ASK ABDI: WHY ARE RELATIONSHIPS SO DAMN HARD?
QUESTION: I am in a long-term relationship, which has not been easy. My girlfriend and I constantly fight and feel disengaged. There are many issues that include financial as well as lack of physical intimacy. We love each other very much, but we really have a hard time connecting. We have broken up many times over the years, but never fully disconnect and end up back together.
So… yesterday I told her I was done, that I couldn’t keep dancing around things and that we need to separate. But then it happened again, she threatened me with never seeing her again if I walked out the door. That stopped me in my tracks and we agreed to try again, to try to find a new way together. I laugh at myself now. I am so outsmarted in this situation. And it’s so not about smarts. It’s about the struggle, as you say, to put myself more at the center, and then dare to stay. Such a hard place for me to sustain. I feel like an idiot. And the odd thing is, after all that, all my love came pouring back. She was shattered, but still standing. And I loved her all the more for that.
So here I am. I can’t connect head to heart and body and act in a way that’s consistent with either. All that said, something has shifted. Hard to describe what it is. Maybe I’m finally fully in it. Probably I’m deluding myself about that… Why are relationships so damn hard? Why can’t I make a decision and stick to it?
ANSWER: Be gentle with yourself, relationships are difficult. You have done well, and you are in it wrestling and trying to figure it out, which is all that is needed. Some of us go through this with a number of different people and some with the same person several times. It is brutal either way, but the lessons have to be delved into and learned.
On the highest level, it is not about leaving or staying, but rather remaining conscious and observing the places we betray ourselves. There are no victims nor perpetrators, a relationship is two people working on deep wounds and healing them. Done consciously, there is no more fruitful endeavor. Many of us tend to phone it in, projecting all sorts of material on our partner while contorting ourselves as much as possible so we are kept safe and hidden. Of course, one is safe in a coffin but also not living.
You say, “the odd thing is, after all that, all my love came pouring back”. Actually that is far from odd and what happens when we let our guards down. There is an opening there for you: examine what allowed your heart to open. We are always most open in our way in or out of a relationship. The reason for that is due to the fact that defense mechanisms for both individuals are down at those times. When starting or ending a relationship - we are not as guarded. That is why our hearts are more open and why the sex can be so good. It takes much hard work to stay that way while we are actually in them. We need to constantly risk revealing ourselves while in the relationship, not only in the joy of their beginnings or the relief at their endings.
A relationship is about learning to find our core and not abandoning it while we are engaged. Behaviors like caretaking, instead of caring, are one of the ways we abandon ourselves while feeling noble. And alone. We come here alone and leave alone. In the brief time that we do walk on this plane - it is all about learning to hear our song. The harsh self-judgment is the flip side of the coin that stays in the shadow dance and unconsciously stays asleep. Work on observing your pattern without judgment. We all have them, if that makes you feel any better. It is only through that fine act of balancing that we can see clearly. Always remember that a conscious relationship starts and ends with us learning to understand what truly feeds us. Yes, “the commitment must be complete”, but that starts with a commitment to ourselves, not the other.
The times when we feel we HAVE to make a decision are the times we need to relax and be present without manipulation. This is similar to when one rides a motorcycle in the desert at high speed. One has to be fully present, have a firm grip on the bars, but not white-knuckle it with a death grip. The posture is relaxed, but conscious. The handle bars constantly deflect off of rocks and hard objects, but with a steady throttle hand - the bike stays upright and moves in the direction we are looking at. And here is a key: one always has to look where one wants to go and not at the rocks. That is a sure way of ending up on our ass on the very rock we are staring at and trying to avoid. Relationships are a long desert race, not a sprint on a motocross track. Nourish yourself so you have the stamina to last the race. In order to get the promised goods, we do need to sort ourselves out in them when possible. Lastly, don’t forget to smell the desert roses along the way, regardless of the difficulty of the terrain.