I forget all the time. My forgetfulness is not the typical dementia type like where did I leave those keys or repeating the same story two minutes after I just told it, but it’s a forgetting of my love. Over and over, I forget where I left my love.
It’s there, I’m just not present with it.
For example, I forgot my love when Tessa reminded me the other day that “all the other dad’s said that hormones are flowing in late pregnancy and to just do what the momma wants”. Instead, I got frustrated, I yelled; and like a 5-year in a tantrum, I threw a quick fit. I was immersed in my own selfishness and sluggishness and worry about a new responsibility at work the next day, thus not wanting to do household chores and projects. I felt the combativeness rise within me, geared up for a battle to express my attitude against what she wanted me to do.
Nevertheless, with a grumpy heart, I painted the bathroom, vacuumed the house, and cleaned the kitchen. A grumpy heart doesn’t feel good. I lost sight of my love.
Low and behold, I found it again.
This evening I decided to choose love over fear. This means presence over worry. This means choice over reactions. It may seem small, but this was how it went down…
It actually started with a 15 minute drive to and from work. 15 minutes that I actually quite enjoy listening to the radio and soaking in the scenery. I cross a beautiful sandspit with birds gliding over the water and the sun dropped behind the tree lines. This morning, the radio had a problem in which it would constantly slip from its station into static fuzz noise about every 20 seconds. I typically use the drive as a mental barrier to be immersed in the radio dj stories in the morning to avoid projecting my thinking into the future about the work day, and then doing the same to de-compress after work. This radio malfunction was infuriating. I watched the annoyance rise in me, and I turned the radio off. Love was MIA (missing in action).
Same radio malfunction on the ride home. This time, I got less annoyed and a Rage Against the Machine song came on the radio and provided the perfect amount of constructively channeled angst to release frustration from my body. For me, music has always been my reset button. Love was getting closer.
So, Tess and I had a different interaction this evening. I chose love by deciding to enter with a smile, a good mood, asking about her day and telling her about mine. I kissed her face all over and told her what a great blog she wrote. Love was found.
And, as if she knew I would be greeting her with joy and appreciation, she turned away from her computer screen and an email she was writing, she looked at me with presence and full attention and we shared in this simple moment of love.
I exclaimed, “this feels so much better!” Tess agreed.
The Psychologist and researcher, Gottman, shares that successfully married couples have a 5 to 1 ration of positive interactions to negative interactions. Knowing this, I often give Tessa small caresses, kisses, tell her I love her, do the dishes, cook dinner, and compliment her many positive qualities. I try to outweigh my negative frustrations and arguments with more positive ones. While Tessa has an uncanny ability to use humor to de-fuse my budding frustrations, she also can become distant when a deeper hurt takes place or when emotions and fears begin to creep into prominence. It is in these situations that simple kisses and I love you’s and the 5 to 1 ratio no longer work, and a repair is needed. In this same light, Gottman shares that negative interactions are actually quite necessary in successful relationships because they offer opportunities to reflect on problematic patterns and find solutions together.
For the men out there, you can think of a relationship like a car. You wanna treat it good, so it will treat you good. Give it an oil change, check the brakes, a wax job, a kiss, and tell ol’ Bessy you love her, and then she can withstand the one time you drive off road and dirty up the paint job. However, when the transmission blows, you need a serious repair or that truck ain’t gonna ride nowhere. You gotta find what problem caused it, make your repairs, and then listen to engine and gears shifting to make sure everything is alright.
So, how do I ultimately choose love?
I do it with my presence. I do it by admitting the role that I play in an argument, as hard as it is to do, and as much as I may want to point the finger. I sit down with Tessa with my full presence, take deep breaths at difficult junctures, and remain open to her, listening and accepting sometimes tough feedback. I’m not sure what prompts it, but when Tess lets me in (as she puts it), I naturally respond with respect and care.
When we chose to direct our gaze at our insecurities and fears around the upcoming birth, expressed them and let them be; it was effortless for me to let those gradually subside and respond with care. I was able to remind Tessa of the excitement and love we also feel about the birth of Azalee and how we have the choice to replace made-up expectations and pressures of what the delivery experience “should” be with a trust in the wisdom of her body and assurance that her experience would be uniquely hers and needs not be anything different.
I chose love when I actually no longer was trying to be anything in particular, but tapped into a natural source of care and support that is always there for when I am present and in touch with it, but often gets clouded and forgotten amidst sticky worries and frustrations. Replacing fear with love is my lifelong journey and I re-commit to it in many moments, every day.