Middle

How often we think in extremes, forgetting the middle, or overreaching it in our efforts to avoid one extreme or the other.

1) One friend wrote about whether she would always be waiting for someone to hurt her, or whether she could trust that she only has good people around her. I understand that — I have issues with trust, and with expecting hurt, and with interpreting everything as personally and negatively as possible, and being paranoid.

I thought, though, what about the middle? Remembering one of my favorite quotations, “To have no illusions, and yet to love,” from Howards End. Or Sara Groves’ song, “Even though your heart is raw, love is still a worthy cause.” I suspect it’s possible to know that everyone will hurt us, intentionally or otherwise, at least once, and that nevertheless it won’t necessarily destroy us, or destroy the relationship, and that pursuing real, intimate, trusting relationship can still be worthwhile.

One of her other commenters was even better — talked about how if we trust ourselves, our own strength, that we can survive and get through so many things, that can help us have better, more stable, more trusting relationships that can weather more storms.

2) In another recent conversation, some friends and I were discussing marriage (and other relationships) and issues of service, respect, giving, needs, communication, and so on.

Some folks emphasize the need to look at our own flaws and failings, to work on our own attitudes and behavior, to treat our spouse or friend as if they were consistently and completely wonderful and worthy.

I tend to emphasize the need to communicate — spouses and friends can’t read minds, and won’t know we feel hurt, or have unmet needs, or what our desires and complaints are, unless we tell them. It’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to say so. It’s okay to want something different, and ask for it.

I feel like I’m occupying a middle — I’m not advocating ignoring or denying the spouse’s or friend’s needs, desires, complaints, etc, or fighting for one’s own wants at any cost. I’m not advocating arrogance or demandingness or complete selfishness.

I just think sometimes the first emphasis can be unhealthy for those of us who are tempted to think we aren’t worth enough to express ourselves or act to pursue our own interests — that it’s wrong to even have our own desires, much less pursue them. That the only thing that’s proper in marriage is service. That anything wrong or unsatisfying or disappointing or hurtful is either our own fault or something we’re not allowed to think or talk about.

Yet I understand the emphasis, too — and the need for it. I know that it’s my own fear of the extreme that makes me wary of it. I need to remember that it’s possible to do that emphasis AND my emphasis. I suppose we tend to say and urge and emphasize what we most need to hear ourselves.

———

Both topics make me think about DBT’s interpersonal effectiveness module. Technical name, corny material, but there’s wisdom in it. How to balance self-respect, one’s own desires, and the maintenance of the relationship. How to communicate effectively. It’s realistic and practical, but without dismissing real feelings and desires and fears.

———

Interesting post about humility — especially from the perspective of us ex-doormats.

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