For the last couple years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of living with, watching, studying and marveling at my best friend, my greatest lover, my muse, my guru and the woman who responds when I say “hey baby”.
This is an article dedicated to exploring the incredible wisdom, seen and unseen of a woman named Paula, who I’ve been closely observing since we met on a dusty day two and a half years ago. This is my attempt to crystalize the lessons I’ve learned, not from what she has said, but from who she is and how she lives.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Eight years ago, Paula learned one of life’s lessons the hard way. She was married to a man named Albert and he had a premonition that he was about to die. As he talked about this premonition, he asked her “is there anything you need to tell me?” At the time, Paula had been keeping a secret that she was having a love affair with Albert’s brother. She said “no, nothing”, they hung up the phone, and within twenty-four hours he was killed in a car accident.
That day amidst the tragedy, a superhero was born. She took a vow to never hide anything again, and the result is a woman who is incredibly committed to transparency. She is unlike anyone I’ve ever met, and her boldness to share what’s true for her and have difficult conversations is nothing short of inspiring.
That’s just the back story though. The real lesson is how much I’ve seen this honesty transform me and our relationship. The biggest relationship killers are the things that people are too afraid to share. They fester, grow and manifest into anxiety, fear and ultimately separation. Thanks to her ability to share what needs to be shared (and hold me to that standard as well) we have developed an uncanny ability to move through upsets. We share what’s going on, feel it then move on, and it’s all possible through her example of boldly sharing what needs to be said.
Explaining this in words is almost impossible. Before I met Paula and I had no idea what it meant to give yourself to a relationship or another person. I was a wading in the shallow waters of love, trying to keep my hair dry. Then along came this powerhouse, and it was like playing high school football then being throw into a play in the NFL. I was blown away, and I knew I had some catching up to do.
The result of that devotion shows up in her ability to return to love again and again. She really is more committed to being happy than being right, and I have countless examples of her coming to me after taking responsibility for her part in being upset. I pulled four minute clip from a talk we did called “Fearless Relationships” where she talks about loving the fact that I pick my nose and fall asleep constantly.
The Power of Love
This is a story about Paula I’ve told in person but never in print, and it blows me away every time I think about it.
Last year we were in Paris and decided to go to a swingers club. As soon as we walked in, we realized people in the club had different standards of what we considered boundaries. Many of the men would walk by women and touch them without their permission, which was extra challenging since most of us were naked or just wearing a towel. On one occasion Paula and I were walking through a crowd and a man reached out and grazed his hand in between her legs without permission.
She stopped him and said “hey… you just touched me without asking if it’s ok… I’d love for you to ask for my permission before you touch me”. What was really amazing was not just that she spoke up, but how she made that request with no charge, no making him wrong and no anger. The French man looked surprised. With a bewildered look on his face, he hesitantly asked “may I touch you?” and Paula calmly said “no thank you”. My jaw almost hit the floor, here I was ready to step in and do something macho and she diffused and embarrassed this man with love more thoroughly than I ever could with anger.
Up until that point, I had never seen a woman react to an unwanted sexual advance with anything but anger. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had turned around and said “hey mother fucker, keep your hands to yourself!” In fact, I would have thought that she was showing how strong she was. How wrong I was. That day my definition of a strong woman got completely re-written and saw a new possibility. I saw the possibility of an inner strength so clean and powerful that it can hold love for anyone, anytime, even when they are doing acts we might consider heinous or unforgivable. I got to see that even though she had experienced non-consensual sexual acts in her past as a young girl, she had emerged stronger because of it, and now holds profound love for this, as well as other men who act from an unconscious desire.