Like a lot of other people, I’ve almost reached my limit of thinking, worrying, hearing, reading and talking about The Virus. Even in my dreams there’s an anxiety that I didn’t have four months ago. But today, talking on the phone with a friend of mine, that topic lead us in an interesting direction: to a reflection on romantic love. What can you do; what should you do, if anything, when someone close to you takes a stance on an important topic (like The Virus) that feels like “a line in the sand”? Suddenly s/he feels like a stranger. An imposter. Someone you obviously thought you knew, inside and out, but didn’t. Not really. Not as deeply as you thought. It’s scary. It feels like betrayal. And a kind of blindness on your part. Not one of the more enjoyable Mysteries of Love.
My friend and I despaired that people seem so divided about the basic facts of The Virus. Some are even finding it necessary to carry guns when they protest what they view as oppression. But it’s one thing to see strangers on the news acting-out their beliefs. It’s another feeling entirely, when someone close to you – someone you love, or used to love – chooses a “side” that’s opposite from yours. In this case, we both have ex-husbands who’ve taken stances (on The Virus) that shock us. How is it, we both wondered, that you can fall in love with someone, spend years with them, and not know who they truly are until there’s a tipping point? Some event or topic that tweaks his or her nose and they go ‘primal’, emotionally. Anger. Defiance. Illogic. And a whole lot of confusion for the one who stands by, watching in horror and disbelief.
It wasn’t The Virus, or anything like that, that I ran into – like a solid concrete wall. But it was an event that, when I was married and thinking of myself (so in love) as part of a solid “team”, shook my faith in Love. It also shook my faith in myself: my judgment and my ability to see someone clearly. In fact, that was the worst of it. How could I not see this coming? The simple answer? Because I didn’t want to. I wanted to trust; fully and completely. I must have, I concluded, deliberately ignored the signs of incompatibility.
The crazy thing is, I’m not alone in this. Since our separation and divorce so many years ago, I’ve learned much more about the difficulties many people have discerning The Real Person underneath his or her surface personality. One of my favorite people to listen to on this topic is psychologist Caroline McHugh [ find her on Youtube]. She describes the different personas that we all have: how others see us; how we see ourselves; what we project outwardly, versus what we keep hidden (and why). Turns out, some people have more to hide than others. They reveal only what might help them get what they want and need; not necessarily what is real and true. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
It’s hard, I think, not to beat up on yourself when you’ve misjudged someone and feel the pain and embarrassment of that mistake. “Love is Blind” means ignoring the superficial stuff: “warts and all”. It’s not supposed to mean that you get taken-for-a-ride by someone who is selfish, deceitful, and manipulative. But it’s helpful to remember that we all have different levels of skill, when it comes to being open or transparent about who we are and what we believe.
With the backdrop of a present-day exchange with my ex-husband – a man I spent a decade with and share a son with – I can see now what was there all along. If we’d been dating in the time of The Virus, I may or may not have heard his conspiracy-thinking. It would’ve depended on whether or not – as McHugh says – my lover wanted me to know the strength of his feelings. If he wanted me to see who he really was in that moment. Love can only do so much. It can’t read minds, and does its best to read hearts. We have to get so very good at recognizing our own knack for hiding parts of ourselves – acting-out our own worries about not being lovable – so that we can recognize the same fears in other people. Looking Within For Your Soulmate