May 30, 2021 7:10:33 pm
Last week, I spoke with a lady on a phone consultation. She was articulate, mature, collected and reflective. She sounded so calm that I strained into my pods to listen carefully, wondering what could be the concern with such a certain and restrained voice.
She declared she wanted out of her marriage of many years. She explained how it had been a loveless marriage and I started to converse to declutter and dig around for indications of plausible reasons.
She mentioned her husband was a good person but never matched up to the one she had always imagined, wanted and dreamed of. She missed the love she had always yearned for, feeling the clock ticking. That if she did not get out, she may well lose her chance of finding that perfect, passionate and charming lover of her dreams.
So many of us get married imagining special moments — like in movies, fantasies and conversations — forming blueprints of how marital life should be, feeling overwhelming joy, belonging and anticipation. These moments are like cold mountain fog that keep the romance and mystery of warm longings alive, while hiding from plain view the eventual realities of relationships. We make concrete ideas of love with clouds of imagination and longing that is bound to dissipate as we get closer.
We step into the world of matrimony with the weight of imaginations of romantic nights, bright mornings with breakfast-in-bed, families showering us with blessings and our life fragrant with love tales and perfection.
A couple married for 22 years — with near-adult children — called in a few weeks ago saying they could not live together anymore. The reason was they had never been able to love and accept each other. With kids having left home for university, they had nothing to share and be together for. They bickered and dissed each other, brimming with frustration and anger. I could see their distress, pain and other negative emotions pouring out of rigid, unmet expectations and impossible demands, being able to trace backwards through a webbed maze to the treasure chest of deeply ingrained fantasies of how love, respect and togetherness should be.
The bitter truth is, our wants and aspirations stemming out of irrational beliefs cannot be satisfied. The problem is not having them, it is when they become unshakable ideas for defining a good relationship, in the face of which, reality falls short of the perfectly-painted fantasy.
One can argue relationships suffer for several other reasons like abuse, addictions, childhood trauma, financial issues and diagnosable clinical disorders. Upon reflection, however, causes of conflicts — such as intimacy failure, emotional or sexual infidelity, communication barriers or a severe lack of it, inability to respect boundaries and adjustment to differences in values and priorities — can be cured with consistent reality and rationality checks.
Following are five tiny pebbles I wish to use, to create ripples in your mind, shake things up a bit and reflect if stagnancy in your mind is causing distress in your relationship.
1. My partner “must be” a certain way for me to be happy. My happiness depends upon how he ought to be, how she must treat me, and that if they don’t, the relationship is not good. Breaking down these rigid thoughts and replacing them with flexibility, acceptance and empathy can be a healing balm not just for the relationship, but also for the self.
2. If my partner and I are truly in love, we should agree with each other on things. We often forget we are different entities with different pasts, learning experiences and stories. Recognising diversity and valuing its presence is a key goal for healthy relationships.
3. My partner should be willing to change for me. We believe we are so enchanting and our love so mesmerising that our partner must be willing to go to any lengths to accommodate effortlessly, without complaining. Letting go of control and the need for another to change to fit a mould results in humility and acceptance, becoming a strong foundation for healthy relationships.
4. All my dreams must come true, and if they haven’t he/she/life has failed me. Indulge in and enjoy concocting tales, creating dreams, directing movies and painting fantasies. This is a very healthy and fulfilling exercise for our brains and hormones. Developing a conscious filter to differentiate between imaginary and real-life pleasures, which need us to make healthy mindful and rational choices in perceptions enabling us to see beauty in our reality, however, can empower us to achieve healthy relationships.
5. Intimacy, passion and chemistry are always a natural consequence of “true love”, these must never need effort. Intimacy, whether emotional or physical, requires intention, effort and resolve and as much as all of us hopeless romantics want to reject it, embracing this reality can create, nurture and strengthen our bonds.