Friday, February 7, 2014

If You Really Loved Me You Would Eat Garlic

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. 
It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. - Neil Gaiman

What does love have to do with garlic? Exactly! Nothing. Nothing at all. I borrowed the title from the brilliant Paul Watzlawick. In his book "The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious" he describes a situation that is staged and played with virtuosity by many couples:

A husband comes home from work and his wife announces that the dinner is almost ready. She's got a new recipe and wants him to try it. She serves the dinner and after a moment of silence asks her husband if he likes the food. If he likes the food everything is all right and they  both can look forward into a pleasant evening. But if he doesn't like the food things become very complicated. The poor man knows that she will be offended and maybe even angry if he doesn't like the food. But if he tells her he likes it she may be inclined to cook it more often. To save his own skin he tells her that this dish has an interesting taste and continues eating quietly hoping that there is no second serving.

Now imagine that the man is brave enough and tells his wife he does not like the food she is serving and she really gets upset. She tells him that she went through so much trouble, got all the ingredients and spent hours preparing the meal and he is ungrateful and does not even like the food. He probably does not even love her because if he did he would appreciate her sacrifice. She could have spent her afternoon reading or watching TV, but instead wasted it in the kitchen... This probably is only the first act of a drama that will continue for the rest of the evening. Accusation, grudges, tears.

This is quite hilarious and you may wonder how it is even possible that people behaved like that. Well, believe me, it is possible. I know a man who hated grapes, but ate them for ten years to please his wife. On their 10th anniversary he told her that he actually hated grapes and would not touch a single one till the end of his life. The wife was speechless. When she asked him why he did not tell her about it earlier he simply stated that he did not want to make her angry or unhappy because she always went to so much trouble to buy the ripest and tastiest grapes she could only get.

Food is only one example. But how many man end up in theaters watching romances or going to boring parties. How many women go hiking or end up watching a baseball game to please the partner. How many things are done out of fear of loosing the loved one.

If you really loved me you would...

We may laugh, but you know what? Laughter actually freezes on my lips. Relationships based on fear have no chance of survival and have nothing to do with love. Our love does not give us any right to manipulate or subjugate the person we love. We have no right to control the person we love or decide what is right for him or her. We cannot demand to be loved and we cannot force anyone to like what we like because they love us. We do not threaten or blackmail those who love us and we do not sell our love for a plate of a bad gourmet soup. We must accept that the person we love is a free human being, free to stay and free to go.

So many tragedies, small and big ones, could be avoided if people trusted one another and communicated with honesty; but most importantly, if they did not bind their love or happiness to conditions and treated their partners as their equals.

Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2014