For something as common as intimate relationships are, so few of us ever come to appreciate just how challenging and soul-expanding they can be.
Even fewer of us tap into the most fundamental of truths that a relationship offers.
That our relationships aren’t these tidy, fixed things that we can control. That they are in fact living, ever-shifting dynamics that we can surely influence, but never achieve absolute control or certainty over.
This triggers our defences. Our insecurities. Our fears. Our resistance.
For the better part of my adult life, I resisted this dynamic exchange. I felt unsafe and burdened by an environment that I didn’t have absolute authority over. And I made self sabotage a welcomed guest in my heart so that I can exile myself back to a place of forced solitude. For when we’re alone, we feel safe.
Independence, for most men, is easy. We can control our environment, and we can control the temperature of our lives. Our movements are unimpeded. Our decisions are direct. Linear. Immediate.
Relationships can never offer the same level of predictability or control. This is the plight of the man who feels that he can’t be devoted to his purpose and his relationship at the same time.
Robbed of the speed and simplicity of the single man, mission and relationship feel mutually exclusive. For to be in an intimate relationship is to discard that simplicity. It’s to invite a powerful exchange of energy, intention, and influence that at times, particularly without a fundamental paradigm shift, can feel more limiting than expansive.
I’d feel intensely burdened by a relaxing Sunday afternoon that could, with the wrong combination of words, rip the stitching off an old, unhealed wound and ignite an epic, eight hour emotional thrillride. An enigmatic dance, shifting between combustion, catharsis, and eventual reconciliation.
When we try to force this powerful flow into a safe, predictable pattern, we deny it of its very essence. We use our fear to stuff a boundless quantum universe into a rigid, Newtonian cage.
A relationship should never be confused with warfare, but there are many steps to the dance. Within this dynamic dance, it’s our rigidity and denial of interdependence that leads to an insurmountable clumsiness.
It takes a nearly unattainable degree of groundedness and open-heartedness to hold the container for interdependence to naturally exist. But to do otherwise, is to be in denial of it’s true nature. For relationship, like life itself, is in constant flux, with limitless new permutations being seeded into potentiality with every word and action.
And when we violently react to our partner’s perceived ‘intrusion” on our ideals and independence, we send the implicit message that it’s not okay for them to appear in their truth and fullness. In doing so, we resist the interdependent nature of relationship itself.
We inadvertently wound by communicating the message that they’re “too much”. That they’re a burden or obstacle. Something to be overcome.
But no matter what your partner is experiencing or expressing — they’re not a burden. They can only ever be an inconvenience, threat or disruption to an unhealed aspect of you. But when you act from your depth, there’s no longer a need to overcome. Instead, there’s a natural willingness, even a joy, in oversaturing both you and them in pure presence and acceptance.
It’s far from easy, yet we have to consciously build our capacity to “hold” our partner’s entire range of experience without judgement or a sense of being burdened, or being so easily knocked off our own center — and in turn, feel safe in doing the same with them.
This is the core of intimacy and trust. The hidden gift in this process is that as we expand our capacity to stand unwavering in our presence and compassion for our partner’s moods, states, emotions and actions, we in turn learn how to give ourselves the same presence.
We stop resisting our own shadows. Our own fears. Our own trapped emotions or old identities. All of which we’re also in deep, intimate relationship with. Let the truth of this soak in. If you’re actively resisting aspects of your partner, you’re undoubtedly resisting aspects of yourself. This is where the opportunity for growth and healing becomes circular and self-reinforcing.
The magic of relationship — particularly in the bloody trenches of transformation is that healing can become circular. Your partner’s growth becomes your growth and vice versa. They become intertwined. When you drop an old identity that resists her emotional expression, you in turn expand your capacity to hold, accept and deeply love all of her. This, of course, opens her into a feeling of trust and safety that naturally, without effort, expands her desire to gift you the warmth now radiating off her heart.
This is tremendously healing. Likewise, when she drops an old belief around how she’s unlovable, she in turn becomes more receptive to your touch — she becomes available to receive the gift of your affection, and in turn gives you the pleasure and sheer joy of offering it and having it received. You become spared the pain of a rejected offering from the depths of your soul.
The paradox of this is that this luscious, effortless exchange of healing, love, and growth takes effort to get to.
That effort begins in the acknowledgment of interdependence, and the choice to value its gifts and teachings rather than condemn or deny its demands. It’s a choice, you’re of course, free to make.
On a final note, interdependence isn’t the same as dependence. You’re not waiting at the reckless whims of your partner unless you allow yourself to be. While you don’t have total control, you do have will, choice, and influence. In most cases, you’re not honoring these capacities nearly as much as you ought to. This is where following your mission and being in a relationship aren’t mutually exclusive. Far from it.
Instead, you’re called to gift her the opportunity to re-orient around your mission. Speak your truth and follow your purpose before they atrophy, metastisize, and turn into resentment. There’s a bitter betrayal that comes with not doing so.
The momentary compromise may get you to the dinner table with her friends — but the rotting mass of resentment in your heart will only ferment and seep out in other ways.
You don’t “free” her with your compromise. You liberate her with your truth. For today’s suppressed truths become tomorrow’s stinging resentments.
The dance is not yours alone. You don’t choose all the steps. But your leadership and influence within the dance is both the gift she yearns for — and the freedom you crave.