You know what I mean. This momentous event may happen the first night, or not until weeks or years after you’ve met. Eventually it happens. And although it may seem cute or comical at the moment, its always a turning point that’s an apt and blaring foghorn: beware the stench of intimacy, this could get messy.
Yes, I’m a psychotherapist who works with couples, and your expectation may be that I will ennoble the virtues of love and romance. And I can do that. But you can listen to any love song written since they were scratched on walls of caves and hear about the fabulousness of love. And it’s IS fabulous. We love being in love, love being loved, we love being lovable, and we all love love.
However, I’m reminded of a J. Giles Band song named “Love Stinks.” It’s may not be a deep song, but it tells the truth without over explaining it:
And so it goes
Till the day you die
This thing they call love
It’s gonna make you cry
I’ve had the blues
The reds and the pinks
One thing for sure
Well, now what? Now we consider the impact of our insistence that relationships should be easier than they are, in the face of tons of evidence that it’s one of the hardest things to do in life.
How can we feel betrayed by love again and again, when we see the signposts of it’s hazards everywhere? Think about the time, money, and energy spent on the myth that relationships could be a breeze IF ONLY we 1) Found the right person 2) Were lucky 3) Did the right thing, or didn’t do the wrong thing 4) Had the right parents 5) Had enough money and time, or the flashy job or car or lifestyle, or the right body part or face or hair or friends. It doesn’t help that our economy runs on selling us products based on these notions.
Ok. I’ve bummed you out now.
Well, I’m not sorry. I’m about to become an elder, like Marcus Welby, so I get to give people their bad tasting medicine. But I have a couple of lollypops too, dispensed in the form of corny metaphors; the kind your uncle would tell you and you’d roll your eyes.
Love doesn’t stink. Intimacy stinks. If love is the pretty garden that yields luscious things to eat, then intimacy is the crappy compost required to keep it energized. To be intimate, you have to get stinky. You have to be vulnerable and give up your outward, showy form and break down into what you are really made of. To be intimate you have to be vulnerable, yield your of pretense and admit that you sometimes don’t know what you are doing. You have to turn yourself inside out. Why shouldn’t this be hard? Who shows us how to do this part?
In contrast to the garden of love from which we demand a constant supply of fun and frolic, intimacy is a compost heap, hot and volatile, ugly, and reeking of decay. Compost is a process of destruction, where life forms dissolve into their basic substances, transform, and become food to assist new growth. Intimacy is a stinky hotbed of possibilities.
I think it’s time to write some songs about intimacy. Here are some snappy titles. Perhaps you can think up the music.
It’s Hard to Tell You I Feel Scared, Unloveable, and Inadequate.
Please Don’t Put Up With Me When I Talk to You Like That.
Thank You for Staying Around Even Though I Was a Shit Head.
I Knew You Were Right, But I Couldn’t Admit It.
I’m Afraid I’ll Cheat On You If Our Sex Life Doesn’t Get Better.
I’ve Been Blaming You For Things I’ve Been Doing Myself.
I’m Sad for No Real Reason, Would You Just Hold Me?
I admit, those songs wouldn’t make the top 10 charts.
We need a different model of how to think about love. Here is just one, and if you don’t like it, make up your own idealistic version, but beware those stupid songs that pretend to be feeding you wisdom about how to run a relationship. GLBT people are experts at design and re-design. Play with your own model. Here’s mine:
We consider our relationship a garden that requires planning, design, and especially daily tending. We acknowledge continued gratitude to each other for it’s fruits: security, comfort, sex, companionship, play, and family. We try new ways to plant and grow because it’s fun and we value diversity. When we get bored, we experiment with different ways to do the same old things. We ask for help and advice from people who love us, and we stay away from toxic people, place and things.
We welcome the smelly, the intimate, regardless of it’s unpleasant aspects. We yearn to discern how the smelly will nurture us if we face our fear of being nakedly honest. We work the relationship in the service of our continued growth as individuals and as a couple. We commit to the sustainability of our garden, feed it with our truthfulness and water it with our tears. We remind ourselves that if we stop composting and weeding, the garden may turn infertile. If the garden stops yielding fruit, we address it like an urgent re-design project that needs our time, money, and focused attention.
Love stinks. There is no escaping nature’s enduring call to the smelly.