This morning, I awoke feeling like I was being bathed in gratitude. I am grateful for a lot of things. Some more mundane like a safe and warm home and plenty of food to eat. Others are more expansive like my eternal gratitude for the grace that continues to come my way. What really warms me and fills my heart is the abundant appreciation for my relationship with my husband. I don’t mean in a romantic sense, although certainly I cherish that. I am so thankful because during our 28 years together, we work, struggle, change, and expand as individuals and as partners. We create healthier, happier, and more supportive relationships – with our own selves and one another. I know that each day that he is in my life is a gift; not because I have a partner, because of who he is and how we are together. In light of two family members loosing their partners of 25 and 34 years within the last year, I am thankful for another day with his presence knowing that anything and everything can change without warning.
It really doesn’t matter if a relationship is romantic, a best friend, or family; what matters is whether you allow yourself to take the risk of genuine intimacy. Intimacy for some can be the most terrifying thing one faces. What I know, is that for me, I need an intimate relationship with myself. This requires ongoing growth which can be challenging to another party in a relationship. Often, we think that our moods are vulnerable and shapeable by how another treats us. We act out our feelings of rejection, insecurity, and so on hoping, whether consciously or not, that another can ease our suffering. We hope that we can avoid jumping off the cliff of genuine intimacy with our own selves by soliciting another’s compliance with our denials and defensiveness. Behaving reflexively, we start to create and solidfy unconscious cycles of reactivity that can take years to identify and transform into healthier models. Shifting from dysfunctional to genuine respect and equanimity develop from mindfulness, honesty, and understanding. Unless you are lucky enough to be born enlightened, that means effort, stamina, and perseverance; in other words, work.
My husband and I have had many adventures and a long journey together which I hope continues. Some are stormy, a few are calm, and many are simply coping. The reason that we are together is not because of some romantic fantasy that we are “soul mates”, “meant for one another”, or we avoid one another. It is simple: We are together because we work at it! We make the effort to open, learn, grow, and create a mutually beneficial and life supportive relationship with our own selves. We take the risk of being mentally, emotionally, and spiritually intimate. Intimacy allows our relationship as partners to reflect and embody our individual psychological and spiritual growth. As we attempt to accept and let go of judging our own selves and stop expecting another to make us feel loved and worthy, we expand our ability to reflect loving kindness and support.
I think that there are three identities in a relationship: us, them, and the relationship itself. Even though it is never my intention to change another, when I require continued growth on my part, it requires a relationship to evolve as well. As with all life; birth, death, and rebirth can run the full range of experience from effortless to crisis and pain. I am grateful for my relationship with my husband because we evolve individually which allows our relationship to deepen, lighten, and create space for greater joy and happiness. In other words, he chooses to embark on his own journey which enables him to show up for our relationship. We don’t necessarily grow at the same pace or in the same manner, but we share our experiences. We expand our awareness to include each other as unique individuals sharing a common experience. Frustration and disappointment give way to appreciation, joy, and happiness. Genuine support is born. Loving kindness gains momentum. Souls mingle. Gratitude soars.