Let’s start with a cliche:
Everyone makes mistakes.
True, we all nod our head in a vaguely bored, accepting sort of way when we hear those three words. We use them as an excuse for when we slip up: I’m only human, we all make mistakes. And we do. There are times when even the best of us mumble along in speech, digging a deeper, colder, lonelier grave beneath our feet as we go. We insult, accuse, condescend. We misunderstand, misinterpret, mis-communicate. We reject, scoff, and scorn.
We have all been the victim to a lot of mistakes, especially in love. There are relationships where people say ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it’ so many times it’s easy to lose track. This apology can work up to a point. It works because of the truth of the statement we started with. Everyone makes mistakes, so I can forgive you, you didn’t mean to. The problem arises however, not when it’s multiple mistakes that are made, but when it’s the same mistake over and over again.
It’s at this point that the apology grinds. Because there’s a hard nugget of pure honesty inside us all: you know that not everyone makes the same mistake over and over. You know that if the same mistake is made twice, then the apology becomes meaningless, because if it was meant the first time it wouldn’t have happened the second. You feel that if they loved you as much as you loved them that they wouldn’t be so human as to make mistakes. For when love is involved, you elevate the person you love to a state of more-than-human, held to unspoken promises and assumed rules.
(An eerie, alien state, not achievable with our puny human minds.)
Then comes the anger. It’s not evident at first, because you love them and don’t want to start a fight. But it’s there, waiting to be noticed. And when it does, you are faced with an impossible swell of feelings. You demand apologies that you know you won’t accept because you’ve been angry for so long you won’t believe them any more. You want gestures and touch and whispers to make it better – whilst hating being in the same breathing space as them. You fight all those fights you put off at once, and make it so much harder to pull through that you’re in danger of losing sight of that love you started with.
When reading this objectively, it’s easy to see where the thought process gets distorted and sets up impossible barriers. In fact, it seems so obvious that it’s almost a pointless thing to say. But when it’s happening to you, when you’re in the moment, there is nothing but acute betrayal and anger. There is no room left for forgiveness, not straight away – and that’s ok.
It is because we are human that we hurt and get hurt, and it’s that very same humanity that means it’s alright to be upset for a while after mistakes are made.
This is a lesson that has taken me a long time to learn. For years in my relationship, I have forced myself to shrug off repeated mistakes and hurts, to put them down as innocent error. To an extent, I believe I was right to do that, for there are times when pettiness and quarrels can – and should be – avoided if possible. But at the same time, I began to realise that I was doing that at the cost of tiny portions of myself. I would chip away at my own ethics, my self belief, my self worth, my passion and reactions. I would keep myself in check when an argument arose because I was so terrified of hurting him.
I was so terrified of hurting him that I forgot how much he hurt me in the process.
Everyone makes mistakes; we are all human.
We are all human; we all love.
We all love; we are always learning.
When love comes along it seems such a miracle, such a treasure, that we covet it. We cradle it in our hands and wrap it in cotton wool, swearing to protect it forever. But that woolly little bundle is made of everything we had and everything we were before we were in it: which means it can still be ugly sometimes, it can still be human despite our expectations of it. Those fights, those battles, those arguments, those tears and shrieked insults are what make love beautiful: surviving in the face of all that, and with acceptance of it is the true miracle.
So when that joyous bundle hurts us, we should say so. We shouldn’t balk from shouting out in protest or expressing our rage. Equally, we shouldn’t shy away from sitting someone down and calmly explaining what they’ve done and how it’s made us feel. We should do whatever we can to ensure that we don’t ever simply sit in silence and take it. You lose yourself to love in the silence.
And you’d be a fool to let yourself disappear.