Leanne spoke with naked emotion, almost desperation, in her voice. She knew what she was doing was ridiculous but no amount of talking herself out of it seemed to help. She loved her partner, Peter, and they were true friends. They were not young when they became a couple and so they both brought with them lots of life experience and many friendships somewhere in the background of their lives. It was one of those friendships that was causing the problem. Peter was a sociable, amiable man who enjoyed his long list of both male and female friends. He was one of those guys who treats women the same way that he treats men. He was great friend material – attentive, loyal, and completely non-invasive. One of his long-time female friends asked him to attend a function with her. It was the function of a mutual friend, they were both invited, and for practical reasons Leanne was not going to be attending. To Peter, it seemed a nice idea – logical and a pleasant opportunity to spend some quality time with his old friend.
However, to Peter’s surprise, Leanne did not seem to think it was such a sunny idea. Of course, she said all the right things and told him that whatever he wished to do was fine, that she trusted him implicitly, and that he was a free agent. Being a sophisticated person, Leanne tried to talk herself into the reasonableness of the situation. For many reasons it was a reasonable idea, if perhaps not the norm for many couples. Leanne knew that Peter was 100% loyal and very happy with their family life. So she kept trying to tell herself it was all fine.
The problem is that what our mind tells us is not necessarily what our emotion tells us. Leanne said one thing in words but, try as she did, the next few weeks leading to the function became a downward spiral of emotional sabotage. She felt more and more betrayed, worried, abandoned, humiliated, and hurt. No amount of talking herself out of it or trying to talk rationally to Peter could stop the tide of emotion. By the time the function came, both were in a state of despair about the emotion that could not be contained in the situation. Although Peter most definitely did not want to upset Leanne, he also felt that he could not give in to what was, to him, a totally unnecessary and unhealthy emotional sabotage. It got to the point where Peter decided it would be a whole lot nicer for both if he slept in the spare room, away from his emotionally erratic partner, for the few nights before the function. This, of course, added a ton of fuel to the already fragile Leanne. It was a lose-lose situation.
It was lose-lose except for one thing. It is exactly how we grow. By real pain. In real situations, that matter to us. And the more we are invested in a relationship, the more pain we will feel when things don’t go harmoniously. Emotional conflict is the soil of growth. Without emotion, we are not really there. If we are not present, if we do not really care then nor will we care to take the trouble to find a resolution. In fact, it was because Leanne felt safe with Peter (safer than she had ever felt in her life), because she loved this good man, because she wanted to heal herself that all this seemingly unwarranted emotion came up. Pain is the predecessor of learning and growth as a couple and also individually. The growth is proportionate to the pain. If something is not painful, it has not hit the spot. I’m not sure how Leanne and Peter resolved this issue. They would have resolved it in some beneficial way. Having said that, given their natures, the same type of argument will probably arise in numerous forms for some time because it is one of their pivotal ones.
We want these things to hit that spot which is at the core of issues. We want those trigger points to be activated. Why is it that a partner with one passing look, one small action, one roll of the eyes, one seemingly innocuous comment can trigger a great outburst of anger which would seem inexplicable to any innocent onlooker? If we do not reach into those places that are hidden away deep inside us then nothing can get healed. Contrary to popular opinion, the primary goal of relationships is not to make us happy. Relationships make us grow. That growth will, with time, also naturally increase our happiness. Growth has a price and that’s the bit we don’t like paying. It ranges from uncomfortable to downright tortuous, depending on the issue, how deeply seated it is, how much work we have previously done on it, how resistant we are to working on it, and how much painful emotion is already attached to the issue from past experiences. At any price, it’s still a bargain.
Close or Closed
It is not unusual for one person in the relationship to lean more towards protecting the closedness and also closeness of the relationship. The other will often lean more towards encouraging the openness and also the transparency of the relationship. Who carries which responsibility will tend to be an automatic result of the nature of the individuals involved. Both movements are important and necessary. Neither is right or wrong. Both have their place. It is the balance of the two in the relationship.
Without sufficient pull inwards towards the sanctity of the couple relationship, the relationship can become lost, powerless, and vulnerable to many divisive factors (including other people). Without sufficient pull outwards into the world, we can become so selfish and inward looking as a couple that we stop growing, the relationship can become old, and the people involved can become suffocated with their own togetherness. The pull outwards expands emotional boundaries, pushing the love that is in the couple’s hearts out into the world. It is inclusive and finds ways to share the couple’s central love with the world and with life itself. However, too much moving outwards and we can forget who our partner is or even that we have a partner. Too much moving inwards and we can die from lack of air.
Although it is usually unconscious, the individuals within a couple actually rely on their partners to fulfil the roles that come most naturally to them. Sometimes, we may think it is the last thing we want because it seems to bring us pain. In fact, we drew that person into our life because our soul knows what we need to balance ourselves and what we need in order to progress in life in the best possible way. And so, for all our whinging and complaining, the other person is often doing precisely what we need them to do for our own long term well-being. We cannot go too far wrong if we do not run away in fear, if we persevere with our heart’s leadings, if we try again for the hundredth time to help some issue move forward. We may have pain but we will not die from inertia and stagnation.
This article is from Love’s Longing