my favorite photo ever of my man and me

 

Before loving someone for this long, I would have told you:

–that if it’s “meant to be,” it’s easy;

–that it would be unimaginable to think of hurting one another;

–that there would only ever be the best times ahead;

that problems in a relationship can be solved simply by communicating better;

and

that only people in serious relationship trouble, only those on the verge of breakup, ever needed to work with a couples counselor.

Also, I believed (in a logical and objective way, not an arrogant way) that having a background in counseling or coaching meant that (surely) I would have a much easier time working through the issues in my own relationship, because I would have so many tools to use.

All of these years later, my truth, based on my experience, is this:

that “meant to be” is really “what you choose to make it,” and that being in an intimate relationship is definitely “easier” when I’m choosing to make it that way. (Powerful side note: Yes, it is a choice).

that we are capable of hurting one another in ways we’d never thought ourselves capable of.

— that relationships have high tides, low tides, and in-between tides, and the most beautiful part of collaboratively working through the low tides is knowing that when you’ve survived them, you love one another more than you did, before.

— that while communication is, yes, the primary issue, most of what needs to change is non-verbal body language and/or energetic, and that is damned hard to tease out (“Did that look mean that he’s judging what I said? Or did it mean that he’s taking in what I said?”). It sounds as if it should be as simple as making some “I” statements, but in reality? Uh….nope.

— that if you really want to go deep, to the depths, to work through all of the shadows? Get a couples counselor, now, before you ever really need to.

And now? I’ll tell you that sure, as a coach, while I do have more tools and resources to choose from when I’m figuring out how to work out a conflict as a result of my training,

the truth is that it all boils down to having enough presence to stop, take a deep breath, and not react to irritation from a habitual place–to have enough awareness to not take the route of the default pattern.

Anyone willing to start a stillness practice or awareness practice can learn to do that.

 

Silent Shame

People get judgmental about what relationships are “supposed” to look like, which creates a silent shame.

We get ashamed about what it means that we act the way we do when we’re living with someone who has triggered every button we have, and we know that they’re not meaning to, but they are (dammit!) and while it sounds like a great idea to use “communication tools” when you’re in front of the couples counselor (who you secretly–just admit it!–want thinking that you’re the one who is “right”), just sounds like far too much work when your partner is being so irritating.

It’s all very young, very immature, very un-developed–it’s coming from those inner kid defenses.

This is why relationships are the best place to do work on yourself: they’re going to bring up all your shit and make you really resistant to handling any of it with maturity.

They are brilliant training grounds for growth, mostly because being in one confronts you with a constant choice to get vulnerable and to not to run away (and by running away, I mean everything from burying yourself on the computer every night to literally, leaving).

Relationships are an outer mirror of all the stuff that’s going on, inside.

–And truly, the most beautiful part of my life, the parts with the most growth and the most richness, have come about because I risked doing the work.

Ditch the shame. Every good relationship I know involves people really being in the thick of it and then seeing their way out. Seriously. Every relationship I know–without exception–contains shadows.

 

P.S. I also would have told you that love is what matters, most. I would still say that that’s true–I would just add that love + willingness is a powerfully ferocious combo.