Relationships are tricky. They can really trigger our stuff. Why is that? I mean, if we love someone, we should find him or her to be compatible, yes? As a couple, you blend, they zig when we zig and they zag when we zag.
Yeah, the stuff of fairy tales.
But come to think of it, fairy tales have bad witches and wolves who render the protagonist helpless, trapped, uncertain, afraid. But in the end, there’s always some way in which the protagonist sources within him or herself to create the happy ending.
And perhaps that’s the point. Relationships are about sourcing within ourselves. Finding the ways in which we resonate with others – for the good and the not so good.
Recently I’ve worked with a married couple – both individually coming for sessions. They’ve been married a long time, had struggles from the beginning. They genuinely care about and for one another, and they’re each really clear about what needs resolving in the other person.
As I’ve listened to both of them and watched their energy, I realized that they each are carrying an archetypal pattern of wanting, needing change in the other person for them to be happy within themselves and with each other.
These two precious people are not unique in this dance. Lots of marriages and partnerships exist in this dynamic. It’s simply the dynamic is so poignantly clear with the two of them. Why? Who knows? Perhaps it’s because of the longevity of their relationship. Or maybe it’s up for me to notice and observe right now. (I see a lot of couples in my practice.) Perhaps it’s because my own marriage of 20 years has experienced periods of time where we each felt the other needed to change to regain compatibility.
What’s tricky about that perspective – the focus on other and the work that is required to achieve equilibrium – is that we miss our own process, our own demons, our own work.
And in so doing, we fool ourselves into thinking that another partner might be better for us. Or that a new location will fix things. Or that we’ll never be happy because he or she is the source of our unhappiness.
Returning to our fairy tales, somehow, someway the hero sources within to find the way out – out of the pit, the morass, the bad guy’s clutches, the evil stepmother’s machinations.
So when we’re facing a relationship where the other’s behaviors are untenable, must change for us to be happy, we have to take radical action.
The radical action we need to take is to go within. What are we attracting in our relationship with our partner? What are we engaging, cultivating within ourselves that is generating this response, this behavior from other? What can we acknowledge, own and release within ourselves that shifts the space and the arena for how we engage with our significant other? [Please note, I am not advocating turning within in abusive, dangerous situations. Those call for immediate action – get out, move out, move on.]
When I see how much energy and focus is directed at what’s wrong or needs to change in someone else, I always invite the individual to pick up the work of sourcing within. Meeting the relationship with self as the playground and meeting space for generating relationships with others.
And clearing anything that stands in the way of a balanced, authentic, partnered relationship with others.
Now, sometimes, this means being the bigger person. And that’s work in and of itself! The other person is behaving poorly, antagonizing, rubbing salt in old wounds – being a total pain in the, er, neck. And you have to be the bigger person? Seriously?
Seriously. When a relationship is stuck in a well-worn groove, someone has to shift the game, the dynamic, the way of operating. Then both people can find themselves in a new space/place/grace. And in so doing, they generally find their partner in the new space/place/grace as well.
So suck it up, take one for the team, look within and clear your resentment, anger, control needs, judgments, antagonism, perspective, righteousness or whatever you’re carrying that keeps the game the same.
And then, from that inward focus, observe. What are you bringing to the relationship that’s new, evolved, spacious, expansive, inviting, evoking? And how does your partner respond?
Keep your vital energy flowing…