“Truly, we can’t say thank you enough for the millions of ways that we have to show up for each other to keep love going…” -Wendy Strgar
Lelo, one of the largest vibrator manufacturers in the world is launching a feature film and guess what – it’s not about sex. Rather, the film depicts a world where men and women have come to live apart, in a futuristic apocalypse of relationships. The film points to the immediacy and urgency of re-learning the dying art of relationship. I am always encouraged when I get these kinds of messages in my inbox- diminishing the loneliness I sometimes feel in my quest to put our capacity for relating first. With Valentine’s Day around the corner and all of its collateral damage, there isn’t a better time to reflect on our ability and willingness to not only work on our relationships, but even more deeply, to figure out how to truly inhabit them.
Valentine’s Day is, ironically, one of the holidays of the year where many relationships suffer and accounts for one of the heights of breakups through out the year. It is the day when our ideals about love collide with our reality, often with long-lasting, painful results. Reconciling with how our relationships fall short of our needs and expectations should be a part of our daily dialogue, as this is the very conversation that often opens the way to the depth of our gratitude for our loved one. Each time I believe I am reaching a breaking point in my marriage and have the courage to express what I feel, my relationship and my husband step up to fill the gaps and we end up a few steps ahead – each of us with a new understanding of how things break down between us and how speaking up sooner is always better.
I don’t know why or how we have come to believe that silence is golden. It might be when you are trying to put a baby to bed, but in the artful dance of staying in love, keeping your issues to yourself and not asking for what you need are among the top two reasons that love fails us. How and what we have the courage to communicate is the currency of your love. And so, on Valentine’s Day, we are often forced to encounter all that remains unsaid, and all the ways that we isolate ourselves from the people we profess to love the most. Here is the bottom line- nothing unsaid goes away or disappears from the equation of your love. Instead, it seeps into the foundation of your connection, shapeshifting into a distorted version of the love you began with. Only the courageous act of speaking our hearts and perhaps, the even more courageous act of listening without reacting- has the power to maintain our ever vulnerable bonds.
I have suffered for many a Valentine’s Day, not to mention birthdays and Christmas, with the stubborn idea that my husband should know what I want. I naively, and stubbornly thought that asking for what I wanted somehow diminished the offering, the spoken word, or gift. The fantasy that our partner should or would know what would make us happy keeps us from happiness. And yet, we remain dedicated to this common form of relationship suicide, rather than taking the responsibility of saying what we want. Even then, there are times that I don’t get exactly the relationship I believe that I want or deserve, but at least it is not for lack of clarity.
And this brings me to the final nail in the coffin that we willingly pound into our beloved relationships- The idea that we get the love that we want, the way we want it, when we want it. Only the smallest of lucky children get this kind of love, although even recently I was doubting my 30-year marriage over the disparity of my idea of my marriage and its reality. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that my desires were wrong or even inappropriate, it’s that ultimately it doesn’t matter. Whether we walk down the aisle or sign a lease with someone, we are often without our own recognition agreeing to love those people as they are, in the way that they can love us back. Mind you, this is 30 some years later and I still find myself slipping into a place where the love I have is not good enough.
The antidote is not a correction in my relationship- so much as it is a willingness to live in the relationship that I have. It is solely my perspective that makes my relationship worthy, and believe me, there are days and sometimes unfortunate weeks that I cannot find the way there. I have told you of my no-fail mind shifts before, but in the spirit of Valentines Day– here they are one more time…
- Imagine in full detail life without your loved one… the horrid call that life with them has ended due to some unthinkable accident. Experience the broken-heartedness of them suddenly gone and then ask yourself- really how bad is it?
- Hold what you love most about partner in one hand, next to what is most challenging in the other… What is the true balance of your relationship?
Love is the hardest work we do in a lifetime and also offers us the most gentle teaching and deepest evolution we can hope for. Here’s to your imperfect, perfect love….