To place this piece in context, I’ve been in a dedicated, heterosexual relationship for the last (nearly) 42 years.
Some people envy what I have with my husband; others fear commitment. Think of confinement, as in “committed to a mental institution.”
He and I share a hearty laugh over what a friend said recently. “You two make it so easy.” We remember this comment as we sweep up the metaphorical debris from our latest disconnect (aka fight). I’m a peace-loving individual. I’m trained in conflict resolution. My therapy visits, on and off, add up to at least 14 years. I have a daily, sometimes hourly, spiritual practice. Yet I am unable to avoid, pre-empt, or predict the clashes that mark my marriage. Two of those therapists, whose book I’ve recently added to my Resource list, frame this in the simplest of constructs – Fusion vs. Separation. The “Ouch!” moment comes when we realize we’re separate from our love object. You know the mental commentary “How can I stay with this man (woman)? I’m better off alone. I like my own company!” And the furious plans to put as much distance as possible between you and them. Everyone in a long term relationship has had that moment when you thought “there’s no way this can be worked out.” The relationship looks like this.
Yet, it worked out. Why? How? See those lovely mountains in the distance? There’s your Hope.
The bedrock of a committed relationship is just that-commitment. While this quality exists between you, more importantly, it lives within each person. It’s an agreement with yourself about the thresholds you will not cross, at the risk of shattering your own values. It’s not about never being brought to the edge of those thresholds. In fact, if you have no choice but your partner it’s not commitment but enslavement. The agreement with yourself is twofold: I won’t violate my values and I will find a way back to my partner. That brings us to the question -How?
This too must be within as well as between. My part is to know what I need and to ask for it. I honor myself by expressing this and honor the other by listening to what works for him or her. The next step is agreement on the path that leads onward.
You may never agree on what happened to cause the disconnect. In my experience, deconstructing a fight can re-ignite it. Being separate means that you look at and interpret the world differently. That reality must be distilled down to what each needs and what each is willing to do.
These agreements involve the Intellect but must be carried forward by the Heart. This is the sacred space where Self and Other become One. In truth, we are One but most of the time Ego obscures that. Stay tuned for Ego next week.
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