We met on a blind date over 15 years ago. We weren't each other's type and there wasn't instant chemistry.
Yet, on the fourth date, when we first held hands, we knew something was happening that was beyond anything we'd ever experienced or even imagined. It scared us -- but ever so deliciously. We didn't yet call it love. It simply announced itself through our holding hands -- the heat, the intensity, the energy of a deeply connected soul-meeting.
It would be a couple more dates before we had the courage to kiss. And when we did, a tidal wave of emotion took over as Judith began to weep with joy -- for reasons too profound to understand at the time. We couldn't deny what was happening.
Rather soon, we began to discover how very different we were from each other -- sort of like a neatly tended Bonsai (Judith) and a wildly ranging Grapevine (Jim). We also came to our relationship with deeply entangle roots from early years in separate "nurseries" where we grew from seedlings to maturity. Neither of us received expert pruning. Judith had been overly trimmed back while Jim lacked appropriate direction. Hardly stuff for the best cross-fertilization.
Yet, we were old enough to know that it was in our differences that the soil of love could best be fertilized.
The test would come with our first real fight. If only we could fight for the relationship and not to win.
We'd known each other four months when we went to Hanford, near the Sierras in Northern California. We had a wonderful time hiking through the redwoods, dancing in local clubs and watching fireworks on the 4th of July. As we paid the hotel bill, Jim saw a notice for a jazz concert a few months later and asked Judith if she'd like to come back for the event.
Judith was silent. Rather abruptly and a bit too sharply, Jim said, "Okay, we won't." Judith was shocked and hurt. She shot back, "What's wrong with you? I didn't say no." There was contempt just around the edges of her intent.
That did it. We were in our first fight.
We stalked out to the car, angry and scared, with hundreds of miles to go before the safety of our own homes.
After we'd pouted and snarled a bit, we started working toward the resolution.
Judith: Why did you snap at me? I didn't do anything.
Jim: You were silent for so long I thought...
Judith: (defensively) I was just thinking!
Jim: Well, why didn't you say so? I thought you hated my idea.
Judith: You didn't have to take my silence personally.
Jim: You looked sullen, it made me feel insecure.
Judith: Insecure! Are you kidding!!?? Really? I thought you were punishing me because I didn't just immediately respond. I felt attacked.
Deepest truths had opened up -- Jim's insecurity and Judith's fear of attack. Would we use them to hurt each other? Or would we respect the private pain these truths revealed?
It took a bit more conversation, curiosity and clarification before our hearts could open onto sincere compassion for one another's injuries and provide the lush heart pain of mercy for the old wounds that accompanied each of us on this adventure into deepest intimacy.
What started out as a "stupid misunderstanding" in a hotel lobby had turned out to be an invitation to real romance, richer love and a sweet sympathy for one another that guided the rest of our trip home and continues to inform our marriage all these years later.
© 2004, The New Intimacy
Intimacy is spelled "in to me you see". - Stan Dale
I have always made a distinction between my friends and my confidants. I enjoy the conversation of the former; from the latter I hide nothing. - Edith Piaf
Husband and wife psychology team, Judith Sherven and Jim Sniechowski, are the bestselling authors of "The New Intimacy" and "Opening to Love 365 Days a Year." Their latest book is Be Loved for Who You Really Are: How the differences between men and women can be turned into the source of the very best romance you'll ever know. They provide corporate trainings on breaking through resistance to success and relationship workshops about The Magic of Differences--romance based on respect and value for each other's unique ways. As guest experts they've been on over 600 television and radio shows including Oprah, The O'Reilly Factor, 48 Hours, Canada AM, and The View. Visit their website at www.themagicofdifferences.com
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