Monthly Archives: January 2012

Is there a secret?

Someone close to me once asked me what the secret is to my happy marriage. I had to really reflect on that.  It’s a question that is at once so mufti-faceted it’s too big for words and so simple I can’t believe we struggle so hard with it. Yet, I went through 3 heart-breaking divorces and a couple of pretty emotionally unsatisfying relationships before I found my answer to the secret.

I told my friend I can only share what is true for me. It is difficult to encapsulate in one small article the joy I feel each morning when we start the day together over a cup of coffee. It’s not the coffee, or even any special conversation we share that makes it such an important moment. It’ s more like it’s a sacred ritual of our togetherness, an affirmation of our “beingness.” A simple thing – yet, too big for words.

At the heart of it is a sense of complete acceptance for who we are as individuals – that’s what makes the synchronicity of us an incredible experience. So the most basic, simple truth of a successful relationship with another is having a successful relationship with yourself. Why? Your partner is your best mirror.

Think about it. Can you see what you look like if you don’t look in a mirror? No. Being in relationship with another, loving another, is really about getting to know yourself. And if you don’t like what is being reflected back to you, it’s typical to blame it on the mirror. Does that mean that all relationships should be endured because if we are unhappy, it’s our own fault? Good heavens, no!

It’s a two-way street and sometimes people are simply not ready, willing or prepared to be self-honest enough, and vulnerable enough to deeply love another – or let themselves be deeply loved. Most likely, it’s because they don’t like their own reflection. So the simple part of the equation is what is your relationship with yourself? If it’s good, you’ll have enough self-respect to know when a relationship is doing you more harm than good.

I hear so many say they want their life-partner to be, do, have – and then rattle off this lengthy list of their perfect partner’s characteristics and life status. But never do I hear anyone follow that up with, “and this is what I will offer someone like that.” Why would your perfect partner be attracted to you? What would they love about you? What will you bring to or contribute to your perfect relationship? And that includes whatever baggage or unhealed parts you would be bringing along with you. Can you honestly face your own darkness? If not, you won’t like it when your partner reflects it back to you.

Until you can answer those questions with enough self-honesty to acknowledge and accept your own “icky” parts and take responsibility for healing them yourself, your knight in shining armor will always end up falling off the horse. My husband and I joke that one of the keys to our success is that our inner, wounded children play well together. The reason for that is that we have good boundaries. We know what baggage is our own and don’t expect our partner to fix it for us. We accept each other for who we are in all of our unhealed glory – and we each take responsibility for doing our own work to heal – to become the individuals we want to be.

Does that mean we never have bad days? Not at all. We get grouchy, grumpy, gritchy, bitchy and impatient with each other all of the time. We are both extremely head-strong, stubborn people. The trick is that we know that about ourselves and can often begin to laugh at ourselves even in the midst of our grumbling. And if we can’t, we agree to shut up and walk away until we can play nicely together again. We each have or own demons and deal with them differently. He usually disappears to the nearest pub (maybe it’s an Irish thing, like his heritage).  It took time, but I came to realize he’s not leaving me when he does that. He’s hiding from his own pain and from the part of himself he is uncomfortable sharing with me. When I stopped taking that personally and quit resisting, he did it much less. It takes huge trust to be so vulnerable we can share our icky parts.

The other amazing thing is that we have survived some pretty low and desperate times when other couples might have caved. That’s where the commitment part comes in. It’s also recognizing that all things must pass – the good and the bad times come and go. So again, it’s back to having such a strong core within yourself – that place that is whole and complete within your own heart that anchors you so you can survive whatever the waves of life’s ocean toss your way.

The anchor can never be anything outside of yourself. If so, it will be torn away in a bad storm. So do you have to be healed, whole and perfect before you can experience happiness in love? Nope. If you wait for that, you’ll be waiting longer than a lifetime. It’s just being committed enough to yourself that you agree to “own” your own stuff and not expect your partner to make it all better for you. That’s not their job. Ultimately, loving you is your job and belongs to no one else. When you recognize that, you’ll be ready to accept that loving gift from another when it is offered. And the great news is that our partner also reflects our goodness. The better our self-relationship, the better we’ll be able to recognize and accept the good stuff, too.

For me, fulfilling relationship came when I realized I didn’t really need it and wasn’t looking for it. I don’t “need” my husband but I sure do cherish him. And everyday when we have our morning coffee I realize how very grateful I am that he’s there. And my prayer is that everyone who truly wants to will find that simple joy, too. 

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The Unspoken Moment

True Heart Connection often happens without words. Experiencing and inspiring those moments is my passion and my joy. These rare and precious happenings often occur randomly and cannot be forced or manipulated. One of these precious moments for me came from what many would consider an unusual source.

I have four step-children with my current husband. Two of them come from a previous, 20-year marriage. In my mind, 20 years of family experiences simply cannot be erased or negated, but deserve to be honored. And while they were an unsuccessful couple, they remained an extremely successful family. They continued to co-parent as their children grew and eventually, life drew us all together.

We now share our holidays as an extended family unit. We also all share a passion for music and Karaoke singing is always a big part of our gatherings. We take turns and the performances range from the hilarious with accompanying dance moves, to the heartfelt. Speaking of the latter, the girls’ mom took a turn singing with her eldest daughter. As I listened to the words from “The Loving Time,” by Mary Black- a beautiful ballad about passionate love without a happily-ever-after ending- I felt chills along my spine. I turned to look at the youngest daughter who was listening beside me – our eyes held for a moment. The song as the story of their parent’s love, and my own past loves, rang true and touched me deeply. It was also true for her having just ended a deep and significant relationship in her life. There was as much, if not more, said between us in that one unspoken moment than we have shared in all our years of knowing each other.

It gave me such great joy to experience that with her. All of the sadness and pain from both experiences, her recent loss and the divorce of her parents, was there in her eyes. What I felt was empathy with that from my own past, but way beyond that was the joy in sharing such an intimate, vulnerable moment.

It deepened the bond I already feel with her and her mom. It is strange, perhaps, but a bond of women who have all survived heartache and loss and found an inner strength and eventual return to harmony goes beyond the boundaries of ex-wife, step-mom, or step-daughter.

In the experience of a life where we dare to love passionately, deeply, to whatever end; we break through barriers to find true, magnanimous love. I am more grateful than I can say to be sharing this life and the love we all share for the same man with these amazing women. We each love in our own way. Like the different flavors from Tillamook, it’s all still ice cream. Whether it’s wife-husband, father-daughter, or the love from a friendship born of surviving the loss of a 20-year marriage, it’s still love. And for me, I get to add that bond of woman-to-woman respect and love. It comes from knowing we have all cried the tears of troubled times and rediscovered the joys of great ones.

As we bring in the New Year, find a quiet moment to reflect on the Unspoken Moments in your life. Who inspired them for you? Were yours, like mine, perhaps from an unexpected source? Let your heart be filled with the gratitude from the privilege of sharing that precious moment.

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