I have this theory I’ve been throwing around in my head and my life. It starts out something along the lines of this: it takes a certain amount of time with a person to get comfortable with them.
I know, mind-blowing, right? I think it probably varies from person to person. Some people (ahem, extroverts!) are either comfortable in a short period of time–perhaps even immediately–or are incredibly good at acting comfortable (and feel free to enlighten me extroverts because ya’ll are experts on you).
I think it takes me about eight hours to get comfortable with someone. It’s an interesting question how often you spend eight hours with someone you don’t know as an adult. I make friends (well, usually “friend” singular) pretty easily in a classroom situation. If I routinely sit with the same person, there is some forced interaction to break the ice, and/or plenty of opportunity for (and appreciation of) snarky comments. Otherwise it’s somewhat rare to spend eight hours with someone. Or it takes awhile. Multiple meetings, or months maybe. I think this is why certain people/types of people have to force themselves to meet others–why structures social situations are so necessary and sorrowfully missing in/for many segments of our society.
Once I am comfortable I get pretty outspoken. In fact I’m pretty sure I begin to share the steady march of observations, thoughts, conclusions, complaints, questions, etc. that are ever-present. Once comfortable, I can talk a lot.
So that’s Phase I of my theory. Inevitably it takes a certain amount of time to get comfortable with someone, and from there the relationship begins and can grow. Each subsequent interaction is another step on a somewhat-shared journey.
The process from here I’m not so clear on, as it takes awhile for these initial interactions to reach full maturation. My guess is there’s a somewhat long period (depending on temperament and stage/fullness of life) of introduction to the many different parts and pieces of all people. If you like or get along someone enough to continue through this phase, a friendship has formed. Phase II, if you will.
I think there may only be a handful of relationships in one’s life that survive the next phase. Phase III is when your dear ones faults come to the surface. And in this period they are all you can see. Maybe one party puts distance between the other (I do not know if these stages happen simultaneously or if the rhythm varies by person). Maybe you find yourself nitpicking every fault of the other. Maybe you can’t even remember why you are friends, lovers, etc.
Phase IV is the fork in the road. Do you find/develop/choose love with this person? Do you make it over the hump and see their good, their unique, their potential, their hurt and caring and kindness? Can you carry this with their weaknesses, their imperfections, their trauma, their shame, their triggers and/or baggage? Do you accept all of them? If you do, I think that is love–true, wordly love that keeps us sane and human and together and kindhearted and honest and striving. Let’s call that Option A.
But sometimes you can’t. Or you aren’t forced to. Or the cost is too high or the out is too tempting. I’d bet that some people are better at finding the good, seeing the positive, loving through–and/or despite–the challenge. Some are probably worse at it. Maybe it’s something innate. Maybe it’s a life harder than life should be.
I think I know what happens to relationships stuck in Option B. I think those are the mean girls (because that shit stops in ones teens right?!) talking/stabbing behind each others’ backs. The spouses that seemingly hate each other. The fakes and the master manipulators. And all the people, in all the varying relationships, spinning their wheels until circumstance forces them to take it/make it/survive it to the next level. I think it’s that.
Thinking about this has me imagining my family; the people you walk through these stages with often before you have any clue that love can be something different than whatever it was you’ve grown up with. I wonder if this is why family of origin (and extended/chosen family acting as if) is so damn important. Without them would one even make it over the hump with anyone? If you can’t tolerate flaws in others, how do you concede to them within yourself? What does this world look like if you don’t?
I have a number of relationships squarely in the third phase. I don’t know what will become of them, but it’s helped me to identify what is going on. It’s not a negative thing–perhaps it’s a necessary stalling point. It’s not entirely uncomfortable either. But it does make you look fondly back on the honeymoon.And appreciate the people who have walked through the darkness with you. If we knew it or not.
I pinned this random quote on Pinterest four weeks ago in the hopes I’d find time to blog on the topic it so brazenly summarizes: