Michael and I conducted the second session of our workshop for couples last night and it was fantastic. I think we’re learning as much as the participants. It is so inspiring and humbling to witness the love, courage and openness that everyone brings to the group. And sharing this experience with my life partner, Michael, is awesome. Conducting groups and coaching people has been a lifelong dream of his and he is definitely up to the challenge. So, I asked him to write a piece for the blog this week. I’m sure you’ll love it as I do. Makes me think we may have a book in our future together!
Recently, Nancy and I had a couple over for dinner. Not people we know terribly well, particularly the wife whom neither of us had ever met. The husband is a fellow with whom I’ve had some very nice conversations over the years while riding our bicycles.
Several weeks after this warm and congenial dinner, I was talking to the husband while he worked on my bicycle. In the course of the conversation he asked what I was up to lately, and I told him that Nancy and I were conducting a workshop for couples called Imperfect Partners: Making it Work.
In response, my friend, married twenty plus years, thoughtfully remarked that it was quite evident while in our company that not only did Nancy and I get along well, but that we “worked well together.”
It’s true, we do…. But it wasn’t always that way. We’ve come a long way.
In the beginning, we went through a phase that seems to be pretty normal for couples newly in love: The excitement of getting to know each other, the thrill of being so attracted to someone who appears to be “the one,” sex, romance, meeting each other’s families, and finally, some months down the road, the inevitable really getting to know each other. And getting to know ourselves in a committed relationship.
I recall a phrase I heard years ago: “The truth will set you free; but first it will piss you off.”
The truth in this instance is that fostering and maintaining a thriving and manageable relationship requires not just love, but patience, effort, attention, discipline and work. If you’re anything like me, you might think: Not very romantic!
I wanted easy, I wanted spontaneity, I wanted what I wanted, and I wanted Nancy to know it intuitively. She admitted to wanting the same things. We agreed that we both held these expectations in all our previous relationships. It never worked.
Over the course of our relating and loving we have discovered a few things that make our relationship work, that free us from the blocks that prevent intimacy, and help keep the aliveness ever-present.
Communication is the key. Taking the time to sit down face-to-face and let each other know what we’re thinking and feeling is essential. Nothing provides clarity and intimacy like speaking one’s heart and being witnessed by one’s partner.
We affirm each other daily, with a kind word or gesture, a kiss, a hug, a thank you, to acknowledge our gratitude for our partnership and how it nurtures us individually. We take time outs when things get difficult, as they will in any relationship, allowing the heat to subside so that things can be more reasonably discussed. We plan our lives together, taking time to discuss finances, family, fun, sex, and vacations.
We also make sure that we take good care of our individual lives, so that we bring our best selves to the partnership. Sure, we continually turn to each other for support, listening, and guidance, but we don’t expect the other to be our sole source of happiness, nor do we expect that the other can “save” us from whatever individual challenges we face.
Meditation and prayer, separately and together, has become the bedrock of our relationship and a solid foundation on which our loving relationship is built. The practice of being in silence together is incredibly powerful.
All of this has led us to create the Imperfect Partners workshop. It is an acknowledgment of the power of truthful communication, the freedom of discipline, and the gift of a committed, loving partner willing to engage fully and passionately, one day at a time, in deepening and celebrating our commitment. To share this with our larger community is a joy, and only confirms that whatever or whomever we treat with care will always reward us. It is a sacred and adventurous journey.