Adjusting to life as a partner with another person is an epic journey. This being my 4th marriage, one might suppose that I had done it before, but due to a certain failure in my powers of selection coupled with a matching deficit in self-awareness, this is the first time it’s really been a conscious activity. And what an adventure it’s shaping up to be!
For one thing, I’m having to think a lot more than I’m used to about what I’m feeling and thinking. A lot more. This is not my strong suit, by any means, so I do it awkwardly and with a good deal of embarrassment. And that’s before I even contemplate the possibility of couching those feelings and thoughts in words that might make sense to another person. I’ve been a careful observer of my own inner landscape for a long time now, and feel pretty comfortable with what I know so far; trying to get it out of my mouth to another person (no matter how gentle and brilliant and tender he may be), is a horse of a different color.
The big revelation so far has been how terrifying it is for me to lay myself open for another’s inspection. I’m used to thinking of myself as a brave soul. I’ve weathered my share of convoluted and ugly storms in life and come out a little wiser than I went in, and there’s not much that really scares me these days. But this, this opening of myself with deliberate transparency is downright hair-raising. I’m starting to realize how deftly I have protected myself from such vulnerability in the past, how neatly I’ve hidden weaknesses and disappointments and fears in ways that protected me equally neatly from having them acknowledged or understood by those I claimed I wanted to be close to. Huh.
The depth of my own resistance to sharing myself with the man with whom I want more than anything to share my future and grow contentedly old astonishes me. My crankiness, exasperation, slippery rationalizations, lame excuses and flaring defensiveness all signal that my deep desire to be open and fully honest with my partner is at odds with some pretty deep anxieties. I find the thought of letting someone else see my inner gnarliness horrifying, even though I have zero reason to believe that anything will come out of it except deeper mutual trust and understanding. Although I feel fairly comfortable with myself even in my darker moments, the violence of my revulsion at the thought of being judged suggests to me that perhaps I am judging myself more harshly than is good for me. Is an unexpected benefit of this foot-dragging slouch towards intimacy going perhaps to be exchanging my own ruthless self-assessment for the far more loving and tolerant assessment of the man who loves me? And could that perhaps be something I can also do for him? Hmmmm.
I’ve encountered some surprising delights along the way, too. There’s a comfort bordering on the sublime that comes from being accepted unconditionally, and I’m beginning to trust it and look forward to it. There’s a deep relief that wells up at the thought of being free from the burden of repackaging the inner Farandwee for presentation to the outside world. And there’s an amazing gratitude that blossoms at the notion that someone cares for me enough to hang in there with me while I walk this necessary but uncomfortable path. It inspires me to strive to do likewise. The knowledge that I am being heard and accepted without judgment makes me want to listen and accept the same way. The joys of the first few steps along a path where I can find peace and safety in one person’s company make me want to be that one person for him too.
So I have my work cut out for me. This is a lifetime endeavor, and one which is destined to be especially difficult for an introvert, who lives most happily in her own private inner space. Shining a light into that space and letting another in, no matter how beloved, is a challenge. But it is the right thing, the existentially hospitable thing to do, and the result is an inner space both warmed and brightened by the exercise. I will always be introverted, most at home when undisturbed. But there need be no further hiding or masking or deflecting. This is a new kind of togetherness, and it promises to be a grand adventure indeed.
©Mary Braden 2013