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December 18, 2021

4 Essential Pillars of Long-Term Relationships.

long-term relationships

“How many times do you think you’ve left me in the last 27 years?”

This question popped up between my partner and me one day over dinner.

“I’d say once a year?” I answered.

“Probably more like twice,” he countered.

“So that’s 54 times,” we laughed.

By “left me,” we mean, talked about leaving.

The truth is, our relationship has hit some pretty high notes. But anyone who knows us well knows that we have also hit rock bottom, true rock bottom, a couple of times.

I’m a runner. When I get scared or feel unsure of the path forward, I always want to run and hide. Some of that is because of my Scorpio sun/Cancer rising/Scorpio moon influence. That’s a lot of emotion right there—retreating into my shell is one way I cope with distress. Another part stems from the mother wound I took some years to move through, to which I often responded with a fight-or-flight instinct.

When things go wrong, my Scorpio stinger comes out at lightning speed and I then imagine 60 ways to leave my lover. Overnight, I concoct several ways to move on alone. I mean, the whole scenario. Where I’ll live, how I’ll pay the bills…it’s usually a cabin in the woods where I’ll see no one for years on end but somehow have all the money and supplies I need. We imagine that once divorced, we’ll meet up for dinner and cuddles twice a week. A sense of humor through the tough times has always been our strong suit.

My partner is a double Fire sign, and I’m triple Water, two elements that are not exactly compatible. Together, we are passionate but also dramatic. My water extinguishes his boldness and his fire scalds my emotions. Our disagreements erupt quickly, burn hot, then dissipate like a fast-flowing river.

Sometimes, when two people fall in love, they are responding not only to their sexual spark, but also to the wounding within them that finds a match within the other. We mirror each other from this wounded place. We look for completeness with someone who has understanding and compassion for the way our heart and psyche operate. I’ve often wondered how much we mistake codependence for love, and whether that is why things can’t last once the spark is gone and the wounds become pronounced.

I, an under-nurtured soul through childhood, looked for someone to mother. I also needed someone with a huge capacity for love and who understood abandonment. We were a perfect match, and that match was also one that burned us almost to the ground. It’s been an incredible journey to witness each other, and learn what our particular dynamic needed.

Together, we’ve discovered four pillars to a lifetime of partnership. We’ve done the work of dismantling codependence (it’s ongoing). We’ve dug around in the roots of our relationship issues—they were always tied to our unresolved insecurities.

I think these pillars are great for any length of coupling, but are pure magic tonic for long-time love.

Intention

Some time ago we scrapped our original wedding vows and set an intention to honor each other’s truth and to stay together for as long as it was beneficial to each other’s life path. Underlying these two intentions remained our strong connection and a true desire for a lifelong partnership. Not all relationships are meant to be a lifetime. It takes courage to know when it’s time to walk away.

When the intention is a lifetime, the hard times mean leaning in to do the work, and knowing that your partner will do the same. A deep friendship and companionship matures out of such intentions, and after a while, it is less work and more just fitting together with ease.

Integrity

When I am in integrity with myself, my dreams, my life, I can be in integrity with my partner. There are no games to play when we hold ourselves accountable for our words and actions, or the way we move in the world. When arguments pop up now we are more aware of where one or the other is out of integrity, and that makes it easier to laugh at these foibles. In times of limbo, when we’re both growing and expanding, we can go off course more easily. But we’ve become good at calling each other out. I love that he cares enough to keep me on track. It’s not always pain-free, but it’s the glue for long term.

Independence

Both of us value independence, even though we had a lot of co-dependent habits to work out. My favorite quote from Kahlil Gibran is “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” Independence of philosophies, time spent together, sexuality, and interests have been something we’ve nurtured. I’ve gone away for weeks or months at a time to pursue my own path. We love having evenings at home to ourselves, but meeting every so often for a snack or tea, then culminating with a chat at bedtime. I’m often in my office working while he reads or watches sports. It’s cozy knowing that we share a home but have plenty of room to be alone. It keeps things fresh. A great book on this subject is Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel.

Impermanence

How can impermanence be good for permanence? I’ve always been fascinated by the end of things, not surprisingly, as a Scorpio. Knowing that nothing is forever, that life is not guaranteed past this moment, that my love could end for any reason at all, that we are committed to staying together only for as long as it serves our life purpose and integrity, makes us incredibly grateful to be together. This poignant feeling in our hearts of surrender to not knowing what will be motivates us to nurture as many footsteps along the same path as we can.

When you’re with someone for many years, your brains actually begin to sync. It’s a scientific fact. We have long been finishing each other’s sentences, and I can pretty much tell his thoughts. It’s interesting to have such a close and intimate relationship with someone who becomes your best teacher, aggravates all your wounds, and might be part of helping you heal them. I still have dramatic moments where I want to run away. Since menopause, I have had a visceral longing for living alone. He loves me enough to let me go, even though I know that would hurt his heart. Just knowing that he is willing, creates so much space for me.

I would love to hear your experience of long-time love or your desire for it. Is it for you? Perhaps not. And that’s great too.

~

long-term relationships

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