Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. “Not worth living” might be a bit extreme but I do agree with the sentiment as I am a self-professed life-examining junkie. Personal growth is my passion and the path of a seeker is definately not for the faint of heart. I feel the same way about relationships and there have been times when the two paths have been at odds heading for virtual destruction. Committing to one’s own path of self discovery can certainly be a scary and sometimes dangerous thing to do to a relationship. It could really monkey up the works, couldn’t it? Seekers are often faced with the question of which is riskier, staring certain change in the face or snuggling into the security of familiarity. After almost 23 years of marriage I’ve spent many hours on the fence, chewing my nails and creasing my butt while wrestling with just that question. I generally jump onto the side of change because if I’m going to suffer I’d at least like it to be productive, you know, move me forward, but sometimes it can take a while.
One of the scariest times for me came when I had been working on my self long enough to notice that my husband wasn’t really “that into” personal growth or the idea of “building a better relationship”. Building a better sailboat – yes, he was definitely interested in that, but as far as looking at himself, well let’s just say he wasn’t terribly motivated. Opening my eyes to that reality was scary (no wonder I stayed in denial so long). “How is this going to work?” I thought to myself, “Look at him he’s standing still and I’m like a shooting star blazing across the cosmos on the fast track to enlightenment! How can he possibly hang with me?! Not to mention I can’t have him holding me back!” (I actually used those words or something equally embarrassing.)
Turns out my worst fear came true. Not the fear that worried he wouldn’t get his you-know-what together but the fear that was hiding right behind it. The one that said “What if he turns to me and says, ‘You’re right, Jo, I haven’t been showing up and working on my side of this thing. I’m in and I want to join you on the path.’?” That’s what he did and the only thing I could say was….”Gulp!” Then I think I turned and ran shouting, “I was just kidding!” over my shoulder. I ran and he chased. Turns out I wasn’t as interested as I thought.
It wasn’t until a few years later when we met a wonderful therapist that I stopped running. She helped us pull our marriage out of the dumpster. I seem to remember that Wayne threw it there when he got tired of chasing me. She (the therapist) wanted to know why I was running. Good question, goooood question. She helped me sit still long enough to find out what was so scary about showing up for my marriage. The list was long, the fears were valid. (An interesting little side note, I wasn’t the only one afraid. Who knew?)
She helped us build a safe foundation of love and trust between the two of us and within ourselves so that we could truly take advantage of what a committed, creative relationship can provide. She helped us lay our fears and our judgements right there on the table. Yikes! One of my long-standing fears was “what if he’s not the “one” for me?” Another favorite was “what if we create a great connection and then he leaves me or dies? That’s going to hurt so much it will surely kill me”. We saw how our “insidious” little judgments of eachother were sucking the life out of our relationship. Maybe he didn’t feel safe when I secretly referred to him as a “Neanderthal!” I’m sure that his view of me as a “frigid flake” didn’t contribute to intimacy either. But those were real and alive inside us. We peeked around to see what was behind them and learned a lot (too much to share here!).
Ultimately our therapist gave us a place and a way to tell the truth, each our own truth. Scary business that truth telling is. Everything is risked each time the truth is told but if you can do it the rewards are incredible. The things you learn about yourself, the wounds that can be healed, the confidence you build within yourself and the way you see your mate make it all worth it. It increases your capacity for love and acceptance of yourself and others. I think that’s what we’re here for.
by Jody P.