* This is a post I originally intended to post on Valentine’s Day. After some tweaking, I am posting it today 🙂
“There is hardly a more generous gift that we can offer somebody than to accept them fully, to love them almost despite themselves.” Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m the type of consumer that magazine editors love. The person who mosey’s into supermarkets and drug stores intent on buying a few essentials but somehow gets lured into buying a magazine, or two. Somewhere between aisle 1, 2, and the checkout line, the photo shopped pictures and witty tag lines splattered on the front cover of various women’s magazines call my name. Over time, I’ve subscribed to some of the magazines that most frequently drew me into their web. No matter the focus of the magazine, without fail, the common denominator among most women’s magazines are the articles on romantic relations; “How to get a man,” How to keep a man,” How to get rid of a man,” and “How to survive without a man” are woven between articles on how to get flat abs, the hottest trends, and 5 simple cooking recipes. Perhaps the seemingly high influx of celebrity divorce news lately has propelled a steady stream of the “How to divorce proof your marriage” and “How to survive a divorce” articles. Without fail, the one thing that is stressed in all of the articles I’ve read about marriage in these magazines is the fact that marriage requires a significant amount of elbow grease to sustain, especially when children are introduced in the mix. Being a “professional” single woman myself (professional single woman: never married, never lived with anyone, no children, and most likely rocked a different hair style and/or color the last time she was in a relationship), I find the various relationship articles to be both entertaining and informative in that they open my eyes to strategies I can put to the test whenever the next boyfriend, and concurrently the next hair style, comes around.
Keeping the lines of communication open is chief among the relationship strategies lauded by the experts quoted in these articles. But what about the act of carefully assessing the “worst” that your partner has to offer prior to entering into a serious relationship to answer the question, “Can I work around that?” and more importantly “Can I accept these flaws?” In the January 2010 edition of O Magazine, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared an excerpt from her book “Committed” in which she reveals the painstaking act of narrowing down a list of what she believes are her top five most deplorable faults to her now husband Felipe. Gilbert writes,
“The most important thing I wanted to clarify, out of a fierce impulse toward honesty, was to make sure that Felipe knew what he was getting – and getting into – with me. I desperately did not want to sell this man a bill of goods, or offer up some idealized seductive performance of myself. Seduction works full-time as Desire’s handmaiden- all she does is delude; that is her very job description – and I did not want her stage-dressing this relationship during the out of town tryouts.”
The first item on Gilbert’s list read as follows, “I think very highly of my own opinion. I generally believe that I know best how everyone in the world should be living their lives – and you, most of all, will be the victim of this.” Puzzled by Felipe’s apparent unfazed reaction to this and the rest of the items on her list, Gilbert asked Felipe how he still loved her after rattling off the worst of the worst of her flaws to him. After some silence, Felipe shared the following poignant story,
“When I used to go down to Brazil to buy gemstones, I would often buy something they call ‘a parcel.’ A parcel is this random collection of gems that the miner or the wholesaler or whoever is bullshitting you puts together. A typical parcel would contain, I don’t know, maybe 20 or 30 aquamarines at once. Supposedly, you get a better deal that way – buying them all in a bunch – but you have to be careful, because of course the guy is trying to rip you off. He’s trying to unload his bad gemstones on you by packaging them together with a few really good ones.
So when I first started in the jewelry business I used to get in trouble because I’d get too excited about the one or two perfect aquamarines in the parcel, and I wouldn’t pay as much attention to the junk they threw in there. After I got burned enough times, I finally got wise and learned this – you have to ignore the perfect gemstones. Don’t even look at them twice because they’re blinding. Just put them away and have a careful look at the really bad stones. Look at them for a long time, and then ask yourself honestly, ‘Can I work with these? Can I make something out of this?’ Otherwise, you’ve just spent a whole lot of money on one or two gorgeous aquamarines buried inside a big heap of worthless crap.
It’s the same with relationships, I think. People fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that?’ Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”
Are you honestly able to say that the person with whom you are thinking of getting into an exclusive relationship with is somebody’s whose “parcel” you can accept and work around? Leaving dirty socks around the house and failing to place the toothpaste cap back on the tube is not what’s at play here, those sorts of annoying flaws are typically not earth shattering deal breakers in relationships. The essence of someone’s thoughts and beliefs is at the core of this exploration for ones thoughts and belief’s informs their treatment of self and others. A sincere and honest commitment to examine yourself in the light of your partner’s (and your) flaws can avert the potentially ruinous byproduct of deluding oneself into believing that the flaws we may ultimately determine we can’t accept or work around will not matter in the future. This is not to suggest that we concentrate only on chasing down the “bad stones.” It is important to relish all of your partner’s “gorgeous stones,” to have fun, laugh, be silly, be romantic, etc. The fun, silly, and romantic times are what fortify a relationship, they are what help keep a relationship healthy and vibrant. What these experiences will not do, however, is mask the giant elephant in the room. More often than not, these elephants can be spotted prior to entering into a serious relationship/marriage. And while the task of unearthing these “bad stones” can oftentimes be brutal, sometimes resulting in the pain of discovering that your current “one” is not the “one,” the strength and introspection gained from performing this difficult task is worth more than any good or bad stone in the bunch.