Thursday, February 4, 2016

GATHER / a lesson in loving

This year our anniversary, five years in, felt remarkable; as in, "wait a minute, it's actually been such a long time, we should take a moment to truly honor that". Over the past five years, we've had so much life happen to us both; we've morphed, changed, been altered and somehow having each other at the end of the day is the thread that pulls us through.

I am by no means an expert on, in, or through relationships; but these are some honest observations and reflections I've made throughout the last five years of ours.

1. Give yourself and your partner permission to speak freely. We had a contract very early on, "I will never be mad at you for being honest". This has served to firmly root us in honestly, even blunt and brutal honesty that stings upon hearing, but the truth always finds a way to land, settle and resonate. It's hard to ask for honesty and then stay to hear it, but I truly believe that this is why we are still here, still together.

2. Don't let it fester. Not speaking your truth will just build up and cause resentment; trust me, we've been there, on both sides. That old adage about never going to sleep angry is so very very true. We did it once, about 3 months in, and it was a very lonnnngggg night in the dark.

3. Remind them that you love them; with all the scars, flaws, and insecurities. Let your partner know you love them because of those things. We are all weird and scared and hoping to be loved.This is a constant practice and a forever reminder. We need to hear these things, all of the time.

4. Take down your walls - Look, I know they're there because you built them: to keep something or someone out, to shore up your defenses for the agony of experience, but the beauty about our ability to create is also our choice for destruction. Someone is worth letting down that wall for. And loving without the walls is filled with miraculous wonder among new nicks and scratches, but your heart can manage without all the protection.

5. At the end of day, I know deep in my bones that this man; the one that I fall asleep next to every night, the one who breaths in soft whispers, the one that holds my hand, and challenges me and fills me to the brim and is the only one I want to be in trenches next to. The battles will come, they always do, but I know that I'd rather be with him than on my own.

6. Family is complicated, and difficult, and messy, and so-far from perfect. But we only have the one, and if we are lucky, we get to create our own. This has been such a huge area of stretching and growing for me. It's helped me access patience, where I thought miles existed. It's help me find new and deeper ways of supporting from a loving distance. It's helped me learn how to navigate language in unfamiliar and sticky situations. It's shown me that intimacy and trust must be earned and sometimes aren't so easily given. It's a work in progress, but I've got the rest of my life to keep on trying.

7. Listening is as important as being heard. Let them talk, acknowledge them and then just listen. I know it's hard: something is on the tip of your tongue, you want them to know what you're thinking, you really really need to speak. Trust me, it can wait, and if you're anything like me, you need to listen more. Stop interrupting; your time to be heard will be honored when you need it. This is a major work in progress for me, but when I take the time to really listen, he softens into me.

8. You are enough. You really are. It's taken a lot of soul searching and I think I am still in the space of learning how to re-charge my own batteries before helping others. I have gotten lost in loving, taking care of, supporting, and engaging with my partner; it's something chronic and deeply rooted and I am working on it. But I came to realize that when I speak to myself in a kind, loving, and supportive voice, I am able to love bigger and harder and more. It comes way more easily when I've put my own oxygen mask first.

9. Take an interest. Be your partner's champion. Be their biggest fan. I know that I feel the most comforted in my relationship when he acknowledges how far I've come, all the insecurities I've conquered, and the life goals I've crushed. We really just want to know that you're proud of us. We are proud of you.

10. Love, love, love, and then dig deeper and love them even more. After five years, through life's trials and errors, new beginnings and excavating old wounds, remember that they entrusted you with their fragile and oh so tender heart and so did you, to them. That's a lot of responsibility and such an honor to behold and bear witness too. Just love them, with everything you've got and make sure to love yourself too.

What have been the your difficulties? Where do you find ease? How to you get all touchy feeley together? Do you have misunderstood moments? Do you get vulnerability hangovers? How have you deepened the intimacy?

These are the questions I ask myself and the questions I hope to always be answering. I think the beauty of loving someone a long time is the unwavering sense of questioning; of always seeking to uncover who they are becoming and to be loved that way in return.

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