Rules of Engagement (Part 1)

I want to start this off by saying that I am by no means a marriage expert, certified therapist or relationship guru.  I am, however, someone who has actively engaged in a healthy union for almost half of my life.  As a side note, it is pretty cool to realize that you have almost spent half of your life committed to someone else.  I admire the commitment of long-lasting relationships and marvel at the decades of love our family members have shown to us: my parents have been married for over forty years, his parents have been married for nearly 40 as well, and his grandparents, one of whom recently passed away (we love and miss you Bob) were married for over seventy years.  You read that correctly, 70 years!  That, in and of itself, deserves an award.  Long-term love is a fading element of modern day living and it is truly a shame.

Over the past fourteen years with my Hugo, we have learned (not always the easy way) the best rules to govern our love by.  Some of them appear rather simple and most of them are easier said than done.  Sometimes the most straightforward of concepts are truly the most suitable.  For instance, the suggestion to “Be kind to one another” is such an easy concept but such an under-valued one at that.  None of these rules came easily, immediately or without constant work and reassessment.  In fact, a relationship is a living, breathing organism so these rules should consciously and mindfully be applied all of the time.  And as I write this, I also realize these points are not only applicable to romantic relationships.  I try to respect and love all of my relationships in life in the same manner.

I have organized a short list of vital relationship components that I have dubbed Rules of Engagement.  The first rule is to communicate, even if it hurts.  This can be a very difficult thing to do and sometimes an even more difficult thing to receive. It can sting, it can hurt our heart, it can anger us.  But in the end, I think all human beings would rather hear the truth, as raw and aggressive as it may be, than some bullshit, softer lie.  Or, even worse sometimes, not hearing anything at all.  The absence of words creates a disconnect that can be even more brutal than any words at all.  I am honest with all of my relationships and I value the truth from those close to me.

As I reflect on our past together, the moment that sticks in my mind is from a couple of years ago when I had gained about twenty pounds as a result of several knee injuries.  My lifestyle and activity level had changed, due to inactivity and mild depression from being hurt, and in turn, my body changed.  And as anyone who has gained weight knows, the depression that initially fueled the weight gain and disregard for our own bodies only multiples as we continue not caring about ourselves.  The cycle continues and nobody wins.

When I found myself in this place, I could sense that Hugo was less and less interested in me physically.  He didn’t say anything right away but I could feel it.  He wasn’t being as outwardly romantic as he always is and I immediately felt as if he didn’t find me pretty anymore.  I know that you, as the reader, only know what I tell you but if you know one thing about Hugo, know this: he is the most kind and loving man that I know (and probably you know).  Hugo’s love for me, and my love for him, runs much deeper than surface level. However, physical attraction does exist and should exist in this world.  And when I asked him if something was wrong, I already knew the answer.  I wasn’t taking care of myself and I wasn’t loving myself, evidence by my disregard for my own body.  If I wasn’t loving myself, how could I expect someone else to love me?  Again, he did love me and he does love me but at that moment, he wasn’t wildly attracted to me.  And after we talked about it and got to the bottom of it, he was less attracted to me because I was not loving myself.

It wasn’t easy to share that.  We are very private people, if you can believe that, and I don’t like airing our personal business.  But I also believe that by being transparent, not only can we become better people and partners for each other, but there is also the possibility that my story can help someone else.

On that day, Hugo and I got another notch closer as a couple.  It hurt a little when we talked about it but it mostly hurt because I knew the truth.  The truth was that I wasn’t taking care of myself and I wasn’t loving myself.  Being kind to your own body exudes a level of confidence and self-love that the world can see and feel.  I appreciate and love my husband for being honest with me and talking to me.  From that day on, we made a pact to always be transparent about our feelings, even if it isn’t pretty sometimes.  Even if it might be tough for the other person to receive.  Because in the end, what is better…saying something and having the delivery be tough or not saying anything, letting the issue marinate and grow, without an issue ever being addressed or resolved?

And I almost forgot…not only did we grow closer, learn even more about the importance of communicating and deepen our love for each other, but I also learned a little bit more about loving myself.

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