“The line between madness and stubbornness is a very thin one.” ~Philippe Lewis
You want your relationship to work? You don’t know if you should stay together? Get stubborn. Stop the whining. Take a stand for your commitment. It doesn’t matter if you made it near an isolated lake with five thousand humping frogs in chorus or in front of two hundred of your closest friends and relatives. You made it. You spoke your word. Is your commitment that small that you would leave now that things have gotten hard? And by hard, I don’t mean, “We’re fighting over domestic duties again. We’re not having enough sex. We wish we had money”. By hard, I mean your soul has been gutted from your body and you’re looking for a triple-soul-bypass. That’s hard.
We’re in a time when people have lots of friends, lots of lovers, lots of relationships, sometimes at the same time and sometimes serially. We pride ourselves for having “tribe” and “community,” but when it comes to dropping naked to the core and sitting in the fire with someone, we shy away. We whine, It’s too hard. It’s not supposed to be like this. I say, Fuck that. Get more stubborn. Get real about why you’re not with someone. If you like your freedom, great. But if you want a partner, stop the bullshit, and start loving someone when the fiery hormones of lust subside, when the first honeymoon year has gone by, when you’re wondering how you managed to find the person who touches you in the best and worst possible ways. Then you make it work.
And maybe you are making it work. Maybe you are still rising up into it day after day, hour after hour. You’ve gotten stubborn. You’re asked yourself what you really want to create with your partner. You’ve asked yourself, Where are the dark places? And I ask you, What abyss have you fallen into and have you crawled out of it yet? Are you wading in the shit? Are you willing to get clean and then get dirty again? Because in relationship you’re guaranteed for both the good and bad times to cycle in and out.
I heard a song the other day wherein the singer sang about his wife - questions she hadn’t asked and he wished she had, deep moments of tenderness and disappointment they had shared together and I thought, Where are all the other songs about the complexity of relationship - not just first love or fierey breakup, but the meat. The work. The depth. Who has crawled down into the underworld and returned, like Orpheus, with triumph and loss?
I want to know the tragedy of your tale and also the brilliance.
I want to know your stubborn heart said, No, I’m not giving up.
I want to know who is a champion of love when they felt like a loser.
I want to know what you did when you felt like all was lost, yet somehow you found your way back to your beloved, through sleepless nights and joyless days.
How did you do it?
How stubborn did you get?
What mantra did you repeat daily, hourly, sometimes every minute, to cross back over the River Styx and say No way to Hades?
What song did you sing to weep through your tears or burn through your anger - to make it back through to your lover?
Did your friends “have your back” or did they suddenly tell you that they had thought you two were better off apart anyway.
Screw them and get stubborn.
Did anyone tell you that relationships are totally made up? That you can have the relationship you want? This is not some school boy dream of hot for teacher, but two individuals who have vision and decide what they want together. Did anyone tell you you should never compromise for love? Are they in a relationship and how long has that one lasted? You don’t want to compromise, then marry yourself. You will be your own perfect love. No one is a duplicate and if they were, would you really want to know their exact move, exact desire, exact action, word, thought, dream all of the time? Or do you want to revel in the differences that exist between the two of you? Marvel at the possibility that new perspectives can and could open up for you? That you don’t have to be stuck in the same routine, eating oatmeal and drinking coffee every morning.
You say, So what if I like my oatmeal and coffee in the morning. And I say, That’s one meal. Do you want every meal to be the same? Hell, no. And that’s why I want you to tell me where you’re different, where the differences feel like scintillating questions and where they feel like worrying nails, nagging at the corners of your brain because there will always be differences. What you do with them is get curious. And when you can’t get curious, you get stubborn.
Then there are the times when you simply need to get creative. You’ve looked through the books. You’ve gone to the therapist. You’ve talked to your friends, your mother, your colleagues. Sometimes when you’re at your wit’s end, you get stubborn and the creativity flows. the “what if we did . . . “ comes in. The crazy ideas are there. Talk about them. Use them as a starting point for something else. The first ideas are usually not the best ones, but they’re something. Anything. Don’t just think outside of the box, destroy it. Think trapezium, rhomboid, tetrahedron, then get creative and don’t stop.
You might be asking yourself, okay, so why would I want to get stubborn? What’s in it for me? Why burn my ass in the fire? Relationship is the chance you get to strip down naked to your core and find out what mettle you’re truly made of. Relationship is the opportunity to get as close to another human being as humanly possible, something you haven’t felt since you were born and lay nestled in your mother’s arms. It’s a chance to find out where your edges really are and find out how malleable they are. It’s chance to set boundaries, then re-visit them, and set them anew. It’s a chance to give your word and hold it again and again like an anchor in a restless sea when you feel unmoored, anxious, restless within yourself and ready to jump ship. It’s a chance to surrender into fear, sadness, anger, joy, and love more deeply than you’re ever felt. And if you’ve never felt those that deeply, true intimacy will give you that chance again. It’s a chance to let someone else melt under the weight of their own being while you still hold them perfect and human and in turn, watch yourself shatter into bits, have someone help you pick up the bits and solder them back together one by one.
Those are the diamonds amidst the coal. Some are obvious. Some rest below the surface. Some require a pickaxe and stubborn effort to reach, but through the blood, sweat, and tears, exists a world of possibility. It’s yours for the taking if you want it. The question is, How badly do you want it? What are you willing to do to have it? And when you get it, what will you do? Bend like a broken willow near a stream, or take the strongest stand you’ve ever taken for you, your beloved, and perhaps the world.
About Paget Norton
Paget Norton began to compose rip-off Spider-man stories at the age of four, carefully illustrating them in crayon and pencil. While her first works were heavily plagiarized from the popular TV show, her subsequent works have matured beyond 1970's kitsch. She writes about parenting, relationships, and any sort of political and cultural movement that requires more than two brain cells to understand. She leads a rich life and enjoys reflecting upon it in as a weekly columnist for the Good Men Project, in her blog and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also find more of her articles on Good Men Project.