We were meeting at the Flame Broiler on Birch St. that Friday night. It wasn’t anything fancy; in fact, if you’ve ever been to the place, it was quite the opposite. But it was Tyler’s birthday that night, and if you knew Ty, you’d know there were very few places as fitting. Like most birthdays as you become older, the night was nothing extravagant or ornate. We planned for a meal with a few friends and the pool hall at the street down thereafter. It was just a good time to get together and share about our direction in life and, as always, with old friends, re-hatch moments in our shared lives that were particularly memorable.
Tyler has always been one of those friends who stuck closer than a brother. I always admired him for his wisdom and resolve on certain issues, and though it was sad to see him leave for SD to begin a new chapter in his life, I was more than happy for him. He deserved it all.
So we were just shooting the breeze–as we were shooting pool–and naturally conversation about his relationship peeked through. And naturally, his response was as truthful and precise as a navigation system. “We’re taking a two-week break right now. There were things about me that were starting to get to her, and there were certain things about her that I didn’t understand.” I nodded in agreement. Sometimes breaks were good.
“But you know what I realized?” I shook my head. “I compare her to a lot of other women, about what they do and don’t do. And guess what? She loses everytime.”
It took me a while to comprehend what he had said, but he helped to elaborate the nugget that I had not yet unearthed. “Whenever we compare our girl to another, she always loses because we are putting her in a place where she fails against someone else who is good in that area.” Tyler tapped the 3 ball into the middle pocket. “Like, if I think, ‘Why can’t you be more understanding like Sarah?’ then in my mind I am only justifying my discontent with her, I am only highlighting what her weaknesses are and not her strengths.”
Then it hit me like my ex-girlfriend’s backhand. “Sarah” might also have her own struggles, but we never bring that up about her when we compare. It’s as though we pick and choose the best qualities about every girl that we like and roll them into one and then stack everyone else up against her. It is so like us to never be satisfied with what we have, and in this particular case, with whom we are in a relationship. It is almost second nature for us to belittle, degrade, or discourage our loved one in their weaknesses and never esteem them for the ways in which they shine.
Tyler had one last ball: the eight. He was always a much more consistent player than I ever was. But this time he missed. And not only did he miss, but the white ball went rolling defiantly into the right corner pocket. “Scratch.” It was an automatic loss for him, default victory for me, though it was rather unsatisfying for I had done nothing to earn it.
“Love is a losing game, brother.” It was. Ty did everything right leading up to the eight, and all it took was one misfire, one silly shot, to bring it all down. He told me from that night on, if they were to get back together, he would learn to cherish and embrace her: for who she was, with all her faults and her strengths. Because there will always be someone prettier, or gentler, or more understanding. But you have to choose to be committed to loving someone, day in and day out, he said, even on days when she isn’t particularly lovable. And you will have to remember what made her special to you in the first place. Sounded like he received a birthday present–of wisdom–from above.
I guess Tyler realized something that many of us are still trying to attain: understanding, sacrifice, and patience. Because love calls two imperfect people, frail in every which way, to be together. To place someone else’s concerns, feelings and welfare, above yours. It is not always about being “right”, because love does not play by those rules. There is no point in argument if you have won the speech but lost her spirit. It is an empty victory, somewhat like my default win over Ty.
Because in love, sometimes when you win, you really lose. And sometimes when you lose, you really win.