You and I, and likely much of the rest of the world, spend an inordinate amount of time avoiding emotional intimacy because it scares the heck out of us.
We tease each other, we disappear into our computers and cell phone screens, we escalate conflicts, we retreat into silence, we numb ourselves with T.V., and an infinite number of other ways to avoid the pain we have experienced in past relationships going all the way back to childhood.
Loving deeply, completely, and intimately calls for us to draw upon our courage in huge ways when faced with the potential suffering that will ultimately occur when relationships end, whether that be in one month, one year, five years, or at the end of our lives.
To experience the deepest love and intimacy requires a leap into the unknown. Who, but those who are fearlessly terrified, would dare such an act?
You and I are courageous creatures still deciding daily how vulnerable we are willing to be with those we want to know intimately and those we want to know us. How much are we willing to risk for this thing called love?
Our sometimes indecisive steps need to be pointed out—not to judge ourselves for moving too hesitantly or needing a new process, but rather to acknowledge just how much we risk for this level of emotional connection and how much we desire to bare our true being to another in the hopes of unconditional acceptance. It is a risk worth commendation.
So often we choose to look at what mistakes we have made, the failures that litter our hearts, the opportunities supposedly lost. Let us, instead, give ourselves the gift of gratitude for all that we have done well. We deserve kudos for how utterly amazing we are, for our willingness to lean into the discomfort of emotional nudity.
Let us celebrate how strong we are—so strong that we are able to transcend our mutual histories and create new, ever-changing paradigms together. Those who we grant such intimate access will reflect back our own perception of ourselves. The purity of the reflection is commensurate with the depth and breadth of trust we gift them.
To have chosen a partner we trust with which to share the scary parts of life—as well as the fun and lightness—is worthy of applause. I want to acknowledge us all for working through a constant stream of conflicts and choices—their sheer magnitude can, at times, seem overwhelming.
We are extraordinary in our desires to experience relationships more intimately and vulnerably than any we have yet had. Each successive one has been a building block upon whose experiences inform (and partially define) the upward path of the next one.
It is a tiny miracle that occurs daily in our choices to continue to strive for something so ephemeral, so delicate, in the face of all we have previously endured. It seems a wonder that we have the nerve to set foot on this path more than once given the consequences of failure.
For such risks we take, here is the promise I make:
I will not promise you that this journey will be easy, smooth, or worry-free.
I will not promise that we will always be conscious and aware of what comes out of our mouths.
I will not promise that one day we will each be free of the inner demons that haunt the hallways of our memories.
I will not promise forever love since there is only today, right now.
I can, however, promise you that each small step toward vulnerability will bring us both closer to that emotional intimacy we seek. I promise to be as clear as I can in my choice to love you each day. I promise to back my intentions up with actions as best as I can. I promise to test the limits of my capacity for emotional investment.
I promise to be your biggest cheerleader and your most ardent advocate whenever possible. I promise to call you on your bullsh*t, to always ask you to show up as your best self, and to kick you when you fall into self-pity or unconsciousness.
I promise to be compassionate and embrace you when you are defeated and cannot do so for yourself. I promise to truly see your shadow side and know that it is only a part of who you are. I promise to have empathy for you when you are hating yourself, to be generous when you mess up big time, and to trust you to recognize your mistakes when you surface from the depths of hell.
I promise to take on 80 percent when you are only capable of 20 percent, and to wade with you through your trials and tribulations.
I promise to laugh with you, choose you daily, to risk my heart for you as much as I dare. I promise to be as vulnerable as I can stand without losing myself. I promise to learn what our needs and boundaries are and how to respect, accept, and express them.
I promise to come back when I run away in fear, and wait for you when you run away. I promise to let you go if you need something other than what I can give and to let you know the same for me. I promise that nothing will stay the same.
Mostly, though, I promise to be true to who I am so that you always know who it is that you are so bravely choosing to be vulnerable with each and every day.
Previously Published on Elephant Journal