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The Dancer: How to Love An Outrageous Person
by Laura Russell, Ph.D., MFT
January 29, 2001
The Dancer: How to love and successfully live with an outrageous human
Sometime during the last year of his life, David, my second husband again
did one more shocking thing. Six months after he bought it, he decided
to return a television antenna that had never worked. When the store manager
refused him, David took the mental antenna outside the store and jumped
up and down on it until it broke.
He later told me he stomped it to death. While he was busy stomping the
antenna and waiting for the police to arrive, he was yelling in his very
strong voice about the store's return policy. People who witnessed this
incident laughingly named him the `dancer'. Later, he'd laugh about this
when he saw someone from the incident around town.
Why would I tell you this story?
I want to write a series of columns about loving relationships for Valentine's
Day. These are special columns on the subject of love for the people who
read my work. These columns are dedicated to David whose presence taught
me most of what I know about marriage counseling. Years ago he gave me
blanket permission to tell David stories as part of my work.
My late husband and I were both seriously abused in our childhoods. When
he was only eight years old, his family gave him to the State of California.
Knowing him as I do, I am sure he was a handful! You and I both know that
does not excuse his father's extreme beatings. And it certainly doesn't
explain his mother's unspeakable behavior.
David had permanent dents on the surface of his head where the police
had beaten him with clubs. And that just scratches the surface of the
awful abuse he experienced.
So, how did we manage to love one another and create a family without
abusing one another? I intend to answer this question in my articles leading
up to Valentine's Day. My present to you.
This doesn't mean that there were no problems. It also doesn't mean that
we were perfect. It just means that we found a way to be ourselves with
each other. And we found ways to make room for both of us to grow and
develop. We found a way to surround our very human selves with a love
that made room for our faults, foibles, and idiosyncrasies.
And now I'll tell you a second David story. The day we met, I watched
him stand up and insult a room full of men and women. To tell on myself,
I have to say that I loved him from that moment on. This is important,
for I know now what I didn't know then.
And that is: what you see is what you get! This is today's How to Avoid
Abusing The Person You Love lesson.
I loved him then and I loved him for the full 27 years we were together.
This is important. You don't have the privilege of falling in love with
an outrageous person and then expecting them to change. You take the good
with the bad.
The good was a family life enriched with much love, fun, excitement and
silliness. In spite of all the things that happened to us, we led an incredibly
interesting life. The good is the tremendous growth I experienced with
David. The good also came sometimes from the bad. His stubbornness and
strength would never have allowed me to push him around or try to change
Slowly I learned that he was entitled to as much dignity and respect as
I wanted. The good is my total lack of regret following his death. I am
not sorry for anything. And I'd do it all over again. A bit wiser, I hope.
But I am grateful for the choices I made.
The bad included:
The pain of our fights
The nasty way he fought
His bad habits
The pain I felt from his faults
The pain I felt from his weaknesses
You see, what people usually do is to fall in love with someone like David;
and then try to change them. Or forget that I was also in the room when
we met. I was one half of this dynamic equation called love.
I believe that water seeks it's own level. You fall in love with your
equal. To stay in love, you have to agree to take responsibility for half
of what happens to the two of you. And this is the difficult part. You
fall in love, get married, and fight.
It is so easy to forget, with an outrageous person, that you have faults
too. And this is always the case in any relationship. Every problem, every
difficulty, every fight, has one person obviously at fault. And every
problem has one other person more subtly but equally at fault. That other
person was me.
So, the next time you fight with the one you love, remember, you chose
him or her. You chose him or her for the way they are, good and bad. And
you are part of this argument. And equal part, equally at fault. One way
to solve things is to start to examine your part of the argument.
There is so very much for me to write on this subject. My workweek is
Tuesday through Saturday. And I intend to post one article each workday
on this subject until Valentine's Day. Happy reading!
Compliments of Laura Russell, Ph.D., MFT
About this Contributor:
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family
Therapist in Torrance California and National Board Certified Counselor
with a Clinical Mental Health Specialization. I work most often with the
treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults and children. On
a personal note, I have had CFIDS and Fibromyalgia for the past 10 years
and have much to say on coping with these conditions. Additionally, since
the hospice care and death of my husband, I also write about grief and