13 June 2012

relationship gems

I've been reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert--the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. It's quite different though. This book is not a story but more of her musings on marriage and working through her hesitations about tying the knot again. There are some interesting thoughts going on. The one following is a real gem I'd like to keep in mind.

Liz, worrying about her own destructive ability proven in past relationships, decides to list her five most deplorable faults and make sure her fiance, Felipe, is aware of them and knows what he's getting himself into.


It was not an attractive list. It stung me to read it, and I'd certainly never codified my failings before. But when I presented Felipe with this inventory of lamentable character defects, he took in the news without apparent disquiet. In fact, he just smiled and said, "Is there anything you would now like to tell me about yourself that I didn't already know?"
"Do you still love me?" I asked.
"Still," he confirmed.
Because this is the essential question, isn't it? I mean, once the initial madness of desire has passed and we are faced with each other as dimwitted mortal fools, how is it that any of us find the ability to love and forgive each other at all, much less enduringly?
Felipe didn't answer for a long time. Then he said, "When I used to go down to Brazil to buy gemstones, I would often buy something they call 'a parcel'. A parcel is this random collection of gems that the miner or the wholesaler or whoever is bullshitting you puts together. A typical parcel would contain, I don't know, maybe twenty or thirty aquamarines at once. Supposedly, you get a better deal that way--buying them all in a bunch--but you have to be careful, because of course the guy is trying to rip you off. He's trying to unload his bad gemstones on you by packaging them together with a few really good ones.
"So when I first started in the jewellery business," Felipe went on, "I used to get in trouble because I'd get too excited about the one or two perfect aquamarines in the parcel, and I wouldn't pay as much attention to the junk they threw in there. After I got burned enough times, I finally got wise and learned this: You have to ignore the perfect gemstones. Don't even look at them twice because they're blinding. Just put them away and have a careful look at the really bad stones. Look at them for a long time, and then ask yourself honestly, 'Can I work with these? Can I make something out of this?' Otherwise, you've just spent a whole lot of money on one or two gorgeous aquamarines buried in a big heap of worthless crap.
"It's the same with relationships, I think. People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other's personalities. Who wouldn't? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that's not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, 'I can work around that. I can make something out of that.'? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it's always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you."
"Are you saying you're clever enough to work around my worthless, junky, crappy bits?" I asked.
"What I'm trying to say, darling, is that I've been watching you carefully for a long time already, and I believe I can accept the whole parcel."
"Thank you," I said, and I meant it. I meant it with every flaw in my being.


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