Relationships are messy. When it comes down to it, sometimes “messy” seems like the only word that can really capture all the complicated ups and downs, love or hate, “with or without you” type whirlwinds that happen so often. I mean, when you call two imperfect people to come together and share their own individual lives (or in other words, baggage) with each other, it’s just inevitable. Over the period of the past few weeks, I’ve seen spats between friends, loved ones, and co-workers. It was like a bad train wreck, one after the other.
So it was rather interesting when I shared a meal with my dad this past week. It was just the two of us, kickin’ it together at this one KFC-turned-Chinese joint in Rowland Heights. Naturally, without the women around, we started talking about what else…but the women. Pops goes into this vent where he relates about how much of a headache Mom gives him sometimes. He talked about how she makes a big deal out of nothing, nitpicking him for the smallest of things. And for once, I was the one giving him advice on how to deal with women. (I must admit, I felt a sort of twisted satisfaction to be dishing advice to Pops, to be in the driver’s seat for a change!)
To my dad’s credit, my mom can be a little demanding. And moody. And at times, overly sensitive. But to Mom’s defense, Pops is guilty of doing some bone-headed things (like all men are prone to doing) and needs to step up his communication game. But Dad was having a hard time budging. He was aware of his own fault and blame, but was convinced that Mom was the one who needed to change. “If only she weren’t so hard to fix,” he sighed. I’m sure Mom never once thought the same thing about him.
As I drove back home, I thought about the matter a little more. And what I found to be true in their relationship–that is, when things aren’t smooth sailing–is what I realized to be typical in most relationships that go through hardship and struggle.
It is simply boils down to this: the essence of all relationship pains revolve around what I would like to call the 2 G’s–the words GIVE and GET.
We all approach the opposite sex (and most people, for that matter) with the attitude of the latter: what can I get out of this person? What can this person do for me? If we owe some big time debt, we call for our buddies swimming in money. If we need help with our Chemistry paper, we call our nerd friends who wear the big-rimmed glasses (you know who you are). If we want to fill our craving for lust, we look for the hot skank at the bar. We live in a world that says it’s all about you and that you must get-get-get regardless of it being at the expense of friends, family, or strangers. Whatever it is you want, gratify your cravings and you’ll be satisfied.
So is it any wonder when it comes to our relationships? When two people bring this exact same perspective into a relationship, things will get messy. Sure, there will be great times when both are getting exactly what they want out of each other. This might even last for awhile. But when one (or both) person(s) inevitably comes to a disagreement, they will both fight for their own agenda until the other relents or is finally defeated. Or they might just war to the very death–yes, even if it meant killing the relationship before dying to each other.
But to give–to give to another person, and not just give to gain something selfish, whether material or monetary or whatever else it be, but to give because seeing a person fulfilled and happy is the reward in and of itself–that is divine. When we give, especially when it comes at a sacrifice to our own comfort or well-being, we are beginning to scrape at the concept of true love.
Because true love declares that we have the best interests of the other person in mind. It commands us to put the other person first. It effectively calls us to a humbling position that inquires: “How can I best serve, respect, and uphold you as an individual?” And it sometimes means a total overhaul of our agenda.
I remember my mentor once throwing me this line, when I was going through my own girl troubles, that hasn’t left me since. He said this: “Sometimes, even compromise is selfish. Because it’s saying that I am only willing to give up this much in order to keep on getting what I want. But real love means true sacrifice. And sometimes, it even means going beyond compromise. It might mean giving up your plans, your goals, your wants–yourself–entirely.”
Now, whenever I am tempted to think of what can I get, I first ask myself, what do they need? And what can I be for them? What is my role in their life, that which would allow me to best uplift them and make them a better person? I don’t always succeed, but it has certainly opened my eyes to the real heartbeat of life.
And friends, the best part of it all is this: when you give, you receive. You get so much more satisfaction and joy and contentment in giving than could ever be returned when you just seek to fulfill your own wants. It should not be an obligation for us to give! When you give, you will have also attached a part of yourself that will live on in their joys and nostalgia.
This was a little bit of what I tried to tell Pops that night, in my less than eloquent Cantonese. “Give to receive.” I don’t know if it got through, but that was my gift to him that night, from a struggling son to a fumbling father.
The struggle is difficult and the monster will rear its ugly head, but if we commit to dying and love and giving, God willing, we’ll get through this together.