Written by Bill Robinson, for The Photographist Life
Love, it’s a m*th*rf*cker, eh?
When ERIN asked me to write a piece for her, this movie quote is the first thing I thought of. It’s So much of a MF’er that I bet that many of you reading this can’t even clearly define what it is. You love your spouse, you love your kids, you love your pets, you love tacos, you love to read… you get the point. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflection about my own life recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I struggle to define what LOVE actually is to me.
You turn 18, either go to college or get a job, and all of a sudden you’re holding the keys to your life. Looking back at this as a 44 year old version of myself scares the hell out of me, especially because I have a child currently entering into adulthood. We tend to think we’ve got the world figured out during that time in our lives, but the truth is that we don’t know a damn thing.
What’s scariest is that several of us make the choice to enter into what should be the most sacred relationship in our lives… marriage. It should be a happy time to share our lives, to share our experiences, and to share our love with our partner. Unfortunately, most of us have absolutely no clue who we even are, yet we’re deciding to try and adult with the best of them! And we wonder why half of marriages end in divorce? I wonder?
Let me preface this by saying that I have always loved my wife, at least according to my own definition of what I thought love actually was. The problem is that my definition and her definition never really aligned with each other’s, and it brought us to the point that she referenced… she wanted a divorce, and she was serious. The vast differences in our definitions of love, as well as me carrying around about 10 tons of baggage from my upbringing that clouded my above referenced adulthood, created a relationship that may be considered strained at best. It sucked when she told me, and it hurt, but it also made me step into myself to try and figure my life out.
What I discovered, and am still discovering, is that I have been a miserable shit in my most important relationships. I’ve always worked hard, probably too hard, to be a provider for my wife and kids (a big portion of my understanding of what I thought love was). The problem is that this isn’t what they’ve always wanted or needed from me, and it often led to frustration for those of us involved. Someone commented on Erin’s post that she wasn’t seen or wasn’t heard… that’s exactly what she’s always needed that I haven’t provided, and it took me finally listening to her to realize how important she is to me.
But why was I a miserable shit? That’s a question that I’ve been figuring out through much self reflection as well as through counseling. The truth is that I had some poor examples shown to me while I was growing up, and it manifested into much more when I thought I had this “adulting” thing figured out. Communication was very limited while I was growing up, which led to a lack of emotions, other than anger and fear. Fear was oftentimes used as a means of control, which created a great sense of frustration and anger. The problem is that this frustration and fear really didn’t show its full face until I ventured onto my own path in my own relationship. This sense of fear still causes me issues to this day, oftentimes avoiding a difficult conversation because of the perceived sense that things could wind up with someone being upset or angry with me. This mindset, however, typically leads to no resolution whatsoever, and problems continue, despite the fact that I desperately want them resolved. This is a large part of the reason that Erin felt the way she did, and I knew it was time for a change.
This same frustration, fear, and anger created a version of me that’s really not accurate. It made me very selfish, selfish to the point that it nearly cost me what’s most sacred to me… my wife. Selfishness, defensiveness, blame, and guilt were the tools of the trade in my household growing up. As I continue to ramble on, I want you to think about why you do the things you do? Do you do things because you like to or because you enjoy them, or, do you do them to avoid feeling negative emotions like guilt or shame? It’s my contention that the majority of the things that were done by me and my family when I was a child was to avoid feeling guilt, which again, clouded many of the choices I have made as an adult. Guilt sucks… that’s about as simply as I can put it, so do the things you want to do for the reasons you want to do them, Not because someone may make you feel bad for not complying with what they think you should do! But… don’t take it to the extreme that you only make selfish decisions, because that sucks for the ones you love, and that’s where I have lived for quite some time.
I’ve been very angry, which I have been aware of. I have recently started figuring out the why, which is allowing me to let go of the anger! I have also not liked myself, for a multitude of reasons, and it set my marriage on a path for disaster. ERIN has always loved me and been here for me and tried to help me, but I have allowed all the negativity in my life to overshadow all of this. I’ve never felt like I was good enough, and I’ve lived with self doubt. Again, though the help of self reflection and counseling, I finally like myself, and more importantly, I allow me to be proud of me! And, for the first time probably ever, I am truly happy!
Why am I sharing all of this? I have been asking myself this question as I have written all of this piece. Maybe it will change the perception you have of me, good or bad, and for the first time in my life, I’m okay with that. You’re free to think what you wish, as am I! But, I really hope you’ll take this advice away from this… figure out what love is to you, and make sure that your loved ones know it and feel it. And for God’s sake… listen, care, and be open to love. I don’t want anyone reading this to wind up where ERIN and I did recently. You matter, but so does your spouse. Learn to communicate, don’t be defensive, and listen to understand, not to respond.
I can put this story out here because it’s my story, and I’m not going to hide from it any longer. The best part is that my story is going to have a happy ending, and I want your to too. Mine will be happy because I have a woman who loves me, and has been extremely patient with me (she would tell you to the point of sainthood, and that’s not far from the truth)! The biggest thing that’s going to create my happy ending is my willingness to let all the BS in my life go, so I can evolve and grow as a person, and be the man my wife has deserved the whole time!