My point, if I have one

The backward-ness of relationships
September 8, 2008, 3:49 am
Filed under: Inspired Woman Articles

When we were young, my big brother and I had to share a bed. One night, he put his arm on “my side” of the bed, so I bit it. I didn’t just nip it like a puppy. I clamped myself onto his arm like a snapping turtle with an unhinged jaw and didn’t let go until my dad turned on our bedroom light. Things didn’t go so well for me in the moments that followed, but I got some satisfaction knowing my brother experienced more pain than I did. Plus, he kept to his side of the bed after that. We get along pretty well these days, so I guess he forgave me.

The fact that we could put this incident behind us is not just “a guy thing,” as much as it is “a brother thing.” He knew he was (and still is) stuck with me as a brother. Just knowing we had to share that bed, that house, and that family again tomorrow and every day meant we really had no choice but to forgive each other day after day and get on with whatever would come next.

There was a boy a few blocks away who used to stand at a distance and watch our neighborhood guys play ball. Being decent kids, we didn’t beat him up. Eventually, we asked him to join us. It wasn’t that we were such great kids, reaching out to the outcast like in a Disney® movie. We just needed more guys on the field and he looked kind of stupid standing there by himself. He and I hit it off even more than the others and became pretty good friends for a few years. But then one day, for some dumb reason, I did beat him up. I had never hit anyone before, which was a big part of why I did it. I wanted to know what it was like. I’m not proud of it, and I wasn’t even proud about it then. I felt terrible before I completely clenched my fist.

Surprisingly, our friendship didn’t end then and there, as it probably should have. He, too forgave me. Maybe it was a guy thing, I think a big part of it was that he was stuck with me as a neighbor, and, if either of us was going to get to play ball, we had to find a way to get along. As with my brother, if we were going share the neighborhood and our childhood, we may as well forgive each other for these kinds of things and move on. Even now, decades later, I see him around town occasionally, and we seem to be on good terms. Go figure.

Over the years, I’ve even managed to make friends with people who were not stuck with me for any particular reason. We became friends because we chose to, based on our common interests. Despite the fact that I never bit or hit any of these people, all but a few of those kinds of relationships have ended. Evaporated, really. Nothing in particular started them, and nothing in particular ended them.

This is the backward-ness of relationships. The ones you are stuck with require the most work and cause the most pain, yet these are the ones that last the longest. Wouldn’t it make more sense that the “ideal” relationships, built on shared interests, should be the ones that work best and last longest?

Again, I don’t think it’s “a guy thing,” even though women do seem to put more effort into those “BFF” (best friends forever) kinds of relationships. It just seems to me that the relationships you’re stuck with are the meat and potatoes of your life, and the ones you choose are more like dessert. The simple fact that you are stuck with your relatives forces you to try a little harder to make things work. You know they will be there tomorrow whether you like it or not, so you may as well work it out, forgive each other, and move on. Dessert is an important part of the meal, but you can live without it now and then.

I’m never one to say things like, “there are two kinds of…” or “there are ten steps to…” So I won’t say there are two kinds of relationships – the kind you choose and the kind you’re stuck with. There is at least one more kind, and it’s a hybrid of “choose to” and “stuck with.” They call it marriage.

Before I got married, I chose to be in a relationship with my girlfriend. Now she’s my wife…I no longer think of it as a choice, and neither does she. I don’t want that to sound like a bad thing. Yes, we’re stuck with each other, but we want it that way. As long as we both refuse to see it any other way, we know tomorrow will come, and we’ll still be related. We may as well forgive each other and get on with it. After all, thanks to us, our kids are stuck with each other as relatives forever. I guess we owe it to them.

Forgiveness doesn’t just heal broken relationships, it also heals the broken people that are in every relationship…each one of us. Is that guy thing? I know I can speak for most guys to say we need forgiveness as much or more than we need to forgive. My point, if I have one, is this: We need relationships because we need forgiveness…both to forgive and to be forgiven. We’re stuck with that, so we may as well deal with it and move on.