There are certain promises you cannot make.
You cannot promise that you will always be there.
You cannot promise that you will always love someone, exactly the same way you love them today.
You cannot promise that you will never hurt them.
These are the false promises.
The promises we want to believe.
The romanticized promises that create such unrealistic expectations, that they will surely fail.
We need new promises. New commitments. New ways of being with one another.
You may not always be there for someone you care for. You may not always be there the way the explicitly need in that exact moment. You may not even know they need you. You may not know how to show up for them. Gosh, even the beloved other may not be clear how they need you to support them!
There is a more honest promise to make: We can do our best, with the greatest, loving intention, to support another in the way they need, at the right time.
….And like all promises, to fulfill it, it takes both people. The other must tell you you’re needed. That may sound silly and obvious; …but how many times have you needed, desired someone to be there to have your back, but they had no idea that you were struggling?
Uh huh. Raise your hand. I’m raising mine high. Very high.
Often, we do not share our vulnerable selves with another; instead, we suck in our hurt, our grief, and label that as strength. (I know you know what I’m talking about.) And what I have painstakingly learned is that doing so does not mean you’re strong. Sharing our raw, razor-edged sensitivities is real strength … and it’s what births true intimacy.
Then there is the promise of everlasting love.
I will love you forever. Unconditionally.
It feels what people really mean – but don’t say – is: Everything will stay the same. Nothing – from this moment of bliss and ecstasy – will ever be different. I will be with you forever and nothing will ever change.
And therein lies the lie: Nothing will ever change.
This is the spiral of life. This is the nature of our planets, universe, of life force itself. It is in a constant state of flux, regeneration, dying to be reborn.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing stays the same.
Love evolves. Love circles. Love stretches.
Love is the ultimate shapeshifter.
Love can be erotically alive, kissing the nape of your neck, then swirl itself into a protective mother, blanketing you in comfort.
Yes, we can, in truth, promise to love another, forever … yet we cannot promise what that love will look like.
It could, quite possibly, mean you love someone without ever seeing or speaking to them again. It could mean that your romantic love slipped into an abiding friendship.
“I will never hurt you. I swear. I promise. I will never, ever do anything to ever hurt you.”
Oh, how we want to wrap our arms around this one and fling our wide hearts open. I do. I want to grasp this promise and hold on for dear life. The part of me that has felt abandoned, unloved, unaccepted is almost willing to believe this promise could be true, if spoken from the sweet mouth of a strong man.
We are imperfect.
We are humans with a divine bundle of glorious wounds.
We have been hurt.
We have been scarred.
We have experienced the explicit slice of pain.
You cannot be in this world and come out unscathed.
So when we come to another, our wounds (hopefully) healing up, we will still have tender parts of our hearts that ache to the touch: The fear of abandonment, of being left. The fear of not being enough. The fear of not being seen – or being seen! The fear of being hurt all over again.
Every one of us carry these to some degree. And it is because we have these beautiful scars on our hearts, that we will, of course, feel hurt from time to time. It’s unavoidable.
I’ll take it a step further: It’s my belief that we come into relationship with others, in part, to help identify where some of those cracked lines still get activated, so that we can heal them into wholeness … hopefully witnessed by a strong partner who will kiss those wounds with love and honor … just as we must do for ourselves.
So, no: We cannot promise to never hurt someone we love.
Instead, let us promise to be honest.
Let us promise to show our vulnerable aches to one another.
Let us promise to hold the other’s vulnerability with compassion, listening to it, soothing it.
Let us promise to hear our personal pain and love it, bless it, sanctify it.
Let us make new promises … promises that are honest, fiercely gentle, and lovingly clear.
What will you promise?