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  • Writer's pictureClarissa Tapia

Love: The Rose & The Thorn

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

How can love be both beautiful and so painful? How can love be the rose and the thorn at the same time? When I think of love right now it makes my chest constrict. It's almost like an instant throat closing. But it's not always like this. When I close my eyes I can remember all those times that love made my heart sing. When everything around you is so bright and so alive. The person you're with becomes your sun illuminating your days with a splendor you never thought possible. It's literally the best.

So how does that ecstasy turn into so much pain? The unbearable pain that leads to breakups and divorces. Where does the love go? From my experience, it honestly never leaves. It just gets buried under hurt, shame, disappointment, pride and ego. One of the biggest problems I believe lies in the things that don't get said during the relationships. Things that get swept under the rug. If this metaphorical rug we all "sweep things under" actually existed, we would never be able to walk across it from all the accumulation of emotional baggage lumps we are trying to hide. You'd probably think there was a body under there. In an effort to be liked by this other person or to make sure they don't leave, we don't speak up about things that are not okay with us. We don't set boundaries. Then, when we finally hit that ceiling we all have where we can't take it anymore, this pain or resentment comes out at the wrong time, in a probably very negative way over something insignificant.

Breakups and divorces don't happen overnight, they happen gradually. Picture the game Jenga. Little wood blocks piled high on top of each other where the goal is to remove one piece at a time without letting the entire structure crumble. Imagine that this Jenga structure is your relationship and every piece is an important part of what holds you both together. As cliche as it sounds it's you tower of love. When all the parts are intact, it's strong, solid and it would take a lot for it to go down. However, when fights or arguments start up, the easiest thing to do is remove the 'piece' that is causing problems because then we don't have to deal with it. Out of sight out of mind kind of thing. What happens to the hole left behind by this missing piece in your tower of love? At first, nothing. You get to keep chugging along, knowing something is missing, but you're still functioning so why worry about it, right? Well, inevitably, life throws another curve ball and instead of dealing with the issue directly, you again remove it from the equation. This pattern continues over and over and over, until your tower of love which once stood so strong is whittled into a structure you can't even recognize. The smallest movement threatens to send this tower into utter disaster. Even here, in this moment when the tower is swaying so precariously, so many people still think they can get away with more. When you are not conscious of all the fights or arguments you are sweeping under the rug, you end up taking it too far. The next time something negative arises, you do what you always do - which is to remove this problematic piece from the equation, only this time, the tower, try as hard as it might to stay up, crashes to the floor leaving pieces scattered everywhere. It's never the last argument that ruins love. It's the accumulation of fights or disagreements that never get resolved that destroy it. Lesson: Don't remove any pieces of your love tower until you exhaust all possible ways to make it better. When your heart hurts you're not going to ask your doctor to remove it in order to stop feeling pain, you're going to ask him to fix it. And if that fails, fix it a different way. Removing it is the last resort. Or at the very least if you must remove it, replace it with something stronger.

I think one of the scariest things of being in a relationship that matters to you is speaking up about things you disagree on with your parter. For me, the last thing I want to do is offend someone by calling them out on behaviors I don't agree with. But what is the price of not saying anything? Another way of looking at this is setting boundaries. Setting boundaries early on will save you so much heartache. Trust me. When you've been in a relationship for six months, a year, two years or even 10 years and suddenly you want to make a change, be prepared for some resistance. It's totally doable if both parties want the relationship to work, it's just going to be messier and probably take more time to get used to. Keep in mind, you're kind of blindsiding them with your sudden need to set boundaries so going slow and being realistic with your expectations will help.

I am currently reading a book called Boundaries and Relationships by Charles L. Whitfield and there were two questions I came across recently that really gave me pause.

  • How hurtful to myself or to the other will it be in the long run if I do not set the boundary or limit now?

  • If I don't set the boundary now, will my hurt and resentment build and eventually destroy our close or otherwise valued connection?

Translation: If you choose not to rock the boat right now, how much time will it take for the hurt from your suppressed emotion(s) to destroy the relationship you're trying so desperately to hang on to?

Setting boundaries is not easy and sometimes it isn't pretty, but in the long run at least you stand in your truth. I avoided standing in my truth for too long and when I finally had the courage to voice my feelings I was met with resistance and unwillingness to change. It was a huge wake up call for me to realize, that while I may want and need change, others are happy staying as is. At the end of the day it take two to make it work. There's a beautiful quote from Maya Angelou about defeat:

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

I feel like I have encountered defeats in my love life, but I am not defeated. :) I think love makes us so vulnerable, and when that love thorn first pricks your finger catching you by surprise by how much it stings, you watch the blood swells up and spill over - this is the moment where you can choose courage over comfort. It's easier to stop handling roses all together, but then you'll never get a chance to truly enjoy their beauty. That would be such a shame.

Rose Garden - Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

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