Ok, I am off to a weird start and it is barely 6 am. Relationships of all kinds are messy. They are emotional. They are hard. They require a lot of you that you may not want to give at times when you may not have much to give. But what really hurts us most in relationships is that we seem to prefer the guessiness of them over the messiness of them.
It seems to start in the beginning. We go out with someone and we like them but we are unsure whether they like us or not. We do not ask, instead we talk with our friends about whether they like us or not. We read into the other person’s behavior for clues as to their motives and feelings. We do not ask them directly because that would be messy. This perhaps the first example for the preference of guessy being prized over messy. If we were to actually ask the person if they liked us we would get an answer, and it is this fear that the answer will not be one that we will like that causes us to choose the guess over the possibility of a mess. Somehow we have equated messiness with disappointed and have so decided to just skip it all together.
Let’s say we are further along in the relationship - we know they like us because they have actually said so. But now the question looms large as to whether or not they like us to the exclusion of all others. We tend not to go at this directly. We may alter our behavior, we may think that we are on the same page but we typically avoid the discussion and its attendant uncomfortableness because we prefer guessing rather than having to deal with messy truth that perhaps the person we are into is into others as well.
And so it continues. Let’s say that the relationship survives another day, month or even a year. This deal that we cut in beginning of picking guessy over messy continues to everyone’s detriment. We fill in the gaps in the relationship to help us feel better about what we are getting and not getting. We tell stories and skip over important information because we do not want the inconvenience of truth. Truth can really be a downer and most especially a love buzz kill.
But why do we so prefer guessing about what another person feels or thinks rather than having the hard but usually brief conversation about the truth or in this case, the mess? Why do we prefer the tidier but more damaging guesswork over the messy but more realistic truth?
I can only speak for myself...it goes back to my fundamental problem with life. I am afraid to lose something I have or not get what I want. That pretty much underscores everything about anything I have ever done. It is just fear. Good old fashion gut twisting fear. I move away from messy conversations and toward guess stories because that is easier for my ego. I do not have the hardship of truth to interfere with my will and way and need to control and direct the future. Which is why I have historically preferred guesswork over messwork.
But that changed with the end of my last relationship. I spent a lot of time in that one re-writing truth and avoiding hard conversations because I was so afraid to lose him. I didn’t want to be bothered by the truth because I knew on an instinctual level that I was going to lose him. I knew from the beginning that it was going to end. My tenuous grasp on loving him was unraveling from the word go. And I didn’t want it to so I delayed the mess and preferred to guess for a very long time.
But in his wake, I was left with truths that were impossible to avoid or minimize. I could see that I was not who I thought I was and neither was he. I could see that I spent so much energy and time running around trying to fill in the blanks for him because I was so scared that if I allowed him to do it, he would totally screw it up. It was my story and I would do the telling thank you very much. And in the end, boy did he screw it up! See, I knew what I was talking about...
I am sure that there were a lot of things that screwed up that relationship that were not mine to own but I have to own that this manner and way of being in me did a lot of damage. I made choice after choice to guess rather than just have a messy conversation. This pattern of conduct only delayed the inevitable. And when he had the courage early on to have the messy conversation, I refused to accept it. I, instead, actively chose to pick guesswork over messwork for another year and half. So painful but it is what I chose because I didn’t know better.
The end of that and the attendant broken heart aftermath made me do the messwork. I had to, there were no other options for me. I was all out of guesswork. So messwork was all that I had left. And boy was I a fucking mess.
But through all the tears and pain and suffering, I came to know that I no longer wanted to pursue guesswork. That I was tired of not knowing where I stood. I committed to moving toward the hard conversations regardless of where they appeared and how much I didn’t want to have them. It kind of went like this:
I wonder what is going on here with this new person I met...not sure where I stand in all of this...
Um, no. I don’t want to.
Jeez, not again! I thought you learned this lesson.
Pay now or pay later...up to you.
But, blah blah blah blah...
Yep, there it is again that old, old story that keeps you forever stuck. Here we go again...
FUCK! Ok, I will ask him.
It takes a lot to work through the preference of guesswork over messwork. But when you really commit yourself to the process, you are richly rewarded with a feeling of absolute righteous about your path. Which makes it way easier to move toward the hard, scary and sometimes painful conversations with people. Because it frees you from preferring pain over freedom. You are willing to cut a different deal - short term pain for long term gain instead of short term gain for long term pain.
Once you begin, you know you are on the right path and that makes it easier to recommit every time you get scared or worried or the hard conversation you want to avoid results in the pain you were so afraid of to begin with...
I certainly haven’t done it perfectly but I really have come to prefer the messwork over the guesswork. Messy over guessy is truly the way to go...
Thank you Paul for another conversation that was the fodder for this blog...