Usually, when we think about doing things for Earth Day, we ask ourselves: “How can I impact the environment around me?”. Rarely do we consider how powerful an inner cleansing can be to our external circumstances. This has been especially true when it comes to my intimate relationships – the more I have tried to push change on my partner or my kids, the less impact it has. Conversely, when I re-focus to the noise in myself and bring some light and compassion to my own inner struggles, the relationships start to shift by themselves.
One of the biggest shifts which has now become the foundation of what I think about as the highest purpose of my primary relationship is understand and honor the relationship as an organic, living reality, in and of itself. When we begin to honor the container of our relationship as the means for us to maintain security and safety for both people to grow and develop, we become committed to keeping this container strong. Sometimes referred to as a “conscious partnership,” the focus becomes the vitality and clarity of the relationship itself, not the needs of either partner.
Ironically, as we become more responsive to the needs of the relationship than to our own, some kind of magic happens and we produce the paradoxical effect of getting our needs met in a way that they could never be met by making them the primary focus. This is in fact where the deep and magical reciprocity of love lives and flourishes. Pouring love into the container of our relationship love transforms us, and we discover a space of acceptance that can never arise from the singular desire to meet our own needs.
This practice of putting your relationships needs ahead of your own takes practice. Here are a few signposts to help you keep track of where you are on the journey.
1. Two Feet In
The container of your relationship can only become stronger when both people have two feet in. The truth is that we don’t ever really get to see the true potential of the container of our love if either partner keeps one foot out the door. It creates a vacuum that sucks the life out of every effort you each may make. The only way to really know what your relationship can become is to put both feet in. I guarantee that you will find yourself in an entirely different relationship when both partners are engaged and really committed to making their promises work, one that you can’t even imagine when you are holding the door ajar.
2. Showing Up
It is easy for couples to confuse co-existing with truly showing up for each other. They appear the same when we grow accustomed to not allowing ourselves to need and be needed. Co-existing doesn’t have any of the stickiness factors that showing up does because it happens out of habit, not choice. Truly showing up translates into the safety that you bring to every other part of your relationship. One of the most meaningful ways that we can show up for our relationship is with our attention. It is the most powerful change agent you can bring to making the container of your love strong. Shifting some of the attention we have applied to the growth of other areas of life towards our intimate container will reap huge rewards.
3. Listening Better
Communication issues are often at the heart of a relationship impasse. This is because we all mistakenly believe that we can tell someone how things are. Truly successful communication actually takes place in listening. Listening is such a powerful form of communication that most people cannot tell it apart from feeling loved. Carl Rogers once wrote “When I have been listened to and when I have been heard, I am able to perceive my world in a new way… It is astonishing how elements which seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens.” Of all the things we can offer our relationship, none may be as potent as the gentle shelter of our attentive listening. Try it.