>My best friend said something very wise a few weeks ago: “Conflict increases your love ability.”
While it’s true that I don’t find myself angry or annoyed with people nearly as often as I used to, there is still a distance between not hating someone and actively loving them. And sometimes love is not being warm and fuzzy chummy-chums; sometimes it is the simple act of extending grace to someone who drives you nuts. I’m experiencing this with a few people in my program now that we see so much of each other; some of them have attitudes and mannerisms that just rub me the wrong way, but I try really hard not to strike out in vengeance. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but playing along and pretending to agree with them to avoid conflict is not really an option I prefer anymore.
And sometimes love is letting go of the past. A few weeks ago my old boyfriend sent me a “What’s up” type e-mail that began a tentative detente that has since progressed to thaw the frostiness of our last encounter. This week I sent him a message about something I’d learned about in class that he might find interesting, and his reply told me more about his personal life than I had been prepared for. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt or how I supposed to feel, but I called him yesterday and our conversation was, for me at least, a really good one. It showed me that while I still care greatly about him, “the passion of pity…the ache that draws men to concede what should not be conceded and to flatter when they should speak truth…” had indeed died in me. And I am willing to let that die now, so that it does not kill me! I still ache sometimes for what might have been, but that is the exception rather than the norm, and I am learning to let that go, not just in this situation but in general.
I’d like to add that conflict is also a byproduct of your loveability. I usually manage to avoid conflict by surrounding myself with people who generally agree with me, which is in some ways taking the easy way out. My real, close friends are in fact the ones I can and do constructively disagree with, for I am only brave enough to disagree with someone I know will not abandon me for it, and I know that through prior experience with them. (This was actually one of the major problems in my last relationship, come to think of it.) There must always be that first, “I don’t think so,” and it is definitely a risk, but it reveals the true depth of that friendship. The same goes for marriage, I think: I can’t marry someone who agrees with me on everything because neither of us would ever grow out of our weak spots. That’s pretty scary to think about sometimes, but I guess that’s where commitment and love can stabilize and secure the situation.