By Emily Rosen
How many ways are there to talk about love without being repetitious? That has been my annual challenge for over a decade. So my angle this year is condemnation of the very loving intent of the sacred Golden Rule — “Treat people the way you’d like them to treat you,” which is the modern interpretation as posed by GRO (www.thegoldenrule.net). Actually, if we follow that directive blindly, we are committing an act, in some instances, of extreme selfishness.
Wait wait wait! Before you throw me into the pyre, hear me out.
Certainly, there is the desire to be treated with respect, but the word treat in this context covers a plethora of peopled interactions, some of which are multi-layered. Example: A boyfriend presents his long-time “main squeeze” with a huge bunch of flowers for a romantic occasion. She had spoken to him of her allergies to flowers, but he wasn’t exactly into listening. In this instance, he was treating her with the love and kindness he would have wanted reciprocally, perhaps in a more gender-appropriate offering. It was received with feigned appreciation and the recognition that he hadn’t heard her.
What she had really wanted from him was to have been heard. Sure, she could then have told him the truth and, this time, be heard; and she may well have done so, but there’s that little nuance of wanting to be treated (listened to) the first time around.
Being heard is really a metaphor for being known. People in close relationships want to be known by the important people in their lives, as in, “Hey! This is the real me – the me I want to be loved for – not the me you love because you have fantasized some combined ideal of me and who you want me to be.” This, of course, is taking the flower tale to an extreme, but there are so many similar situations where people with good intentions treat others without any emotional input into how that other person really wants to be treated.
Quick story: My sister and I had a bachelorette apartment in Manhattan eons ago. We shared laundry chores. I’d fold hers and place the items neatly in her drawer. She’d flatten mine on top of the dresser. I fumed every time I had to fold and place my items in my drawer. One day, I found her taking her items out of her drawer, and she turned to me, saying, “I hate the way you fold my stuff, and I hate how you put them away for me.”
We laughed. We straightened it out. Neither of us had “done unto” the other the way each of us wanted to be “done unto.” We loved each other, but we had gone our own separate ways for so many years that it took time for us to really get to know each other again.
The word love is bandied about carelessly and sometimes meaninglessly. To really love someone is to know the essence, the soul, the inner workings of that person; to know and to accept all that, and to make it a part of who you are.
Happy Valentine’s Day!