This is the third in a series of blog posts about two kinds of love, A Tale of Two Loves. (If you go back to read the other posts, start from the bottom. They are in reverse order.) This is a process blog. In this case, that means I’m writing about constrained love in an effort to write my own way out of it. Because once I’ve seen it, I couldn’t live in it even if I wanted to. This post straddles the gap between the two kinds of love, Constrained and… the other kind. I’m not sure what to call it yet. 🙂
The day we decided to divorce, my ex-husband said something that has stuck in my head despite my best efforts to forget it. He told me that he knew when I asked him to move out that I’d already given up on him.
I didn’t respond when he said it. But if I had, I might have said something like this (and yes, I’m definitely this eloquent in real life):
“I didn’t give up on you when I asked you to move out. I did it with the hope and expectation that you could do better. That you would fight for our marriage, fight for me. And you didn’t. In spite of your friends and family encouraging you to. You gave up on us long before I did, and I couldn’t pull you back. We’re here because I could only believe in you more than you believed in yourself for so long.”
Looking back, I don’t remember saying any of those things. Not then, not ever.
I’m not rethinking my divorce. I still think it was the inevitable choice. I’d tried everything I was capable of at the time. But I would be a fool if I didn’t think about what I could have done differently. What I should have done differently because it was the right thing to do, even if it might not have been enough to save my marriage. What he said has stuck with me because his heart was in it. And because, in spite of what I tell myself, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t wrong.
Of course, let me be very quick to point out that I wasn’t wrong either. I did have hope, in spite of what he thought. I still do. I have hope for who I know he can be. I still believe in what we could have been together.
So where was the disconnect?
What I’m learning has everything to do with the flavor of hope, and what I did with it.
Last post I wrote about fear being like a rock in your shoe. It hobbles hope. It hobbles love.
Hope with fear in it isn’t shared. I keep it to myself.
Hope with fear in it doesn’t trust people.
Hope with fear in it doesn’t stick its neck out.
Hope with fear in it doesn’t talk about the hope itself. It sees the gap between what is and what could be and describes that.
Hope with fear in it looks for people and things to blame for not being fulfilled.
Hope with fear in it is so fragile that I don’t trust anyone else to help me hold it.
Hope with fear in it looks for anything BUT people to trust. Believe in the institution of marriage. Believe in conventional relationship roles. (Or believe in NOT marriage. Believe in eliminating gender roles. Anything but relying on the person.)
Hope with fear in it tries to control behavior.
Falling in love is an interesting phenomon. A lot of people talk about the foolishness of it. Don’t lose your head over someone who doesn’t check the right boxes, or you’re asking for trouble. Don’t lose yourself in your emotions. You’ll regret it.
I’m not advocating throwing good judgment out the window, but I’m starting to think that what happens when you first fall in love is a gift to the rest of the relationship, not a weird lapse in judgment. In those early days, our eyes aren’t clouded—they’re clearly seeing what we hope for the person, what we know they can be. Early love is when we catch the vision for what could be. Our heart sees without hurt. When things get harder later on, it’s not necessarily because we lacked good judgment to begin with but because we’re encountering the inevitable gap between what we are and what we could be. Our gaps are where we hurt each other.
Hope with fear in it thinks the gap is the trajectory.
Fearless hope thinks the gap is an obstacle we overcome together.
Hope with fear in it talks about the pain points.
Fearless hope talks about the goal.
Hope with fear says, “You’re not the same person I fell in love with.”
Fearless hope says, “I see your potential even when you’ve lost sight of it.”
Hope with fear in it builds walls and convoluted workarounds to avoid the same pain twice.
Fearless hope knows to expect the same pain several times in the healing process, and counts it as worthwhile.
Brene Brown writes that she and her husband have an old subway sign hanging in their home: “Mind the Gap.” Fear with love in it screams about the gap. Fearless love knows that it is a pain point for everyone involved and treats the gap gingerly, focuses on where we are going.
My ex wasn’t wrong. I had hope for him, but I didn’t speak to him about it. When I thought I was, I wasn’t talking about the goal but the gap. I held hope but blamed him for not fulfilling it. What good is hope when you keep it to yourself? Or worse, isolate yourself in it to protect yourself from the pain when it goes unfulfilled? Or worst, fight against someone over your hope for them?
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (I Corinthians 13:7)