a love letter

an imaginary but exemplary love letter taken from "How to be an Adult in Relationships / The Five Keys to Mindful Loving."

Our relationship seems to be getting serious now, and I'm happy about that. In the interest of keeping everything clear between us, I would like to share some things about myself. I'll begin with the qualities that are less appealing and then go on to others that may be more encouraging.

I want so much to love and be loved, but I have to admit that my fears make me fight it tooth and nail once it gets close to happening. I can only be loved by someone flexible enough to allow for such inadequacy. In fact, I can't be depended on for perfection in any area.

If you can only love someone who meets your specifications as a perfect mate, you won't want me. If you have a rigid definition of love, I won't fulfill it. I don't have a history of getting it right.

Most likely, I will not come through for you as often as you would like. I am often combative, especially when I notice that intimacy is beginning to happen. I may not always listen or even try to understand. I may not always be there for you when you need me. I may not accept you as you are. I may seduce you with my looks, my charms, my words, or sex, and then I may not deliver!

I look self-sufficient, but that is a facade. Underneath I am needy, scared, bereft, and lonely. I may lie or hide my true feelings; I may run from yours.

I may want a relationship for narcissistic reasons: to have you there for me when and as I want you. I may not be available for a true exchange. I may not welcome someone who comes with personal requirements. I will have to learn how to honor them, and it may take time. Do you have time?

I have noticed that with my distressed childhood background, the hill of relating slants quite steeply. I may be seeing one or both of my parents in you and may try to get you to give me what they gave me or could not give me.

I may try to control you. You will have to be on your toes to catch me in my many slippery ways of manipulating you. And if you do catch me and confront me about it, I may be so scared that I lash out at you for standing up to me. I may not be able to handle your freedom or your choices. I am jealous and even paranoid at times. It may be intolerable to me that you have close friends.

If you require someone who won't even make you cry, I'm the wrong one for you. I could hurt you.

You can only love me as I am, not as you need me to be. I'll disappoint you again and again as long as you expect me to meet your crieria. You can only love me unconditionally and with no guarantees that it will pay off to do so.

On the other hand, I can also offer you some valuable things, more valuable than what money can buy (which I may not always have much of). In each of these, I acknowledge my limitations and my commitment to work on them.

I know who I am, and I'm not ashamed to admit what I know. At the same time, I know it's in me to lie or hide to protect myself.

I'm working on myself. I'm looking for ways to love more authentically. I do this by trial and error, by asking and doing, by falling and rising, by busting myself and letting myself be busted, by being and becoming.

I want to love you the way you want to be loved, and I welcome your telling me how.

I'm always scanning my behavior to see exactly how I am controlling and demanding. And though I often don't notice, I welcome your saying "Ouch!" When I see how I offend, I make amends. I may hurt you, but it will never be with malice, only through oversight or because my scared ego is strangling my wish to be kind.

I'm trying to feel safer with vulnerability, with letting the truth come out, no matter how threatened it makes me feel. This is a work in progress, nowhere near completion. Perhaps you can even hear me opening right now in this honest - and embarrassing - presentation of myself. I'm not trying to look good. I want to be good enough to love honestly. I want to be transparent so that you can help me know where my work is.

Go by my performance not by my promises; review my history by calling my former spouses, partners, lovers, and friends. Then look for signs of change. Decide with your own eyes wide open; give an informed consent.

I won't disappoint you if you know me as a fallible human being with love to give and not much practice in giving it consistently but with a commitment to keep practicing. I can only be loved with all my faults, my efforts to amend them, and my failures to amend them. Accept me as I am, and love can happen between us.

I can only be loved by someone who loves me for my frailty, the extent of which will keep surprising both of us. I can only be loved by someone who loves me with my arrogant ego, with my shadow, and with all the scar tissue of my childhood. I can only be loved by someone who, like me, has let go of the belief that anyone can be perfect for someone else.

It will take guts an perseverance to be with me. You will need arms that can hold a frightened inner child without loosing respect for the outer adult. You will need eyes that can glimpse the terror that sometimes hides behind a mask of rage. You will need a heart that can bear pain and loss without losing trust in the love that is trying to find you.

I have lived too long in the past of "not enough" and the future of "not yet." I feel readier than ever for love in the here and now. I've fallen in love before, usually with an image of an ideal or a projection of a fantasy partner. But this time, I'd like to rise and stand in love with the real you. This time I will be working for a grade report on the five A's. Perhaps this is how we will not miss, you and I, love's many-splendored thing.

I close with these favorite words from Twelfth Night: "I have unclasped to thee the book even of my secret soul."

P.S. Don't be fooled by my eloquence. Sometimes I can be pretty rude.