My life journey has been seemingly unconventional, at least to those still following archaic American sensibilities on how to do relationships.
But what hit me hard just yesterday is that maybe my journey is much more ordinary than it first appears on paper or even in my own mind. Turns out my story is very likely your story as well.
Our collective story may well be one of living Lebensabschnittsgefährte without ever knowing it. Let me explain.
My love life journey has included what some may consider many commitments, while to others, my list of partners may be considered laughably short. My love life entanglements and celebrations have all lasted various lengths of time and had different levels of depth—some were puddles to skip in while others were massive oceans of feelings, sensations and self-discovery.
Like many of my generation and even more so the next that is coming, I have made my inner work a way of life. I am happy to report I am free of shame so I can now take great pleasure as I look back and see how each one of these relationships has provided me with epic opportunities for self-knowing. Opportunities I never could have had otherwise.
Those of us who are seeking to stay awake are always growing and learning but are taken off guard on occasion when some new bit of intel stops us in our tracks.
These illuminated glimpses we get here and there will suddenly come together with a bang like they did for me yesterday when I was introduced to a German word that made me pause.
You know that sensation of falling backward and understanding something from years ago? This silly word I couldn’t even pronounce took me on an emotional trip straight back into my life with the men I have loved in a surprisingly new way.
We get comfy thinking we are so darn aware, don’t we? Then a new layer is revealed and the lights go on.
The stop-drop-and-roll word I learned is Lebensabschnittsgefährte. It means we host a partner for a certain period or season in life, and after that season has concluded, we move on to the next stage, often finding that it is also best to move on from our current relationship.
Lebensabschnittsgefährte literally translates to periodic life partner.
My own experience and a decade of listening to people share their most intimate life moments has shown me an undeniable truth—these periodic life partner patterns appear to be our natural way when we observe the evidence of our lives without judgement.
Some people end up being in a Lebensabschnittsgefährte arrangement for a very long time, a lifetime even, while others serve us like a stormy, tumultuously passionate weather pattern that sweeps in and dies out just as quickly.
There are factors that impact lasting attraction that we now know for academic fact. The clinical data tells us just what the evidence of our hidden Lebensabschnittsgefährte lives will show us should we care to look.
We now know that a conscious succession of renewed periodic commitments with the same partner over time tend to be relationships that last longer and are consistently happier than the results of glee-fueled weddings that tend to devolve into stagnated, sexless marriages.
Setting out with my new-found German word today, I thought about the couples I know that are enjoying each other in what I could now call Lebensabschnittsgefährte. Then it hit me. How cool was it to have a word for it?!
Some relationships seem to be lit from within, no matter what is going on. I now see these illuminated relationships as Lebensabschnittsgefährte. Why? because they are based in true choice.
These kind of relationships are centered around the choosing of the relationship daily, hourly referenced from a strong connection to a felt sense of personal integrity. So while a “partner-for-a-time” may sound unappealing to our norm-programmed ears, this idea of choosing the relationship each and every day sounds and feels good in our hearts.
Turns out, I suck at living up to the norm but I am highly successful at Lebensabschnittsgefährte. I must admit it feels strangely good to know there is a word for how my life has gone.
Oh, how awkward that was when I realized I—the girl that had I been posturing all these years as a label rebel—was enjoying a label! We, progressive thinking types, don’t need or want labels, right? Was I getting soft? Was I somehow selling out?
Like many of you I have spent a great deal of time raging against the machine of social labels and yet for me, having this word, this label, has brought me such unexpected joy. I am shocked at my desire to have this word serve me as some sort of validation I didn’t know I was craving.
But I am not going to judge this, for now I will just acknowledge that it does feel good. I am going to allow myself to rest in this word a bit.
Three weddings, six engagement rings, four pregnancies, two births, so many dogs, cats, cars and sofas left behind…oh my god, all the damn furniture that has come and gone with my men over the years!!
My heart has been locked up and broken free with each amazing man that showed me who I really am, what I am made of and how far I still have to go.
Now that we see that Lebensabschnittsgefährte has been the reality of our love life all along, what criteria shall we now use to motivate and judge ourselves? Can we now finally move away from measuring ourselves against others? Will we be able to bring all that wasted energy back into embracing the natural fact that relationships are truly seasonal so that pure love may flow freely?
Even when we acknowledge how natural this is, it will remain difficult, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to move on but when it is time, it is time. To stay longer than that, is to engage in emotional warfare and soul-torture. If we are tuned in to ourselves and honor the Lebensabschnittsgefährte of our life, we know when it’s time to move on.
If you have done your work than you have arranged your life for as much freedom and direct access to loving kindness as possible, you will find you are free of guilt, shame, social construct pressures, financial entanglements and legal contracts with the government so that you will always feel free to move on to the next stage of your life.
The seasons of shift for each persons’ journey is indeed a unique and wonderful thing. This may be expressed within a relationship or through the process of releasing the need to be in it any longer.
The current mindset around how to do relationships is to do whatever we can to fit ourselves into unrealistic normalcy standards which we can now clearly see as a social set-up for feelings of failure.
When we honestly feel the Lebensabschnittsgefährte mindset, when we see that it already is the reality for most of us, we can finally let go of the social bias and pressures that block deep intimacy.
Total awake acceptance of what is, provides us greater ease to more successfully live in the moment. We don’t need to dwell in the past in order to relive those feelings of being in love and give up habitual future-tripping that preoccupies us with relative success compared to others relationships and our own past.
The people I know that have the capacity to do relationships well don’t cling to old, dead and gone things. We do not cower in worry over social shaming, we do not fear loss of money or look to the calendar of “time-invested” to determine value, we do not use a court order contract to keep ourselves motivated to stay.
No, we are people that cultivate a life free of obligation so our partner is always given the gift of our truest form of commitment. We choose to honor them with a commitment they can count on to be internally referenced, pure and free.
As I approach the 50th year of my life, I have more than made my peace with this relationship practice as my lifestyle. It is how I will hold space for all the men that have and will love me, as well as a hope filled lesson for my students, this I can vow to do until the day I die.
I hope my joy in finding this silly-sounding German word has brought you some peace as well. In closing, I’ll leave you with this: be excellent to each other and Lebensabschnittsgefährte on, dudes!
Author: Michelle Terrell
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Fe Ilya/Flickr