Back in my 20s, when I was deep into my first long-term relationship, my partner and I often got stuck.
But, back then, I had no trail to follow out of the traps we got ourselves in. We’d argue, and those quarrels always followed the same pattern. We’d go around in circles; he’d storm off to the pub and get drunk while I would collapse in a helpless heap.
In that place, everything my partner said seemed to trigger me. I felt misunderstood, blamed, and just wrong. Whenever I tried to express myself, he didn’t seem to hear me. And I couldn’t ever seem to understand what he was trying to convey to me. We’d been in the same loop so many times we could have written each other’s scripts.
So I started with me.
After seven years, the relationship ended, but the pattern didn’t. It wasn’t until long-term relationship number three ended that the penny dropped. The common denominator? The constant throughout all the relationship changes? Well, that was me.
That realization sent me to my first visit with a therapist, where I discovered the root of my behaviors in a relationship. Over the course of several sessions with her, core imprints that had been given to me by my father were revealed. It turned out that these patterns were still running the show.
It was an excruciating but beautiful time. I was learning for the first time how to express myself with vulnerability and an open heart, rather than with habitual defensiveness.
Then there is the matter of learning how to speak with a beloved.
After three years of therapy as a single woman, I entered my next relationship. I was feeling excited to put into practice what I had healed and learned in therapy, and it was great! I found I was able to both hear what my partner said much more efficiently and to express myself more clearly.
Over many decades of conscious relationships since, I have learned and explored many ways of practicing optimum communication. I have nowhere near nailed it, and being in lockdown with my partner brings old patterns up still. I sometimes lose the plot and forget all I’ve learned.
But I can see, looking back over the years, this happens less and less. I can bring myself back to balance faster each time.
Communicating with our partner is not something many of us learn from our parents or grandparents. We’re lucky if we have elders with healthy relationships we can use as models. Slowly, we are relearning these skills and the sacred art of conscious relationships.
Good communication is the richest relationship soil.
Communication breakdown is so harrowing because our partner, more than any other, is the person we want most to understand us. When we can’t speak and feel we’re not heard. The breakdown acts like bindweed in the beautiful garden of our relationship—it wraps itself around every good plant growing there.
To continue the gardening analogy, when we address communication issues, we create deep fertile soil for healthy roots in every area of a relationship. We learn to communicate in a way that fosters connection rather than distance or pain.
Over the decades, I’ve worked with couples to support them in finding more intimacy and authenticity with each other. I developed a relationship roadmap based on 12 gateways.
Communication is gateway two, and it is closely linked with gateway three: the sacred wound.
The sacred wound affects how we hear what another says. More accurately, it dictates from which part of us we hear what they say. It’s like a filter that translates what they say before it reaches our ears. It’s often here where the communication breaks down.
Do we hear what our partner is saying from the place in us that feels secure in ourselves, trusts others, and can relax? Or do we hear it from a juvenile place within us that has been wounded and hurt?
If it’s the latter, we will translate what another is saying in a way that proves our own beliefs about ourselves. This is the place that says there is something fundamentally wrong with us; we are not important, or lovable.
When we turn to our wounded places with love and acceptance, we open the door to healing ourselves at a core level and heal how we relate to our beloved.
An intimate relationship is a radical spiritual practice—it is gritty and raw. Even though each couple creates a unique blueprint for these dynamics, it seems we are all navigating similar wounds at our core.
Typically, in my work with couples, these wounds will be around a feeling of unworthiness. We often hold the belief that we are enough, or there is something fundamentally wrong with us. These beliefs hide the true nature of our shining hearts, and personal work is to hold them with our love and kindness.
When we do that, we can more truly hear what our beloved is saying to us. Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to tend to the garden of a sacred relationship. Without the usual distractions of our ordinary lives, we are face-to-face with our partner in a new way.
However hard this may sometimes feel, there is gold to be gathered for our lockdown relationships now.