Opposites in Love
Awe in a relationship can inspire daydreams of honeymoon adoration, but we often forget that awe is that from which we derive the words awesome and awful. The word in its etymological or historical usage referenced that which was glorious and dreadful—inspiring and something to be feared. This is perhaps a fitting word to use to talk about relationships.
Our partners can inspire us, bring out the best in us, and yet they can also bring out the worst sides of ourselves, our deepest fears, and pain we did not know was in us. This is not what fairytales and romantic comedies prepared us for. It’s only natural that when we see the darker side of our own relationship we may believe that something is wrong. We may wonder, “Did I pick the wrong person, or is there something in me or fear that my partner that is broken?”
Downhill can be a pleasant change after doing the hard physical work of climbing a hill, or downhill can be a decline in our ability to function. Rock can refer to the solid ground on which westand or the action of shaking an otherwise grounded object. A single word can hold opposite meanings. Quantum can mean small or large, and jargon can mean specific or nonsensical language. Such words are common enough in English that we have a word for them—contronyms. We often may get caught up in the language of love, and may miss the fullness of the experience. Contronyms remind us of how close opposites may be, how love may bring out anger, and trusting may bring out vulnerability. In making room for the fullness of these experiences we allow ourselves to love deeper, and not lose who we are and what we may feel in the process.
Making space for challenges in relationships, discontentment in love, and independence in connection can give us a permission to be ourselves and grow. Contronyms may teach about psychology and language, but the real growth is making space for the complexity of you and those you love. In Imago Relationship Counseling, whether we are single, together, separating, or simply uncertain, there is an understanding that the path to intimacy is not fairytale or textbook—it is you, in all your awe.
Brendan Harvey, LPC