It’s the last day of January. Apparently, the real danger’s over: The divorce rate in January spikes as more couples than before decide they want out. In the last month of last year, and in the beginning of this year, whilst I found myself at the center of reassessing what it’s going to take to make my relationship work, and re-evaluating whether or not my partner and I have what it takes – I shared my experiences in my blog – and as a result many people reached out to me letting me know they too were going through a process of reflection, trying to decide if they could ever make it work in their relationship.
Unexpected phone calls, emails, and text messages – from people I knew and some people I didn’t know – from all parts of the world were coming in across airwaves but with one common thread: I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know if I know how to do this.
But it’s the last day of January. We made it. We all made it. We’re still here. We’re more committed than ever. And we’ve all got a chance.
My own personal experience, alongside the experiences that people kindly shared with me, made me reflect deeply about what it takes to really give a relationship the time, space and chance it needs to flourish.
I observed that there were five big changes in behavior that I – and everyone I was witnessing in crisis – needed to be reminded to make in order to be really honoring themselves and their relationship. I say reminded because I think somewhere deep inside of us, we all know this stuff. Of course we did, because how else did we all ever fall in love? Love knows all this innately. But when the turbulence comes, our thinking gets shaken.
So here it is written out. My blueprint for things I must remember in my relationship for 2013, and for the rest of this life, whatever this life brings.
1. Commit to Being Present
It’s common practice to deal with discomfort by wishing it away. Most of us are innately non-confrontational, and when it comes to relationships, for most of us, I’m sure it is easier to think what life could be life away from ‘this’ – than to breathe in and out the aching disappointment of this. present. moment.
If we put as much energy into being present as we do into imagining our exit, we may transform whatever chance there is into something so strong that it won’t be shaken.
Give up the daydream of what would happen if you left now, or in five years, or when the kids are grown up and in college.
Commit to being present.
Be Here Now.
Be prepared to live every day with the thought that:
‘This is my life. I am here to stay in this life of mine. I am willing to respectfully honor everyone in my life now by being wholly present, by being wholly committed, by being wholly available for the best for all of us to unfold.’
2. Recognize That We Are On A Team
Do we really want this partnership? Really?
Because if we do, the truth is we’ll have to recognize that we make up only one half of the partnership. We and your Chosen One are a Team. Team Together. And both parties on that Team will have to make the decision that the only kind of success we are going to value is one that is a success for the team.
We may still have goals for our self. But we have to re visit our goals so that our individual goals support a wider vision with our partner. We’re only one half of a whole – and as such what we want shouldn’t be in conflict with what the team wants overall because to succeed independently, we will need the co operation and support of the other half to achieve whatever we want to achieve. And to succeed at something that doesn’t support the team, isn’t a success at all. On a team, success, by definition only happens when the team succeeds.
There will be times sometimes for both parties to take one – or ten – or maybe stop counting – for the team.
For my part, I continually ask myself:
‘What do I want from this partnership?
What do I want for this partnership?
What do WE want?
Who do I have to be, with the running mate I’ve got, for us to get there? ‘
3. Accept Sacrifice – Eliminating the Source of Conflict Altogether
We’ll have make sacrifices to keep the Peace.
There. I said it.
Yes, there are mostly compromises, with their implicit meaning that we both agreed what to do – but beyond that, sometimes there’s something else.
Sometimes there’s outright sacrifice.
Want to live in NYC at the center of an urban lifestyle? With someone who can’t stand inner cities, bright lights or loud noise? Forget it. It’s over. It’s just not every going to happen. And we may even have to sacrifice the job offer of a lifetime because it won’t work for our other half. Partner wants to live in a beach house a block from the Ocean? Won’t work if the my works is 2 hours inland and we both want a relationship where we see actually see each other every day.
Sometimes to keep the peace, that’s what it’s going to take: giving up what we think we want; giving up things we never even got yet, but that we thought one day we’d finally get; giving up things we’ve worked long and hard to get.
It’s not always for us to sacrifice. Sometimes it’ll be our partner. But it happens. It happens.
This is how I deal with this – the most challenging for me of all elements of togetherness – :
Close your eyes.
Feel in your body what it’s like for the thing to be gone.
Let it go.
Oh – and Stay Detached.
And keep breathing.
Don’t stop breathing.
4. Give Up Comparing: Until You Walk A Mile in Another Man’s Moccasins.
There’s a story told by the saint Amma. I think it goes something like this :
God built a village and reigned in heaven thinking how plentifully he had provided for all. But all the people in the village complained all day and all night. The fishermen complained the seas were unforgiving and their wives complained the fish too scarce. The farming women in the fields complained the sun was too hot, and their husbands did not work enough. The husbands complained that they had no purpose- and yet refused to empower themselves through education or new skills. They all complained to each other that there was not one amongst them who suffered as they themselves did, and they argued that their life was far more miserable than anyone else’s, and were jealous of the apparent ease and happiness every other seemed to enjoy.
Eventually God’s rest in heaven was disturbed by the tumultuous noise of all the humans complaining. He went to earth and he said
‘I’ll grant you three wishes to make your complaints stop. What do you want?’
First they wished that all they each be relieved of their life as they knew it, and asked that their lives were taken off them and placed in the center of the village.
God granted this, and returned to heaven.
But soon, after a time, the humans found that there was no meaning or purpose to living without the direction of the shape of their life. They realised that life came with problems. But now with no lief at all, they complained even more vociferously that they were lost.
The sound of this turned into an overwhelming cacophony – and God returned to grant them their second wish.
This time they humans wished that they could each just have someone else’s life (even with all its troubles and problems) – so long as their own old life did not come ever back.
God granted this too and went back to heaven.
But now the humans had to live the real life of someone else, with all its complications and complexities and impossibilities.Their distress at this was uncontrollable and now they screamed in unbearable anguish.
God was again disturbed in heaven. So he descended, and asked ‘What now? What is your last wish?’
The humans wished that they should each be allowed to be free at once of someone else’s life, and to live a life – even if it had problems – in which they could find some happiness at least.
God agreed. But this time, he took all the lives of each of the villagers, with its unique attendant problems, and placed them in the center of the village and said this: ‘Go now, and take the life you each find gives you the most ease.’
The humans, without question went, silently one by one – and from the center of the village they each took their own life back. They had seen the inside machinations of each other’s worlds, and decided that the life of the other was not at all as they had imagined it – and their own unique life was not indeed so bad after all.
I realised that I’ve been thinking that everyone else has an easy relationship because I am in a neurotypical female in a relationship with a non-neurotypical man. No one else is having to deal with neurodiversity, I’ve thought.
No – but after all those phone calls with friends all over the worlds, same sex couples, married couples, not even engaged couples – I realized, there is no meaning in comparing. It’s an illusion.
And as I comforted friends over the last two months I’ve found myself saying it out loud – don’t do it. Don’t compare yourself to your friends, your family, movie stars or characters in novels. None of it’s real because you simply don’t know. What you do know is what you’ve got going on for you.
So switch off your phone.
Check out of Facebook.
Pay attention to your life story, not someone else’s.
Tell yourself to look inwards. Listen to your heart, not to your friends. And remember that the Buddha said:
“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”
5. Identify what you can’t work out together and commit to get help
I never knew this one was hard for so many of us. I don’t mind asking for help. But I’ve come to see that it’s not easy for many of us to accept that we need it. But if you’re going to be on a Team Together, we can’t refuse to get help when neither one of the halves knows how to support the other.
It doesn’t mean there’s no love left. It doesn’t mean blame. It doesn’t mean it’s almost over.
It just means there needs to be some help. That’s all.
Don’t make it bigger than it is.
Just do it.
6. Know Who You Are: Never Compromise Your Inner Harmony
This is not the antithesis of everything above – rather it’s the framework for all of it.
Not compromising yourself and being prepared to make sacrifices are two different things.
Not compromising yourself is about knowing who you are. Knowing what you value. Knowing what you really deeply want to get out of this single shot at life in this time and space, and knowing what you’re prepared to do or not do in order to achieve the life you want to live. Knowing yourself is knowing about knowing how far you can go – even when it’s beyond your comfort zone –
It’s the knowing yourself that counts for everything, and that makes it possible to go through with the sacrifices without resentment or fear.
Because, in the end, you find that you can let go easily enough of something that isn’t you to begin with – even if it’s something you’ve learned to get a kick out of. Maybe living in NYC doesn’t matter if it means giving up a place on the Team. Maybe inland is just fine if it means that the whole Team gets to connect for dinner everyday.
Knowing yourself is what allows us to discover that we have more patience, more forgiveness, more flexibility, more adaptability and more love to give in circumstances that we thought we could never get through.
Knowing the self is what makes yeilding and compromise effortless, what makes sacrifice and forgiving possible: because the Self will tell us when it’s safe to stay and love more, and when the most loving thing one can do is move on.
For this, I turn to a question put to so many of us by our beloved teacher, Dr. David Simon:
‘Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?’
Knowing who I am helps me answer this with ever surprising results in the most amazing of situations.
I am more patient than I ever thought myself capable of being.
I am more tolerant than I ever thought imaginable of me.
I am more flexible than I ever knew of myself.
And still -all the while, I know who I am. And I’ll know if I’m ever not being true to me.
Thank you Dr. Simon.