I believe our personal relationships are where we learn the best and hardest lessons about ourselves and life in a human body. Corona has treated us like blind mice trapped in a road-block laden maze. Ready or not, Corona has forced people to move to the next chapter of their lives. I read recently that the divorce rate is up. Why is that? Because quarantine was a relationship killer. Many people have been in partnerships they have outgrown, and when quarantined happened, people were either forced to reconnect on a deeper level or disconnect on a deeper level. The idea of marriage is so beautiful, and at the time of marriage, truly, hearts should be in alignment. But people do not stay the same person their entire lives. Humans go through different emotional growth patterns. These seven-year cycles can be challenging. Is it any mystery that the average length of a marriage is around eight years? A professional couples counselor may advise that to keep a healthy marriage, you must take daily inventory, asking yourself, “Am I growing with my partner or growing away from my partner?” How do people sustain a stable, loving, supportive marriage? I would say communication is key.
Let me tell you a little story -
Recently, my partner upset me. I did not intimately talk to him for a month or so. He had just pushed me past my breaking point. Did the quarantine expedite this communication breakdown? Most bloody likely. As a business owner, he is under enormous pressure. Every time he did something I found offensive, because we were living through a pandemic, I would shove it under the rug and keep going. Unbeknownst to me, these little things that were not being dealt with, didn’t just go away, but rather, they were festering underneath the surface of all our interactions. Eventually, I pulled away. He disconnected. I do a lot of self-love work. I am no chump - I take inventory of my thoughts, actions and decisions to the best of my ability. Still, I have a lot to learn about relationship communication. Once pushed beyond my point of tolerance -I pull away. I disconnect. I have to go inward and process my pain until I feel confident articulating my feelings. In this instance, it took me a month – yikes!
Anyway, last week, I decided it was time to move past these issues or worse-case scenario take a longer break. My partner dislikes these “feeling” talks. He avoids them like the Corona virus itself. Mask on! So, I invited him to my vacant office (another perk of Corona) under the pretense of moving furniture. When he realized we were having a “feelings” talk, he began to say, “I am so tired, I don’t feel well.” I told him it would be a brief discussion. Reluctantly, he sat down. I launched into how he had hurt my feelings the last several months. I rallied off quite a list. His face turned red. He became angry, yelled at me and denied the accusations. I calmed down; then I continued to encourage him to express his feelings. He also has been known to bury his feelings. Afterward, I apologized for my part in the communication breakdown. He told me what a great man he is. I agreed. We then discussed his greatness. Which is genuine because he has a lot of great qualities. By the way, he never apologized to me. I let it go though, because I, personally, had done what was needed to release the drama and start over with him, which was – in a nutshell - just expressing my thoughts and feelings.
After about an hour of hashing things out, my friend had arrived and was waiting outside the door in the hallway. Even though my partner still looked unnerved, I thought we had had a communication breakthrough. I felt good, as if we had hit the reset button on the relationship and were back on a positive path together. We both stood. I smiled warmly at him. I opened the door for him to exit. He stopped halfway through the door; his face twisted like a red pepper flaked seasoned pretzel, “You are lucky to have me.” Instantly, I felt verbally sucker-punched, as if all our hard talks had been for nothing. The ego must always be right!
I instinctively retorted, “No, you are lucky to have me.” I shut the door and snarled at him. Why did I reply to something so seventh grade? Well, it came right out of my mouth, without thinking. This reflex to defend oneself is also the ego’s need to always be right! And once the ego has become engaged, the turf war is on. If both partners cannot stay high-minded, one should at least attempt, right? Well, in a perfect world – yes! Not even me, someone who is actively working on trying to be more self-aware could not resist the bait!
After he left, I was deflated. I felt he was vulnerable during our discussions and truly expressing himself- which, I highly value even if it’s about things I don’t want to hear, but then, at the end, his ego flared up and had to lash out at me. It’s hard for some people to admit they are less than perfect. I don’t pretend to be perfect. I am quick to apologize and meet in the middle, but that doesn’t change my truth. No one gets to tell me my truth is wrong because it doesn’t align with their truth. And, likewise, I don’t have the privilege to tell someone their truth is wrong. To me, these discussions are about reconnecting, expressing feelings and clearing the air, not about grand judgements of right and wrong. The ego runs on a right or wrong speedometer, which can be challenging to navigate, particularly, when emotions are strong. The mature response is not to search for the evildoer, but rather to accept the other person for who they are, release the issue to God and move on for your own peace of mind.
I must admit, even though we had two completely different interpretations of our discussion, things in our relationship have been improving. What I learned is that open, honest communication is so very important. Just communication to relieve yourself of pent-up feelings and anger is healing. I would like to guarantee your partner will be supportive of the process, but even if they are not, you will still feel better speaking your truth. Speaking your truth is honoring and respecting yourself. It is an important aspect of self-love. Speaking your truth is rarely a quick fix to any problem, but it allows space for a path toward resolution. In some cases, speaking your truth upsets people more, but that’s only temporary. If the person really loves you and wants to work on things, they will rally.
In the future, most likely, this situation will happen several more times with my partner. I do not expect that our relationship will be trouble-free, but I do expect for both of us to continue to communicate through our issues. Even if at the end, again, he has to swing his big dong in my face and say – “You don’t deserve me.” Muah!
Corona has been devastating for all of us. It has added an extra layer of stress on an already stressful lifestyle. It is bringing out our inner beast. Things that were mild nuisances we now think are deal breakers. Our patience is thinning. Our tolerance for others is being squeezed like a sponge in the kitchen sink. In addition to the many lives that have been lost to Corona, love is in danger of being lost, too. As a people, how do we find our way back to love? To answer this question, I went to the Bible.
Dear Love, What are you?
I am patient. I am kind. I do not envy. I do not boast. I am not proud. I do not dishonor others. I am not self-seeking. I am not easily angered. I keep no record of wrongs. I do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. I always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.
- Corinthians 13
I am a human being. I am impatient. I can be unkind. I can be envious. I can boast. I can dishonor others and be self-seeking. I can become easily angered. I have, sadly, kept records of the wrongs done to me. I don’t believe I delight in evil, and I do my best to rejoice in the truth (no matter how hard it is to conceptualize) I always protect, trust, hope and persevere in you God, but not in people. I do not think I will ever reach your definition of love in this lifetime. I am a sinner.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
- John 1: 8-10
I feel like I am running on a hamster wheel. You know that I cannot achieve this perfect state of love here on Earth, in this reptilian human mind. So are you saying the best way to love is to be in a constant state of penance asking for forgiveness?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is Love.
- John 4:7-8
So I must recognize that this love is not mankind-ego love, this is God’s love. God is patient. God is kind. God does not boast. God is not proud. God does not dishonor others. God is not self-seeking. God is not easily angered. God does not keep a record of wrongs. God is truth. God protects, trusts, hopes and always perseveres. Okay, I think I understand. I did well on truth this week; now, I will work on patience, and perhaps, not keeping a record of wrongs…
Challenge Round -
Try picking one aspect of love to work on per week – rather it be patience, kindness, truth, pride, selflessness, perseverance, hope, trust, protection, temper flares, releasing a record of wrongs, honoring others ect. If you have time, start a journal about how it shapes your week.
There is no perfect state of love, but the act of love itself is perfect.