Does anyone else have the same cycle of bad communication in their partnership that I have?
Please tell me yes. Please say I’m not the only one.
It’s so infuriating.
My husband and I are two of the most committed people I know—and I know a lot of people committed to their relationships. Not that it’s a competition: We are among some incredible friends and other couples who have committed themselves to an honest, intimate, long-term relationship with their chosen partners.
But sometimes it’s hard. Why is that?
I think it’s the nature of the beast. We are creating relationships unlike those modeled for us in previous generations.
We are pioneers taming willful selfishness on one end and doormat-y co-dependency on the other. We are committed to honesty. We want to create a relationship in which we each have our wants known and fulfilled while we enjoy our lives individually and together.
In the meantime, we have conflicts that teach us what it means to work through difficulties and disagreements respectfully and vulnerably.
This is intimacy.
Relationships: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the committed and courageous to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new lives and new levels of intimacy, to boldly go where no partnerships have gone before.
Committed relationships remind me of the line in “A League of Their Own” when Gena Davis’ character says, “It’s just too hard,” and Tom Hanks’ character replies, “It’s supposed to be hard. It’s the hard that makes it good.”
I’m not sure that the hard is what makes it good, but I do know that at times, the strenuous challenge of it stretches me emotionally and spirituality. I also know that when we work through our difficulties and get to the other side of a conflict, our closeness is closer—making it worth all the difficulty.
When the distress of our old ways of relating emerge, or we are in conflict and tangled together in a defended, hypersensitive web of who’s right and who’s wrong, here are some things that can help. Like the spider who can walk nimbly through its own sticky and strong silken strands, these three practices can help us navigate the hard parts of our partnership without being eaten alive by the challenge of it all.
1. Breathe deeply and connect to a higher power when help is needed.
Even if you do not believe in a spiritual being that is available for assistance, simply sitting in quiet meditation and turning into our wiser self or reaching out to another wise person we trust will help loosen the strands of power struggle. Knowing we are not alone in navigating these often painful moments of entanglement helps us break through the hopelessness.
We are reminded that this too shall pass.
“The only mistake we can make is not asking for help.” ~ Sandeep Jauhar
2. Take a break.
Just like the fly can become ever more entangled in the sticky web of the spider if it struggles against it, so too can we become trapped in a painful pattern with our partner. Rather than say or do something more that could hurt the other, take a break. Call a time-out. Then, take a walk in nature, enjoy an afternoon movie, or visit with a friend. Do something that feels caring and kind to yourself. These actions of loving detachment offer a new perspective that allows us to remember what we love about our partner and our relationship.
We are all doing the best we can at any moment. Compassion for ourselves and the other will return.
“Only in the stillness of detachment can the soul yield up her secrets.” ~ Elsa Barker
3. Look within and make amends for our own part.
Once your own sense of emotional balance has returned, see what you could have done differently that contributed to the upset. Humbly share this with your partner. Let go of whether or not they will do the same. You are asking for forgiveness for you, not for them. Like my close friend from A.A. says, “When I make amends, it’s not for the other person, it’s for me. When I stay resentful, it’s like taking poison and wanting the other to get sick.”
“Sweep in front of your own door.” ~ German Proverb
Author: Sally Bartolameolli
Editor: Callie Rushton