Nick was so “Kick Back”. Nick always seemed to get along with everyone. He never caused any trouble in school. Never fought with anyone. Nick always seemed to have his ducks in a row. “How did he relax, yet still manage to get anything accomplished? Doesn’t stress promote productivity?” people would naturally wonder of Nick. But somehow, he was the type of guy whose underwear drawer was even color coordinated, with socks stacked appropriately by color, from white to lights to darks.
Karen was driven and motivated. She had a sharp wit about her and always intimidated the guys around her. With her stack of accomplishments, she was the one who people always said, “Kicked ass and was taking names.” Karen had graduated in the top of her class from San Francisco Law School. She loved Nick because she could relax with him. She could let down her guard. After putting a long hard work week in, she knew she could come home, grab pizza and a movie and just… Relax.
They say when a Babbling Brook meets the Dead Sea, a remarkable chemistry occurs. This was not one of those cases. It was more of a “Sparrow meets an Oak Tree” type of deal.
In Japanese culture, there is a concept of Honne and Tatemae. People have their Honne mask, which is the mask they wear in intimate circles. They also have their Tatemae mask, which is the mask they wear out in the world. Unfortunately, some people never find a group of loved ones where they can actually wear their Honne mask.
Interestingly, enough, over time, Karen found she could not show her Honne mask to Nick. She was never quite sure why. Perhaps, it was her driving need for achievement and to think highly of herself. Or perhaps, it was due to Nick’s overbearing judgment. Either way, it seemed to be self preservation.
They say, in a marriage that one person will struggle with lust and the other will struggle with judgment. Adultery versus Murder. Grace versus Truth. The Yin and Yang of love.
Karen was not her Honne and likewise, she was not her Tatemae. She was both. But for whatever reason, even in her own home, Karen could not reveal her Honne mask, even though it was dying to reveal itself. They say the definition of intimacy is to know and be known. Well, she was dying to be known. But every time Karen would try to go beyond surface level, she would feel Nick slam the door shut.
It was as if the same thing that allowed Nick to judge others, to convince him that he was somehow better, was the same thing that stopped him from accepting others. It was the same thing that prevented him from finding true intimacy.
Karen always baffled Nick with her love conundrums. “Men always cheat,” she would say. “They are all liars. If you were married to a cheater, which would you rather have, 40 years living under the false lie that your spouse was faithful or knowing the truth.”
Nick would reply, “I would want to know the truth.”
Karen, who always played devil’s advocate, just to explore the possibilities, answered back, “Don’t you think it is cruel to let someone know that you cheated? Wouldn’t you want to protect them from that heart ache?”
Nick replied, “No, I would rather live a terrible reality than a wonderful fasad.”
“Hmm.” Karen replied, “I think it might be sweet for someone to withhold that tragedy for their spouse. It would be selfish for the person to confess, only to release that burden upon their spouse. I don’t think I would want to know.”
“So… Have you cheated on me? Is that why you are asking?” Nick replied, concerned.
“Can we have a single conversation without attacks and putting me on the defensive. Uggh.” Karen got up and began to walk into the hallway. “You are so closed minded,” she would whisper in her own head.
This was a typical conversation, time and time again. As Karen walked through the hallway, her mind drifted away.
The truth was, Karen did have an emotional affair. It never became physical, but nevertheless, it could have. Karen just never quite felt right about it. She met Rick several years back and loved Rick’s open mindedness. Karen was completely attracted to Rick’s intelligence. She never felt judged by him and was able to explore dazzling conversations regarding love and relationships. The kind of conversations she could never have with Nick.
Karen walked over to the couch and sat down. In the living room, she let her eyes peer out the open window as she recalled her late evenings laughing and conversing with Rick.
Rick was very achievement based, which Karen liked. She always wondered what it might be like to be a power couple. Karen thought about their conversation.
“So I get to see your whore,” Rick had said. They were sitting across the table from each other.
“Excuse me?” Karen asked.
“Yeah, it is quite common. It is called the Madonna-Whore complex. We have the mask we put out for others to see and we have our true selves. Because of the judgment your husband imposes on you, you have never been able to reveal your inner whore. We all have one. But in order to reveal it, you need to trust that your significant other will accept you. You need to trust that your significant other has the capability to see beyond your words. To see who you are, even when you can’t see yourself.”
“Hmm.” Karen commented.
“Yeah, for instance, you might say, ‘I want to be raped’ which might scare most people. But someone who is safe can look past your words to understand their meaning, ‘I wish I was extremely attractive.’
“Its not the words you say, it’s what they convey.” Rick continued. “But someone who you can trust, won’t nail you down to what you say, or the message conveyed. They will look beyond. The will see you. Accept you. Love you. Allow your full uninhibited expression.”
That is really what Karen was looking for. She sighed as she sat remembering. She wondered if she had made the right choice telling Rick they needed to stop going out together. He had placed it so clearly into words. She wanted an environment where she could express her deep thoughts without fear or judgment.
Ultimately, Karen made the decision to wait. She decided that in time, Nick might own and accept his own depravity one day. He might admit that he had faults and areas which he needed to work on. And when that day came, he might actually be willing to accept Karen exactly as she was. It was all related she thought.
She sighed again. “Until then, at least I have some good wine and a great view,” she thought to herself.