For many people, I imagine this blog post will be a difficult one to read. I am prefacing this post with that statement because I believe it is very difficult to look at ourselves, especially when looking at something as personal as how we feel loved and how we express our love.
Love and agreeing are two separate relational stances, yet for many people, they are the same stance. Problems arise because the two are often conflated, especially during times of conflict. When things are going swimmingly between two people, and two people love each other, also agreeing with each other in large and small ways, both persons might not see a problem with their relationship or with their agreement. Both parties might not see the enmeshment, the closeness, or the lack of personal differentiation as problematic. However, it is a problem when suddenly, against the wants or worldview of one partner, the other partner disagrees.
What seemed like a loving, close, warm, and solid working relationship is now, because of disagreement, an unloving, distant, lonely, and contentious relationship. How, though, does this happen? Frequently, two partners can have the same understanding of love and agreement, often with one party controlling the terms of what can be agreed upon, for agreement is not collaborative. Whether it is sex, shopping lists, interior design, vacations, household responsibilities, or offering unsolicited opinions as fact, when an agreement occurs one partner’s words becomes the terms of the relationship. The one party that sets the terms might not even see their actions as such, for they may see themselves as only loving, not as a person for whom to love means to agree; it may be easier to acknowledge that one’s partner is this way, harder still to acknowledge that one’s self is this way.
Wanting agreement, wanting to have someone on your side, wanting to have your opinion matter, isn’t wrong. However, when confusing agreement with love, loving someone becomes harder, because love is now narrowed. Two people aren’t going to agree on everything, or even on most things, and holding that expectation makes love unattainable, disallowed, and blinded. Not allowing others their own opinion, not seeing another’s emotions as their own rightful experience, sets up a relational dynamic wherein to be in a relationship means to be in agreement rather than in relation. To that end, feeling agreement as love leaves someone alone, with only one’s self on his or her own side, and with only oneself to love, because no person can be fully on another’s side.
I think that disagreement is a greater part of an honest and loving relationship than agreement is part of a relationship. In loving someone, being honest about where you stand, what matters to you, how you feel, and expressing those things without concern for agreement is necessary for an intimate relationship; without it you really aren’t even there. What is expressed needn’t be agreed upon, but, ideally, it is heard.