In the recent post Ten Things learnt from Ten Years of Marriage I mentioned that I have not always been clear about my vision for my relationship with my husband – I think in many ways I thought the love between us would just take care of itself.
Over the past few years I have undertaken more of an inner journey and have been delighted at the benefits this has yielded for my experience of life, love and marriage. It has been an interesting process to observe my thinking, to see the reality of my situation and how it often differed from my perceptions of a situation and it has been humbling to realise that in unawareness I have not always acted in a loving and generous way to people close to me, particularly my husband.
I was shocked to realise how much blame I had been directing towards my husband for a whole range of things, many of which he knew nothing about, most of which were not his responsibility but the feelings of blame and growing resentment were certainly impacting the quality of our relationship and my interactions with him.
If you had have asked me what is driving our relationship I would have told you that of course it is love and connection and respect – I wanted to believe that this was the case, that’s what holds a marriage together isn’t it?
But it was deeply troubling me that on many occasions I wasn’t feeling connected, I didn’t feel loving. In the past it was easy to make my husband wrong, to blame him for the way I felt, to feel that things would be better when he changed.
In awareness I have seen that it has been my concept of love that needs changing, not my husband, I have seen that the driving forces in our relationship were not exactly as I’d hoped.
Let me share a little story with you……
Quite some months ago while we were travelling, my husband hurt his back and we needed to take a few extra rest days. This had happened before, but his back took a little longer than usual to heal. I found myself becoming grumpy and short with him over those few days, to be honest I wanted to jump on a plane and fly anywhere but stay there and watch him struggle with his back. I felt deeply conflicted – why I couldn’t just accept the situation, just love him for better or worse, be supportive while he found his own way. I became embroiled in my thoughts and felt more and more disconnected from him.
I began to take some time each day to simply quieten my mind and observe my thoughts. I saw that I was feeling resentful and judging him, I was comparing him to others, I was thinking “if only he would take my advice; if only he had been more pro-active up to now this wouldn’t have happened, we wouldn’t be stuck here; if only he would pursue an alternative path, if only he would take his healing seriously, why can’t he be more aware of his body and what it needs for wellbeing??”
Is it any wonder I wasn’t feeling connected and loving towards him?!
A few days later I had an interesting and very liberating insight – as I saw my husband walking back towards our camp in his wetsuit after being out diving for abalone I was struck at how attractive I found him in that moment, in that particular physical state and role, how much I appreciated him. A few days prior I did not feel attracted or connected to him, it was difficult to feel compassion as he experienced pain. I smiled at myself as I remembered telling him as he was stretching his back how attractive he looks doing yoga, how I love to see him caring for himself in these ways…….AHA!
In unawareness I was confusing this for love, instead they were the images of him that I had idealised.
I realised it was not possible to relate to him from this viewpoint – my concept of love was conditional and my happiness dependent on what he does or does not do. I was reminded of the words of Thomas Merton….
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Does this story resonate with you?
Do you value relationships and nurturing happiness?
Here are some questions that may be helpful in reflecting on your own experiences. Please ask yourself:
What is my idea of the perfect relationship, the perfect partner?
Is it possible for me or my partner to always live up to this ideal?
What is my concept of love? What is my personal experience of love?
Do I have a preconceived expectation of what a relationship should be and do I judge and compare my relationships and partner based on this?
Do I hold my partner (or others) responsible for the discomfort I feel when their action is inconsistent with my expectations?
What is the consequence of this blaming? Does it contribute to growing and happy relationships?
For me, by paying attention to my thoughts I have been able to recognise the driving forces in my marriage and other relationships. And from this recognition I have been able to see that I have a choice to respond and act from a state of inner conflict or I can choose to nurture a more aware and loving state of being.
Over time I will be sharing some other examples of how the practice of awareness is helping me to experience a greater quality and depth of love, connection and joy in my relationships. It is my hope by sharing my experiences that others may be inspired to ask questions, reflect on their own experiences and to nurture beautiful relationships.
I gratefully acknowledge the beautiful teachings and support from my mentors at the One World Academy in inspiring my journey and this article.
The world needs more loving, conscious relationships and what greater gift can we give to our children than for them to see the adults around them living and relating to each other with honesty, compassion, gratitude, kindness and experiencing deep connection and joy?