I’m getting into a taxi and looking back at a couple in the departure lounge. I smile at how warmly they’re saying goodbye. It seems to me that airports see a lot more genuine kisses than wedding venues. In the same way, the walls of hospitals hear many more genuine prayers than the walls of churches. I think circumstances bring these things out in us. We’re more honest when life demands it.
As soon as I’m in the taxi I’m telling the driver where to go, because I’m hurrying to meet a guy who’s enduring a special type of punishment.
He was with his partner for years and during that whole time he was not sure she was the one for him. She loved him. He didn’t want to wound her emotionally, so he kept his mouth shut. It was like he was hanging onto a balloon that he should have let go of sooner, and the higher it took him, the harder it was to let go. The longer he was with her, the harder it was for him to tell her the truth. He already knew he didn’t love her.
As I remark, the opposite of love is not always hate. Sometimes love’s absence is filled by apathy. Love should be active, but he was apathetic, and his apathy found its expression in repeated unfaithfulness. In his mind it wasn’t so bad, because he reasoned that it couldn’t be a betrayal if he didn’t love her.
Still, it was, and he broke the woman’s heart. He slept with other women and threw the fact that he hadn’t loved her for five years in her face.
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” she asked, uncomprehending.
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” he said—so he hurt her for five years.
What he took from her nobody can return. Five years of life.
And what is grotesque is that he took it from himself as well.
Now, he was suddenly seeing the value of what he had lost. He couldn’t bear the breakup, because a woman who had invested all her love and trust in him now despised him. He could no longer passively bask in that glory while he went looking for more fun elsewhere.
In time, and to her relief, she managed to erase the memory of him and carry on life a little stronger for it.
For which of them is today’s memory of the relationship harder?
The Tale of the Rafter on Two Tree Trunks
Rafters were people who tied the trunks of trees together and floated them down the river. They had each leg on a different trunk.
This guy was a rafter, but for five years he had his two legs on two different trunks—the first was his relationship and the second was the truth that he felt. Such an acrobatic voyage always gets complicated at the moment when one of the trunks decides to sail away in a different direction. Then he ends up comically split like a gymnast with wind-milling arms and then falls into the water.
“Every night when I put my head on the pillow I try to say that I’m stronger because I lasted another night without her,” he said. In his head he thought of Rochefoucauld: “We can come to terms with what others have done to us, but it is harder to deal with what we have done to ourselves…”
Why is it so unusual to imagine a relationship in which two partners treat each other with respect?
Why is it so hard to tell the truth to a person who loves us, no matter how painful it is?
Why do we steal time from both our partner and ourselves?
Why do we think we are gaining something by lying?
If you read my recent posts, you know that honesty does not mean saying everything you think, but thinking everything you say.
Honesty means valuing our time and that of others who have something as wonderful as feelings for us—who have trust in us.
Being dishonest and thinking that we are not hurting the other is a terrible mistake, because through dishonesty we hurt the other the most.
Having a dishonest partner that we think we can trust at home is the same as having a nicely-dressed corpse in bed with us. We can only ignore it for so long.
The following lines are for everyone that lies to themselves and others. Here are five good reasons to be honest.
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