After we both had some time to decompress and shared a lovely quiet dinner alone, I had to admit something. He was no longer The Insensitive One, The Verbally Abusive One, The Angry One, The Uncaring One, or any other label I gave him. He was warm, caring, gentle, genuinely interested in my wellbeing and our relationship.
What changed? I first needed to feel the rawness of every sticky emotion as it arose. I needed to sit with the anger, fear, and hurt, and not blame them for arising as they did. I needed to share my experience with girlfriends who could listen empathetically and remind me I wasn’t crazy or alone in my experience. I needed to feel Mother Earth holding me as her precious child still wobbly, still learning to walk.
Once I could hold my experience tenderly (no matter how distorted it was by raw emotions), I could make room for him in my heart. I could appreciate who he actually was when his heart was also undefended.
Relationships, especially intimate relationships with partners, take conscious effort. It’s a given that our reptilian brain will get triggered, and fight, flight, or freeze become the only options available to us. The good news is that the tend and befriend response is also an option, and can be cultivated, nurtured over time. But this practice doesn’t just become second nature overnight. It takes time to cultivate and grow till you can harvest and taste its sweet fruit.
I should warn you that even with practice, the Universe can align in such a way as to challenge you. Just when you think you understand something, and believe you are prepared for any stress, you’ll receive a surprise that shocks you. Initially, this will be distressing and disappointing, but as time passes you will hopefully value the experience. It’s actually good. It means you are learning, growing. And if you are like me, you might write about it or share it some way with others that is meaningful, so we can remember when we forget.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.”
May we meet each other in a field beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. May our souls lie down in the grass, and may our hearts expand till we can see ourselves in each other.