As Valentine’s Day nears, thoughts of love and romance begin to take centre stage. For some there is the anticipation of a night with a romantic partner, and for others there can be feelings of loneliness or pressure. One way or the other Valentine’s Day can create expectations, and more often than not the higher the expectation the bigger the disappointment. As a therapist I have noted that the most romantic people often end up the most disappointed people.
But what if we released ourselves from these perfectionist romantic tendencies and opened up to the possibilities that the most romantic moments are filled with imperfections? What if we could have fun, express love and avoid disappointment by being authentic? In order to illustrate this point, and to celebrate my own love story, let me set the stage.
Many years ago my boyfriend and I had recently got engaged and we were sitting in front of the fireplace discussing the plans for our wedding. It was a truly romantic evening right down to the subdued lighting in the room. The music was playing in the background and the moment was almost perfect. We may have even had candles and incense. Although I was a practical and pragmatic person there was the young romantic in me that wanted a great love story (remember the ones filled with drama and problems). My loved one told me that he had wanted to make me a promise. The promise he made me that night has always stayed close to my heart and my mind.
We were sitting and talking and sharing that romantic moment planning our future together and he said to me, “I am going to make you a promise going into this marriage.” I was excited. What was he going to promise me? His never-ending love? His undying commitment to me? To be my knight in shining armor forever? Well that is not what he promised me. Instead, he said to me, “I promise you that I will make mistakes. I promise you that I will disappoint you. I promise you that I will bring myself to this marriage, and I will let you do the same.”
Now, this was not what I expected. In that first romantic swell I was disappointed in his promise (as he had predicted I would be disappointed in him), but within a couple of minutes I understood the depth of the commitment that he was making. I also understood the beauty and authenticity of what he was telling me. We could be human together, we were bound to make mistakes and hopefully we would be able to accept and forgive each other our disappointments. He was offering me a real love, not a romantic built up love filled with roses and empty promises, but a real person who understood he was not perfect, was rather scared to expose his imperfections but was ready to take the next step. He was offering me the opportunity to be a real and a flawed person as well. It made me realize I was bound to disappoint him as well, and I was going to have to deal with my own discomfort with mistakes and imperfections.
I still count that as one of my favourite memories. I feel that by accepting his promise I was also ready for the next step which was a move toward a grown-up relationship, built on reality with two very imperfect humans that were ready to take a chance on each other. In the end this is probably the most romantic thing we can do for each other. Although I wished for romantic love, an undying love and a hero I was offered a real man with real fears. The interesting thing is he has given me all the things I wished for and there is no doubt he is my hero and loves me in the way I wanted and needed to be loved, but all of this came in a very human and real package.
I would never go back and change that moment because, although it was not what I wanted to hear in that instant, it was exactly what I needed to hear. There was no perfectionist ideal in that moment. It was an honest conversation between two very human people. It truly warms my imperfect heart every time I think of it. I admired his courage to be human, and his honesty that he would make mistakes. It also inspired me to be honest as well. All in all, it was an important reality check about an important decision and event in my life.
I encourage people who are in love to also consider their reality checks. Be careful if you base your relationship on romantic ideals and promises of what you wish and who you wish you were. Don’t buy a load of manure just because it is covered in roses! In the end the roses will wash away and it is still just manure. Rather, look to the real promise that allows you to grow and thrive and develop an exceptional relationship. It is fun to celebrate love and Valentine’s Day can be an opportunity to play, but the foundation of a relationship or needs to be built on reality, as well as honesty with oneself and others.
Again, I encourage couples to build a practical and purposeful structure, but with lots of room inside for creativity, vision, passion and love. I also thank Bruce, my husband of 23 years, for leading us into a truly romantic relationship built on courage and authenticity. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!