Someone once said to me, “I am happy when you are happy, and you are happy when your butthole is happy.” In that moment, I felt seen, understood, and best of all, adored. I still consider that one of the most romantic sayings ever.
Being in love, though, is surprisingly like taking a magical poo — just like lasting love is like doing the body work for a smooth bowel movement.
Is pooping really the best metaphor for love I can come up with? Absolutely. Yes.
So let’s go. I shall compare love to a good poop day. And a bad one.
Have you ever had a poo just slide out of you? “The most wonderful poos,” as English comedian Simon Amstell says, with the most delightful British emphasis, in his Netflix show “Set Free” (although he was talking about the morning after a night dipped in MDMA).
Now, I haven’t tried MDMA, per se, but I have had poos so magical they emptied all the world’s heaviness out of me. Poos so easy they took approximately 2 minutes on the toilet — not a second longer than necessary. Love is like that, except possibly for hours and years — or, for the lucky, forever.
I mean, it was so easy. The poos. And most of the relationship.
My stomach — or heart — would only have to knock once and I’d know where to go and how to get there. It’s the kind of comfort you feel when you know you have to go and there’s a clean, unoccupied toilet nearby.
And speaking of doing it again, a bit of love is idealizing the other person, wondering how the hell one gets so lucky. Likewise, a part of having done a magical poo is wondering how the hell my bowels were able to pull it off — and being fearlessly open to doing it again.
Some lucky jerks get love easily. They love easily, they are loved easily, and they can find love easily. It’s just how the world works for them. We’re not talking about those people, who probably believe pooping in front of your partner is the only and ultimate test of conflict.
For the rest of us, staying in love requires emotional work, like providing support and encouragement and accepting vulnerability — just like ensuring regular bowel movements requires proper fiber intake, sufficient water consumption (to help movement), and minimal food irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, and hot spices.
But if that’s all you need, you’re lucky!
I’m majorly depressed! So my body needs extra care to even want food and water. I need help with recognizing dissociation. I need probiotics for microbiome courage, exercise for confidence, a comfortable space for me to — let’s switch to the love metaphor now — express myself securely.
I might have mentioned being in love, but the unfortunate reality is that I never told him, not while the relationship was in motion. My depressed brain, the finest professional in emotional numbing, had convinced me love should be a reward — that maybe I didn’t deserve to feel or say it.
Thus continued the journey of repressing my emotions.
I became constantly irritable and, for the last part of the relationship, mentally un-present (even at work). I moved on autopilot, hoping it would eventually pass. It didn’t. Instead, my feelings started to become rocks churning in my mouth, in my hands, and in my gut.
I became so emotionally constipated. I got too scared to say anything. Without the support of self-care, self-love, or trust, I was just straining — anal fissures, if you will.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but not saying “I love you” causes even more pain, internal and external, than saying it.
When the relationship ended, I had no reason to clench anymore, so I collapsed, overwhelmed and sick with feeling.
What came next could only be described as emotional diarrhea. I could not stop crying. At work, grieving. On the street, depressed. For hours, nonstop, while my friends watched “A Christmas Baby,” in denial. For days, nonstop, angry, as my friend brought me ice cream in bed.
Letting your emotions stew way too long is like bad kombucha with expired milk. It will keep building until it finally surfaces and you will get every. single. particle. of. feeling.
Just as diarrhea can be an ungodly spray of liquid and questionable chunks, love unhealthily kept and then forced out, by a situational laxative, will inevitably be bits of anger and sadness, regret and resentment, guilt and blame.
If what was working isn’t working anymore, completely giving up on your body without trying would be disrespectful to your other, still-functioning organs. Especially over a poo!
And in the case of love, calling it quits without warning can be a bit like leaving someone in the woods, where there might be poison ivy, where they will wipe and wipe and wipe what only a shower can clean.
Granted, depending on the situation, the best you may be able to do, if you need to quit, is offer them toilet paper. But if your safety is a concern, it may be necessary to throw out the whole microbiome. You can always repopulate with new bacteria.
Whether with love or poo, achieving comfort is always a work in progress. But feeling allowed to express a need for comfort may actually be the more important part, and that’s something we often ignore about love.
Because vulnerability is not so much about sh*tting in front of your partner as it is about talking about sh*tting in front of your partner. You don’t have to re-enact your vulnerabilities to prove they’re there. Talking and acknowledging them is also valid work.
And sometimes, when you’re in love, communicating the need — and nothing more — will be enough. Comfort comes in knowing the person is aware, in the trust that they will reciprocate down the line, when they can.
It’s the same reason behind announcing your need to poo to your friends, even though there’s nowhere to go. Because once they know, they can all, collectively, keep an eye out for the nearest toilet.
Spending your time prioritizing or only validating the magical poos is a disservice to your other, regular poos. All the moments my friends and family showed up for me during hard times are also just normal expressions of love, even if a little strained. They may not have the extra “oomph” of the MDMA variety, but it’s still love.
A poo done, no matter how painful or quick, is still a poo, isn’t it? Even when it comes to interacting with strangers.
I’ve learned that as long as you’re honest, considerate, and kind when expressing your needs, even strangers who are capable of basic respect and care can and will make those accommodations. Just as long as you don’t ask them to hold your baggage forever.
Love — and sh*t — is no reason to suffer in silence.
Christal Yuen is a senior editor at Greatist, covering all things beauty and wellness. Find her musing about therapy on Twitter.