I am eminently reasonable. In theory, it’s a great quality to have. I’m able to see and understand all the different sides of arguments and generally try really hard to make sure everyone is happy (often to the expense of my own happiness). I rarely fly off the handle and will almost never stomp on someone else’s needs to get mine met.
Always the peacekeeper in our household when I was a kid, I’ve never been able to shake the need to get everyone to a place of calm understanding no matter the personal cost. My personal needs in those moments weren’t important. The net effect means that I can get myself into uncomfortable situations that don’t serve me because it doesn’t seem reasonable to say no. In the past I’ve agreed to weekly dates and to uncomfortably long visits, both of which I had panic attacks over when they were first proposed to me. Somehow I convinced myself that the only reasonable answer was to say yes because it made others happy and I didn’t want to be ‘that person’ who ruined others’ fun. Plus, my panic response wasn’t reasonable.
My spouse, Flick, has learned to ask me to be unreasonable when he can tell I’m in distress with my feelings/needs. “What would you ask if you were allowed to be unreasonable?” With his help I’ve been able to practice putting my needs first. I was able to ask that Iris not come to stay until Friday night while I was on a trip starting Thursday. In my head, I needed to leave during the week since I had a long flight, but for them it was just a weeknight. Her staying over on a ‘school night’ felt like they couldn’t wait for me to be out the door so they could have fun without the killjoy present. He agreed no problem and I was able to feel heard and respected (if a little selfish).
I envy and admire (and am a little baffled/frightened by) people who assert their needs over those of others. At a recent dungeon night I watched a woman choose not to share a double-sided St. Andrews Cross and I was in awe. There was a queue of people waiting to use the equipment and there was an option to put up a sheet to block the view of the person who would stand across from you. Yet she was able to choose to go solo because that worked better for her; she knew what she needed and felt comfortable asking for it. I could never have done it. It’s not the reasonable choice.
Being so reasonable means I’m terrible at romantic hyperbole. Statements like “I will love you forever” hit me right in the ‘You can’t know that! Don’t be ridiculous!’ button. I start seeing the person through a lens of having bad judgement and start doubting almost everything they say. Declarations of love early on in relationships meet my ‘You can’t love me, you don’t even know me. You love the idea of me and that’s not love. That’s infatuation.’
Bet you’re wishing you could hire me to give your wedding toast about now, eh?
I’m glad to have Carsie Blanton’s post on casual love to give me some alternate approaches to love. “I love you. NBD (no big deal).” Her thoughts about the various kinds of love and some language with which to respond so I don’t let my inside voice be my outside voice. I can receive (a reasonable amount of) love as the gift it’s meant to be rather than an attack on my personhood. When I know I can’t reciprocate someone’s love feelings I don’t have to feel crushing pressure of expectations, I can attempt to feel warm fuzzies and give them a heartfelt “Thank you.”
“That’s simply impractical!” is generally not the response someone wants to hear to their declaration of love.
At the height of romantic hyperbole (and my hyper-literal response to said expressions) are love songs like “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. “I’d catch a grenade for you.” Really? How is catching it going to help anyone unless you’re super quick with a return throw. Throwing yourself on it, sure, that’s loving. At least that would absorb some of the shrapnel, though the shockwave might still kill me, so… (I know it’s a pop song and therefore way over the top but traditional notions of love eat this crap up)
When I fall in love, I fall hard. However, it takes a very long time for me to regard emotions I’m feeling to be romantic love. I don’t consider myself to be in love until most of the chemical madness of New Relationship Energy (NRE) has burned off. When I can objectively think of a person’s faults and all the reasons they’re not a great match for me yet I still feel all squishy and swoony when I think about them, I know I’m in love. Unless I know for sure that the object of my love would be receptive to my feelings, I don’t share with them.
Just because love is an unreasonable emotion doesn’t mean I need to be unreasonable about it.