepted.
And then, it was my turn. “Do you want to hear this, too? Would that help make this conversation complete?” He wasn’t pushing; he just wanted to know.
It would, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to hear where I was wrong. I didn’t want to hear where I continued to get it wrong; where I had probably gotten it wrong long before he showed up in my life (and likely, I thought, would get it wrong for the rest of my life).
“Sure, if that’s what you want,” I mumbled, my arms tightening across my chest.
“I’ll only share it if you want to hear it,” he offered gently. “If you think that would be helpful in this conversation.”
His patience, his wisdom in this moment was maddening.
“I want it if you want to tell me,” I spit back.
He paused. And then he did.
* * *
It is hard for me to be wrong.
I don’t mean this in the “it’s my way or the highway!”-sort of sense (though I suppose there are times that applies to my personality, too).
No, it goes deeper than that for me.
I felt a visceral reaction to some of the feedback my partner shared with me in bed this last Sunday. It wasn’t about wanting to be right or trying to save face though.
It was about confronting what it meant about me when I didn’t get it right.
It’s not too hard for me to follow the trail on this one—not after years of therapy and workshops and self-help books and journaling and anxiety and tears: To be wrong is to be bad. It is to be imperfect. It is to be unlovable.
Most of the patterns in my life (and, as it relates to this blog, most of the things about myself I have not been brave enough to fully accept) go back to my need to be right; to get it right . . . for everyone.
How else will I get anyone to love me?
It sounds trite, but it’s true. And I have had plenty of examples throughout my life that have proved me right. It goes like this: find out who people want you to be, show up that way, always get it right (at least, in appearance) . . . and you will be loved.
So, what happens when I get it wrong?
For most of my adult life (and much of my childhood), I have actively avoided finding out that answer. It’s not that I never got it wrong—oh, I often did and do. I just refused to acknowledge it when I did, either to myself or to someone else (mostly both). I stubbornly insisted that my way was the right way or tucked what I had done wrong so deep inside of me that no one would ever have to know.
I think I would’ve lived that way for a long time, if I hadn’t begun to realize that always getting it “right” (even if only by appearance) wasn’t making me happy either. And it wasn’t getting me the kind of love I truly wanted.
The kind of love that sits next to you in bed on a Sunday morning sharing where you got it wrong . . . but also how you got it right. The kind of love that loves you through it; that loves you more for it.
I’m still not good at getting it wrong, of course.
It is still hard for me to hear my boyfriend give me feedback on how I can show up as a better partner for him (even if I am willing to give him that advice, too).
It is hard for me to admit to the ways I have contributed to my failures as a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a writer, a human.
It is hard for me to accept that I will continue to fuck up and be messy and say the wrong thing and hurt good people—likely for the rest of my life.
And it is hard for me to know and believe, truly and deeply, that some people—the right people—will still love me through it all.
What does that mean about me, I wonder? Am I worth loving anyway?
* * *
Our conversation last weekend ended up being powerful and important—and thankfully, provided some much-needed resolution. But in the moment, it was also really fucking hard.
It forced both of us to look at patterns we weren’t always aware of; behaviors we didn’t want to cop up to. It gave us a really glaring look at the different ways we were wrong.
But I didn’t just see where I was wrong; I sat with it, too. We sat with it together, and I saw that he loved me anyway.
I’m starting to think he wouldn’t be the only one.