I Told You So

I don’t want to be right. I just want us to understand one another, I said softly and sincerely, tilting my head to one side. But you are right, he said right back. It doesn’t matter who is right, I pleaded. Just that we listen and move forward from a place understanding. Something had come over me. Like a calm. Like a wave. Peacefulness.

What is this weird foreign feeling? I wondered.

The next day in yoga the same peaceful wave washed over me. In a zenned out epiphany, I concluded that disagreements needn’t become full-blown, relationship-halting arguments. Especially if you give up being right. I remembered one of many arguments I had with my ex-boyfriend. He said he would meet me after a Christmas party but never came. I called. He didn’t answer. I called again. Nada. More than an hour passed. I called a few more times. Nothing. Ten tequilas later, we talked. He said I was crazy, and I said he was an asshole. He said he wasn’t coming. You never were coming, I yelled. I can’t be by my phone all the time waiting for your every call, he said. But you can be when you are supposed to come meet me almost two hours ago, I shouted. I was busy! he said back. That’s what he always said back. He was never that busy.

Or maybe he was.

In that argument, I was right five times. He should have called me. He should have had his phone with him. He should have left the party earlier. He shouldn’t have cancelled our plans without telling me. He wasn’t that busy. Oh, and he was an asshole for all of the above. So six times. I was right six glorious five times. And because I was right and he was right (I had too high of expectations for him. He shouldn’t have to call if he is at a party. He never promised he was coming. I was crazy.) our ubiquitous arguments went in circles. My favorite four words became: I told you so. His: You are being insane. It would have been humorous if it weren’t blatantly damaging self-destruction. In hindsight, we made deliberate choices to make the other person wrong.

This went on for two years.

Walls went up. Rules bounded us. So many conversations could spark an argument because in every single aspect of our communication one person had to be right and the other person wrong. Restrictions multiplied. I couldn’t say this. He couldn’t mention that. Doors slammed. Painstaking silence. Even with things we agreed about! The tone or the inflection or the context made the other person just feel wrong. But then feel right. Self-righteousness clashed with defensiveness so often that eventually every conversation became argument. It was brutal. Exhausting. Nauseating.

I lost my fucking mind.

After a full year of reflection, I decided to do things differently the next time I fell in love. So late one Thursday night, I sat calmly on the couch looking at my handsome, thoughtful boyfriend. I listened to him deliberately and clearly state his feelings. No, he was not void of emotion (never!), but his explanation came from a different place. As it turned out, he also didn’t care to be right. He wanted me to understand. He wanted to understand me. We are two people who have only known one another for a few months; we still have some things to figure out. So when I said it the third time, I am serious. It isn’t about being right. I meant it. I actually meant it. And I didn’t just mean it in that moment; I meant it for always.

Something had shifted.

somethingiwantedtosayIt was about damn time. Sure disagreements can become arguments because he’s Italian and passionate and I’m Italian and passionate. But more because we lived entire lives before we met one another. We have different experiences and have learned different things. Neither path is right or wrong. For the first time in a relationship, I am mostly interested in learning how he came to his feeling or belief or conclusion. Rather than rehearsing my rebuttal, I listen. I listen because I trust that he will reciprocate, and we will reach an understanding. With this common goal, we are able to reach a middle ground.

Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

I spent more than two decades trying to be right. Then twenty minutes into an argument (our first real argument I might add) with this incredibly intuitive man, I gave it up. Maybe it was the love. Maybe it was the wine. Or maybe that wave of calm that washed over me that night – that was actually trust and respect. And the basis for creating the world’s most beautiful kind of love.

Emma Dinzebach

Photo via The Classy Issue.

Open for Business

I was stripping off my tank top in the Barry’s Bootcamp locker room when I heard my name. The voice was an ex coworker who had left to pursue her acting career. Emma! she shrieked and ran over to me. How are you? Did you ever work things out with your ex boyfriend? My head tilted. My eyes squinted. What? I asked. Your ex boyfriend? Did you guys ever get back together? I was always wondering about that. God no! I laughed – a maniacal, satanical laugh. I haven’t even thought about him in weeks.

She reached out and squeezed my hand. So you are open for business! she declared. My face twisted like I had eaten a sour patch kid. Amazing! I have a plethora of guys I’ve been wanting to set you up. She laughed. Do you have time for a juice? I looked at the time. Um, no sorry. I am going to shower because I have a date tonight actually. She squeezed my hand tighter. Ohhhhhh, with whom? Just a guy I met online. I don’t really remember who he is to be honest. It’s my last online date, so I’m just going to shower and head over to meet him. He blue eyes widened.

You are going to shower here?! she asked loudly. People in the shower line turned to look.

Uh, sure, I said uncertain where this was going. And it’s your first date? I nodded. Emma, do you want to have a successful date or not? Well, I don’t really care… I started before she chimed in. Do you believe that you reap what you sow? Huh? I tilted my head. If you shower at the gym with no hair products or sexy music or wine, then you are robbing your evening of a solid foundation. You aren’t setting yourself up for success. Showing up with a sweaty gym bag? She pointed dramatically to the black bag on the bench. If you never want a second date, then wear your wrinkly outfit with your hair still wet underneath. If you just really don’t care… But if you really don’t care, then why go on the date at all?! She released her grip to toss her hands up in the air. Ugh, actors.

The way you do anything is the way you do everything.

liptstickThe moment I uttered those two words magic words – You’re right. – she shoved my sweaty tank in the bag and passed me my pulllover. But I’ll be late, I insisted. Better late and give it your best than on time but mediocre. Mediocre, I repeated as I headed out the door and into a cab. Mediocre, I thought. Mediocre isn’t so bad if you have a mediocre subway ride or a mediocre wait at the dentist’s office, but to show up mediocre on your first time meeting someone? That’s just rude. What I had hated about the cardigan, New Yorker guy was that I thought he didn’t put his best foot forward. Then I was set to show up without putting my best foot forward? What a double standard hypocrite I was.

I threw my bag down and turned on my pump up music. I poured a glass of wine. Quickly but deliberately, I showered and got ready. I choose nicer underwear, a fresh outfit and put on legit heels. It took too long, but I added some waves to my hair. I chugged my wine and blew out the candle. Twenty minutes late and quite frantic from the last minute rush, I saw my incredibly handsome date stand to greet me and was happy I had sown something worth reaping. Our date was wonderful. The kind of date that happens in movies – with candlelight and cocktails and quintessential butterflies. Staring into one another’s eyes and showering one another with compliments. We kissed on the street. A taxi came towards us. That one’s too soon, one of us said. He leaned down and kissed me again.

The next day I popped out of bed and put on the tea kettle. I sat down to write in my journal so that I didn’t forget who caused this blissful feeling. I couldn’t remember every detail in the romantic whirlwind of our evening, but made sure to note that intentional choice had been a catalyst to success. And then I thought about my friend. I had eye rolled her melodramatic insisting yet taken her advice because she was right. It was true: you reap what you sow. Day by day. Moment by moment. Choice by choice. And if, with a little intentional effort, a casual date with a complete stranger can become a potentially significant life affair, what was possible for the rest of my life? I thought about the way I show up at work, how often I write on my blog, the time I spend with my friends. Am I squeezing my life in rushed hours or am I mindfully making choices each and every step of the way? I get out what I put in. If I put in mediocrity or hurriedness or haphazard decision making, then I get a bit of what? Sometimes boring chaos? If I made as much effort for my cooking skills, my book, my hardly existent volunteer efforts as I did last night’s date, my life would be fucking amazing. She inspired me. Or he inspired me. Either way, after that date, more than one part of my life became a lot more open for the beautiful business of being me.

Emma Dinzebach