This morning, as my lover held my heart and looked at me with deep love, I cried rare tears as a steady rain poured down.
I had a flashback to when I was 6-years-old, crossing the Atlantic from London to New York. The feeling was one of utter lack of safety, not from flying but from feeling terribly alone and unprotected by my parents.
I love my parents, who are now in the twilight of their lives, in their late 80s, but they were wounded children who never grew up emotionally. I’ve carried the feeling with me, my entire life, that the world is unsafe.
In my fear, I’ve avoided marriage, all the while craving a sense of family in the depths of my heart.
I believe that intimate relationships are the primary vehicle for personal transformation.
One could sit in meditation for eternity, and not have the chance to face their own shadow, elicited by an intimate bond with another. It is through relationship—to parents, to friends and to the world—that we are wounded. And it is through relationship that we can heal those wounds.
In September 2013, a few months after ending a highly conflictual relationship with someone I cared for deeply, I wrote a short manifesto of what I was looking for in a woman.
I wrote, “A woman who blows me away with her beauty, is brilliant, fun, absurd, athletic, happy. A woman who knows and sees me, who loves art, architecture, cities, traveling and camping. A woman who can mind-meld with me—whose mind is broad, sharp, incisive and can challenge me intellectually and inspire me. A Muse.” I’d also dreamed of someone tall, Jewish, with curly dark hair and with intense blue eyes.
Months later, I met her but didn’t recognize that she was the one.
I do offer a disclaimer here, because I believe there is no one soulmate, no one being who completes us. Rather, we journey through this life choosing partners who help us grow.
I’d repeated a pattern in all of my relationships of choosing women who were not emotionally available—just like my mother. I believed that by sacrificing myself and meeting their needs, I would win their love. I entered into a dynamic, in each relationship, where I was the pursuer and they were the avoider.
True intimacy occurs when both partners move towards one another.
In my present relationship, the first 12 months was a dance of playing out approach/avoid dynamics. The difference this time is that we were both conscious of our patterns, and our need to adjust our behaviors based on what worked to bring us closer—and what didn’t.
I have learned that when I lose touch with my sense of self, she will retreat. When I am grounded in myself, she will move towards me.
Both my partner and I have had a lack of boundaries in our personal relationships.
Boundaries create appropriate behaviors and relationships that differentiate us from others. Without differentiation, elucidated by Evergreen based therapist, David Scharch, we tend to fuse, or merge in unhealthy ways. As much as I love the feeling of merging and togetherness, I am learning to trust that I am loved when we are apart and more importantly, that I can be alone without becoming despondent.
In the sessions we had with Buddhist oriented therapist, Bruce Tift, he continually articulated the paradox of our human condition in relationship: we inevitably come together, then go apart.
All human beings must face the existential condition of aloneness.
In my view, loneliness occurs when I perceive myself as separate from the inherent oneness or source that I came from.
I have also learned that being able to laugh with my partner every day is essential to a happy relationship. We find ourselves laughing at the ironic nature of our own humanness and can tease the other person gently about each other’s quirks without injuring one another.
I believe that how we treat each other’s wounded inner child—and we all carry early fears and wounding within us—is a metric of the success of the relationship.
One night a couple months ago, I stormed out of the bedroom into the hallway and ranted about how I would never get what I wanted. I was about to leave and go back to my house, into a silent, dark void where no one could find me.
She came out to the hallway, looked at me with compassion and hugged me. I immediately let go of my defensive, hurt posture because I trusted her love. She said I’d looked like a frightened child, and wanted to comfort me. If she had fought back, or been defensive, an argument would have been created instead of a moment of healing.
The lack of drama in our relationship is due to our commitment to resolving conflicts as they arise.
My continual challenge occurs when I perceive that she is distracted or withdrawn. When I perceive her as distant, an irrational terror arises in me. I rarely show my distress externally, except for repeatedly trying to get her attention, and at times, I demand to know what’s going on with her.
I am learning that the most positive approach is to allow her the space to feel her own feelings, without my interference, and when she transits through her own internal emotional landscape, she always returns.
As time passes, there is more of a sense of ease and trust.
With daily proof of one another’s love, we are both healing and learning to trust.
The happiness is palpable in each of us. I am deeply grateful to have found a partner who is willing to go on this journey with me—through the unknown psychic corridors that reveal themselves in relationship.
A good relationship with mutual respect, love, deep communication and the ability to work through conflicts quickly and kindly is a gift to myself, each other and the world.
Author: John Joseph
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock