I had to laugh at myself. This weekend I took my mower into the shop for repair and they sent me home with a mower on loan so I could get the grass cut. The mower was the same brand as mine, just a newer model. When I got it home I couldn’t get it started. I fussed and struggled and complained about the hardware store sending me home with a stupid mower that doesn’t start. Finally I loaded it in my vehicle and went back to the store to get a different mower. The salesperson came outside and started the mower right up. The problem was, I had assumed this mower operated the same way as the one I own, but the bar to engage the self-propelled feature on the new model needs to be up, whereas on my old model it needs to be down in order to start the mower. This was a frustratingly simple solution but it made me chuckle and got me thinking about assumptions and expertise.
I’m guessing you have had a similar experience where someone with expertise was able to show you a solution that changed your whole paradigm. This reminds of a recent situation that a client of mine was wrestling with. She was feeling stuck in a job she hated and saw no way out. Consequently she was depressed and unhappy and when she got home she would complain to her husband. She was also upset with her husband because he seemed to withdraw from her and didn’t offer the support she was seeking. I helped her understand that a man needs to know he can make his wife happy in order to feel like a man and not a failure. When she went home and asked her husband about this she was surprised when tears started running down his face and he revealed the pain of not being able to help her change her situation. This did not change her work situation but the emotional damn broke and she was now connected to the support she needed.
Don’t you just love expertise? Sometimes I am too stubborn or too busy or whatever to ask for help, go the doctor, or call tech support when I know I should. Inevitably I suffer needless consequences. If you are also stuck in a relationship pattern that is painful, most likely there is an underlying assumption or a lack of understanding that is contributing to the problem. Please go leave your question or comment below. I’m here to help.
Why won’t you meet my needs? A client recalled this lament from his wife, which in essence was the accusation: “you have the ability to meet my needs, you’re not doing it, and furthermore you’re not doing it on purpose”. Upon further exploration it became clear that in spite of this man’s efforts to meet his wife’s needs he could not satisfy her demands. She had taken on the role of victim and projected blame onto him. He, in turn, felt helpless and stuck and projected blame back onto her for being impossible to please.
This situation illustrates a common struggle in marriage relationships. The real problem is a misguided assumption that one’s spouse is responsible for and capable of meeting our core needs and fulfilling us. That is not possible any more than any other external source can validate us, fulfill us, and make us whole. Wholeness is a journey that happens from the inside out and is both an emotional and spiritual process. We must own that responsibility for ourselves and open ourselves to love from within, from our spiritual source. Then we can effectively give and receive love in our external relationships.
This client came to see that once he got clear about the issue of responsibility there were several commitments he was able to make to his wife. These are commitments to support her in her journey towards finding wholeness at her own pace, to be engaged and present in the relationship, to create a loving space for her to learn, and to not blame his wife for what she needs. Paradoxically letting go of the expectation of meeting another’s needs allows us to be instrumental in helping our partner get those needs satisfied. This may not result in what you hope for from your partner but it is worth doing anyway because in the process of keeping these commitments you will be stretched and increase your capacity to be a loving human being.
We come into this world as a precious spirit abiding in a beautiful but fragile baby body. We have no tools to survive in this world so we are completely vulnerable and dependent on those who care for us. To the extent that we receive the care we need, including love, safety, and nurturing, we will grow in confidence and capabilities. We learn to develop, nurture, and express our own spirit as we grow up and become who we are meant to be. It is like a seed encoded with the possibilities of becoming a beautiful, fruitful tree, but the form of the mature tree depends on the conditions present to shape it in the process of maturation. However, unlike the adult tree, we never lose the ability to create and transform ourselves as we obtain the tools and understanding of how to do so.
Our human experience does not provide all the perfect growing conditions, so we get cut and bruised, and injured. Instinctively we protect ourselves as best we can and hide the precious spirit within from harm. To the extent that we do not receive what we need, we lack in confidence that it is OK to express and be who we are. Over time we forget who we are in essence and learn to compensate for the pain and fears we feel. This sets us a pattern of seeking to fulfill ourselves through whatever seems to offer comfort and validation. However, this will always fail because we are not designed to fulfill ourselves. We are designed to be fulfilled in the divine spirit and to find purpose in learning, growing, experiencing, and contributing to creation in this life we are living.
Marriage and other intimate relationships offer great potential for helping us grow and transform. However, we often suffer because we ask our partners to provide the fulfillment we are desperately seeking and they cannot. So we get stuck in projection, blame, and resentment, because we are angry about a lifetime of not knowing how to get our needs met. What we fail to realize is our intimate and loving relationships cannot be the source of our fulfillment but they can be the fertile environment we need to do the inner work of connecting with and expressing our true self. In a loving relationship we can find the safety and courage to remove the layers of protection we have built around our spirit. As a partner in a loving relationship you can experience the privilege of supporting and bearing witness to the dissolving of these fears and pains and the emergence of the essence of your loved one. There may be no higher calling than this.
The Eyes of an Angel
I asked a couple that I have been coaching for a while to look deeply into the eyes of one another and tell me what they saw. The husband looked at his wife for a moment and said “I see the eyes of an angel”. What is remarkable is this is a couple who has worked through infidelity and some other tough issues and are now emotionally healthier and more connected than ever. They are learning what it feels like to be in quadrant 4 of the Dynamic Marriage Map.
I have previously written about the Dynamic Marriage Map I created to help articulate the stages and dynamics of marriage and other intimate relationships. Quadrant four of the Dynamic Marriage Map speaks to the possibilities and fulfillment of a marriage in which two people have worked through enough of their developmental issues to reach a higher level of maturity and have also nurtured a high level of connection. This stage is characterized by interdependence, co-commitment to the wholeness of each other, high intimacy, and spiritual connection. It is hard to consistently live at this level and it requires ongoing learning and growth. Making the commitment of a lifetime journey opens up new depths of possibilities.
There are things you can do to strengthen your relationship muscles and move to quadrant four. Some are individual work on your own growth, such as developing your understanding of your strengths, talents and needs, as well as your limitations. You can also focus directly on building good feelings and intimacy between the two of you.
One practice my wife and I have done over the years to strengthen our relationship is to schedule get away weekends at least a couple of times a year. These are weekends with no commitments other than to be with each other, typically at a nice hotel or bed and breakfast. Our only agenda is quiet time and connection.
Some crucial elements for deeper connections are:
• Take time strictly for each other. Talk about your hopes and dreams for your lives together. Leave the computer and smart phone off.
• Look deeply into one another’s eyes. That may sound corny but when is the last time you really looked at each other? Seeing love and acceptance in the eyes of someone who knows you intimately is deeply healing and affirming.
• Speak the words of affection that you feel. Take the risk of being honest and transparent.
• Listen intently to one another. Also listen to the voice from within that softly affirms “this is where I belong”.
As always, for more information on the Dynamic Marriage Map or coaching, please contact me. I’d love to guide you on your journey.