It is 2:30 in the morning and I just got off the most remarkable call with one of my clients. Yes. You read that right.
I got a text message reaching out for help in the middle of a late-night relationship challenge and I felt compelled to answer the call. I am so glad that I did because not only do I LOVE helping couples navigate challenges right in the heat of the moment, but I also shared some advice with them that I know will be powerful for many of you.
With their blessing, I wrote about what they experienced so we can all benefit from what is unfolding between them. Because of the nature of their experience I have changed the names for privacy.
My clients are an amazing couple who were totally and powerfully swept away by their intense love for one another and, of course, the promise that this was truly 'the one' and they would live happily ever after. As with any time when love comes on so powerfully, I knew they were in for a challenge as love would surely bring them all the rest...
The woman, we will call her 'Jessica', called me and was totally hysterical. They had just had an argument, in fact, they had been arguing a lot lately and she was getting scared that maybe she had opened her heart too easily and had surrendered to a man who really may not be as 'conscious' as she had hoped. He was defensive and angry and he wasn't willing to see or take responsibility for his patterns that were getting in the way of them connecting.
Mid-way through our conversation, the man, we'll call him 'James', came home and joined the conversation with his side of the story. He felt she was hardening, focusing constantly on her work and not creating a space for their love to be nourished. Because of this, often when stuff would come up between them he would not feel safe, he felt she was coming at him with a hard energy and making him wrong for his feelings.
It was a big mess. They had gotten to the point where they both felt unsafe and misunderstood and they were certain that they knew what their partner was doing 'wrong' and exactly what they could do to change it and they were looping in these awful arguments as they tried to teach one another about their 'blind spots'.
I began to ask Jessica why she felt like it was her job to make sure that James understood where he was being unconscious. Eventually we unraveled that she was scared. She was scared that if he was unconscious about this small thing that came up in the argument, then some part of him was unconscious and delusional, she can't trust in or surrender to a man who is unconscious because if he does not see this now he will eventually believe something about her that is totally untrue and hurt her and essentially tear apart her life.
...once she started speaking it was clear that she was no longer talking about James.
Something magical was happening. Their love was revealing one of her deepest patterns, the one that has held her back from opening her heart fully to any man... love will do that.
You see, thing is, on some level she is right. James does have a layer of unconsciousness about what was coming up in their arguments, and that is exactly why she chose him. That unconsciousness touched a part of her that felt comfortable, that on an energetic or sub-conscious level felt familiar and safe, that likely mirrored a pattern she experienced with someone she was close to in her early life. So, when she saw this part of him it unearthed all of the times she has ever lived out this pattern. She began to see in James, every man who had ever hurt her. What she does not know is that every time this has happened in her life, she has called for it, she has called for it because of her desire to break through and allow love in.
What comes with this unearthing is a feeling of annihilation, of being completely unsafe and out of control... the thing that terrifies us the most, and the very same thing that those of us who long to be touched by true love long for.
Her natural defense is to create distance because touching the 'nerve' of this deeply rooted pattern, being faced with awakening beyond it threatens everything she knows. So, she uses the coping mechanisms she has used her entire life, since the very first time she felt this fear. She goes numb in her body, she starts to 'coach' or 'teach', she focuses on what he is doing 'wrong' and tries to 'solve' it for him, she absorbs herself in her work, she begins to shut down physically.
And it works like a charm. As she reacts this way, he feels less and less safe, becomes more angry and distant, begins to protect himself and the man that she once surrendered to is suddenly nowhere to be found. She is once again stuck with someone who is 'disconnected', 'unwilling to see his stuff' and whom she feels totally justified in closing her heart to.
And so it goes on. Pattern safely back in place. Back on track to live a life never knowing why true love seemed always just out of reach.
What a shame.
What I was able to invite both of them to do was acknowledge and become aware of this loop.
And then I told them the most important part of all:
'You both have to give up thinking that your job in this relationship is to 'transform' or 'fix' one another in ANY way, your job is simply to love. Yes, Jessica, what you are seeing in your man is real, and it's valid that you see it, and there will be moments where your greatest growth is sharing honestly with one another what you see...
Right now what we know is that he is defensive... can you love him anyway? Can you feel the discomfort that is alive in your body during these moments? This is what will transform the dynamic and let love in.'
If I know one thing it's this: 'teaching' my beloved why his behavior isn't working:
1) NEVER works
2) does not bring us closer
3) is a fancy defense mechanism of my own to allow me to steer clear of being with the uncomfortable emotions that are coming up for me in that moment.
So, here is the advice I gave them for stepping out of the loop:
*you can, and should print this out and try this at home ;)
The minute one of you gets snagged by something that feels 'unsafe' or 'off' about an interaction with your partner (the kind of moment that would usually lead to a 'fight'):
- If you feel compelled to 'call out' your partner OR 'coach them through what you see them doing' OR rage OR defend your point of view STOP --> bring the attention back to yourself. This is NOT about your partner, it's about what the story between you has to teach you about yourself. This is a blessing. Without this moment, you would never have gotten to know this part of yourself (don't use the blessing bit to bypass the intensity of your emotions please).
- Name what you are feeling in your body ~ physical sensations, for example: 'I noticed my body just got tense, my heart is pounding, my stomach hurts, I'm breathing more shallow'
- Name what you are afraid of. This one can be a bit tricky and you can begin with saying what you are feeling. For example: 'I'm feeling so angry, I'm afraid that you will never understand me'.
- Be with it and hear your partner if they have something to share (partner, please only share in this same manner for now).
- Now, put your bodies together. Yup. Forget about making your point, forget about somehow making your partner into who you want them to be, just HUG them.
- And breathe.
- The entire talking part of this exercise should only take between 5-10 minutes (which will save you a lot of time if you are currently butting heads and looping in arguments that can eat up hours).
WARNING: When you hug, especially if you are angry or hurt or any other intense emotion... it will BURN. This is PERFECT! The hug is NOT a resolution, it is not reserved for the moment when you feel close again. It is meant to be smack in the middle of the intensity that you are used to playing out in a certain way.
The opportunity is for you to make a different choice. To step right into the fire and rather than disperse all of that powerful energy that is between you as you start to touch those hot buttons, you learn to use it. To meet the intensity of the emotion and actually learn to be present to it (which is different than repressing and expressing it). By being present to it, you allow it to undo you. You let it burn. This burn is, from a Tantric perspective, literally burning away old ties, contracts with old behaviors that quite simply have been leading us away from love and awakening rather than towards it.
*Know this: I am not trying to say that there is never a time for talking it all out, there definitely is. This is one way to experiment that I have found effective. With practice and guidance, you can learn when this is the right way to approach a conflict and when other experiments will be more beneficial.
Sure you spend time watching TV together, arguing, getting the kids to bed, sharing a meal, talking about practical stuff but are you devoting enough time to love?
- Get out your calendars (especially busy people) and calendar at least 5 minutes each day to get naked and hold your beloved. This does not have to be sexy time, just time for sharing love and harvesting your connection. Little is more important than your intimate relationship, if you don't invest in the love it won't grow.
- Plan at least one hour a week that is just about loving, intimate time together. Not dinner, not a movie, not 'doing' anything but being together and enjoying, loving one another. Ideas: share a bath, go for a walk, shower your partner with kisses, give them a massage, blindfold them and caress them with rose petals... if you would like this time to include sexy time, add an additional hour.
Give this a try and let me know how it goes! I genuinely LOVE hearing about your progress and what works for you.
Just in case you are skeptical about whether or not this stuff really works…Here is what they both shared with me after our session:
“Loving you so much. We made love last night before bed and felt much better. No one else I know could have so skillfully done what you just did. Your guidance and support was absolutely invaluable.”
“Thank you for you being you and the magical work you do.
We (I) am forever grateful : )”