Once upon a time, Lee and I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant. We both ate pizza and I drank wine. And then, I asked him a really awkward question. The kind of question you probably don’t think you should every ask your partner, much less ask them when you’re supposed to be spending quality time together.
“Tell me – and be really honest here – what are my worst qualities? What don’t you like about me?”
Understandably, he looked at me a little blankly at first, and then a little nervously as if he tried to side-step a pot hole. But I hadn’t set him up for failure, and it genuinely wasn’t a trick question.
“No, really!” I pressed. “Tell me what you don’t like about me. No one’s perfect”.
“I do don’t I!?” I replied. “What else!? What else don’t you like?”.
“Er” he laughed. “Well, you get really lawyer-y about stuff. Sometimes I find it hard to disagree with you because you always win!”.
“True. What else?”
“You always leave the empty toilet roll in the bathroom” he said.
“Yes I do, don’t I. I’m sorry! I did remember today though didn’t I?”.
“And you never put the lid back on the toothpaste” he said. “… like, I know not to pick it up by the lid anymore…” he said, trailing off.
There was more, and afterwards we turned the tables to talk about his shortcomings too. And honestly? We felt so close to one another. It can be hard to take criticism, and harder still to hear it from someone who really matters, but if you go in gently it can feel kind of liberating. There were things he didn’t say, but observations I’ve quietly made about myself afterwards. For example, I can be a bit insecure if I don’t flex that self esteem ‘muscle’ enough, and tend to look outwards for other people to praise me or approve of me.
Occasionally I’m so anxious to get the bottom of a disagreement that I’ll pay little regard to the fact that cooling off for a while first can be a good thing. I can also be a bit manipulative, and while I tend not to intend any harm in it, I do have to take a step back and remember to just be honest with people sometimes rather than going the ‘back way’ round to let people know what I want.
But it’s good to hear a few home truths from someone you love. It’s especially good to sit across from someone as they round it all off with “and I love you. So much”, even while you have a mouth full of pizza and a splodge of ketchup on your chin.
To be less than perfect, and wanted nonetheless, feels pretty amazing.