Just the way you are

I like you,” said Mark Darcy to Bridget Jones. “Just as you are.”

That was one of the most talked about movie lines in my experience. Women could not stop exclaiming over a man who would like a slightly overweight thirty-something just as she was. Not thinner or richer or more beautiful.

I have never been comfortable with that idea though. True, it is great to be loved for who you are. To know that your significant other isn’t hounding you to change what makes you into yourself.

But I don’t know if I would want to remain just as I was in a relationship.

A husband once said to a wife before their divorce, “The reason why our marriage never had a chance was because you didn’t accept me for who I am.”

 A lot of people agreed with the husband, and made the wife into the villain of the piece.

He was quite right though. The marriage didn’t succeed, because she did not accept him for who he was. Because he was a cold, cruel jerk who thought that a husband could do anything he wanted to his wife, and she just had to shut up and provide all his needs.

The marriage didn’t work, but it wasn’t because she didn’t accept him.

We all have rough edges. Our families would be able to list them, alphabetically in five seconds. It’s a fine idea to have someone love us ‘warts and all’ but there are some warts that we should not want to keep when we are in a relationship.

Take the workaholic man who tells his girlfriend that he can’t sms her for 2 days because he is working. Really? Because typing, “I’m so busy. Miss you. Wish I was with you rather,” would obviously take so much out of his workday that he would get fired.

He needs to change something, or he will not have a girlfriend anymore.

Or those guys who say they are “laid back” or “chilled”. It’s just a cute way of saying that they will make absolutely no effort in a relationship. So when you have asked them for the fifth time if they want to do anything with you that weekend, and they ignore you, and you get cross, they say, “But I told you that I was really laid back.”

I watched “The Perfect Catch” the other day. (also known as “Fever Pitch”)  Drew Barrymore’s character meets a really nice guy called Ben. Her friends warn her that there must be something wrong with him, or else he wouldn’t still be single.

It’s baseball. His first and all-consuming love is for the Boston Red Sox. He is a fan with a capital O (for obsessed) Their relationship takes a backseat, and eventually she breaks up with him.

Then she realises why the Red Sox mean so much to him, and he realises that he has thrown away the perfect match because of a hobby that got out of hand.  Their relationship is stronger, because they have both changed what was wrong with them.

I was in a relationship with a man who valued cleanliness and tidiness. I always had to put things back facing the correct way in the kitchen. I had to learn to put my shoes away and not line them up next to the bed like I do at home. It could get a bit irritating sometimes, like at 2am when I had to climb out of bed and tidy my shoes, but it didn’t bother me. He was a lovely man in so many other ways. I didn’t mind changing my untidy habits for him. It made my own home much tidier as well.

He didn’t like the clothes I wore. I could have stuck to my guns, and said “This is me. This is who I am,” but I chose to listen to his suggestions, because he was doing it out of love. The result is a younger-looking, more confident me.

On my part, I had to teach him that if he was doing something with me, we couldn’t always behave like the average spontaneous bachelor did. We had to plan things at least 2 weeks in advance. I could be spontaneous on a Sunday afternoon, but not Friday afternoon, because I needed to arrange fetching my dad from shopping, and dropping my daughter off with her father. After a month, my laid back man was emailing me a calendar so we could sort out our social lives. He changed something about himself to make our life better.  

So relationships are a compromise. Somewhere in between Billy Joel’s “I love you just the way you are” and the song from “Beauty and the Beast.”

 Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong…

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