You’ve been in a relationship for a few months, a few years or perhaps a few decades. At first s/he was “into” you. They longed to be with you and when not physically present they would text and/or call you throughout the day. When you were together it seemed that you couldn’t keep your hands off of each other. You both looked for ways to make each other smile and laugh. You thought you had found the “One”!
Over time you grew “comfortable” with each other. The “best behavior” you both had exhibited at first to impress each other is perhaps long forgotten. “Life” got in the way. Pressures at work. The never-ending commute. Friends’ and parents’, perhaps even children’s, demands for your time. That is, you both got busy picking up your life and when you’re together it doesn’t seem like you’re “together.” In fact, recently your partner has pulled away from you and you sense an imminent end to the relationship. You don’t know what to do but you “want” your partner back. Or do you?
At such times, I guide my clients to ask what appears to be a simple, but is a most profound, question: “Why do you want him/her back?” or, put another way “Why do you want to save the relationship?” The most common response is: “Because I love him/her.” This is usually said with either emphasis, as in anger, or with a stunned look as if to ask me how I could pose such a question the answer being so obvious. But the answer is rarely obvious. So, I usually follow up with another seemingly innocuous question: “What do you love about him/her?” or, “What do you mean by you love him/her?”
I very often get a blank look or a long silence if we are communicating by Skype without video or by phone. This is particularly true in instances where the partnership has been one of a long duration. It is simply the case that the longer we are with someone, the more we tend to forget the characteristics that first made us fall in love with him/her.
Aside from the spiritual side of the issue (the subject of a different post), there’s also the fact that, through our evolution, we are programmed to be part of a tribe, or of a team if you prefer. In fact, in the age of the “cave men”, to be isolated from the tribe meant certain death. That fear has been programmed into our DNA so that, when a relationship ends, we get flooded by adrenaline as our reptilian brain seeks to return to the safety of the tribe (i.e., partnership).
So, in the end, do you “love” your partner or do you “need” him/her. And if you didn’t need him/her, would you even bother trying to save the relationship? In other words, what is it about your partner that makes him/her so special or unique?
In our society, we are prone to use the phrase “I love you” without much thought or even afterthought. As such, the phrase has lost most of its powerful meaning. Love is one of our two basic emotions, the other being fear. When it is used willy-nilly, without resonance from your soul, it is empty and meaningless and your partner will sense it.
So, what do you mean when you tell your partner “I love you”? Are you really “in love” with him/her? Are you just “afraid” to be outside of a tribe? Outside of your comfort zone? And if you are “in love” with your partner, it would help to remember the traits that made you fall in love initially. It would be wise to write them down and remember them. Even tell your partner about them. But you must mean it. It must come from your soul. Just like the words “I love you” should not be used indiscriminately, the reasons you are “in love” need to come from deep within you. Often, this opens up a Pandora’s box for men as we have been taught not to be emotional lest we be perceived as weak and not worthy of being a mate. But it is in that “box” that you can get to know yourself better.
Too often we tend to cover up our fears, our perceived weaknesses, our “unworthiness.” But these emotions cannot be buried deep enough to be ignored. It is indeed wise, though hardly easy, to explore them. To bring them to light and to acknowledge them. In doing so, you may discover the true meaning of “love.”
So when you think about “saving” your partnership, it is wise to think of the reasons why. Not the superficial reasons, but the real reasons. As human beings, we have multiple levels of emotions that we tend to want to bury and ignore. There are needs, wants, desires, fears, angst, and love. These are what makes you human. These are also what makes your partner human for s/he too has the same panoply of feelings. When you take the time to truly acknowledge them you may just realize whether you “really” want to save the partnership or whether it has run its course. When you explore and communicate these feelings with your partner, it may reignite the love you first felt. If not, it may allow the both of you to let go of the partnership with grace and without hurt feelings.
Remember that a relationship is simply a way to define yourself. For without someone else to mirror you, how would you know who you are and what you stand for? So, when a relationship appears to be falling apart it is an opportunity to work on yourself, not on your partner. Because you are in charge of the focus of your thoughts and of your emotions, how you react to the energy your partner is reflecting back to you will determine whether or not a relationship grows, or dies.
As always, in love, Jean-Pierre
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