Risking for Deeper Relationship
Heather has been with Tim for three years. She loves him, feels he is her closest friend, and spends most of her free time with him, yet from the beginning of their relationship, she has had the annoying feeling that Tim was not her life partner. She feels a sacred part of her being is not seen by him, her innermost feelings not shared with him, a sadness of missing an intimacy she has known before.
She shared with us how comfort, security and the habit of being together had lulled her to sleep and had allowed her to settle for less than she felt she deserved. She felt ending the romantic/sexual part of the relationship would be very difficult and yet would be one of the greatest gifts she could give to herself. Now one might think, perhaps Heather is being unreasonable, placing too high an expectation upon her relationship. Like the song goes, “Love the one your with.”
Perhaps if only she could open more to Tim’s greatness, his life partner-ness… Yet from experience we know the vital importance of risking to follow the promptings from within, however confusing in the mind. In Heather’s case, only if we are willing to risk losing something precious, can something even more precious be found. If Heather can risk losing Tim as a lover, by ending the romantic/sexual part of their relationship, she will have a greater chance of seeing more clearly what her real connection is with him, whether it be a life partner or a friend.
After Heather takes this first risk and backs away from the security blanket of involvement with Tim, she may feel the peace of making the right decision. Or she may be faced with a second risk. She may feel a yearning to be with him, a yearning from a deeper place within her soul. Her mind might think she is only missing the security blanket. Her next risk is to explore this yearning, to find out what it really is. Some would call this a “yo-yo,” bouncing back and forth in a fickle manner. We call this learning to listen to the voice of the soul. It doesn’t matter how long this process takes. It is the vital education of the soul, which is what we are doing here on earth.
In Light in the Mirror, I share my risk of marrying Joyce. It was a huge risk for me. I was terrified of commitment (my synonym: entrapment). I did feel a yearning to be with Joyce, but my mind screamed out in rebellion. In our case, Joyce took the first risk. She made plans to go on with her life — without me. I then risked listening to that gentle yearning in my soul, and asked her to marry me. I was scared and exhilarated at the same time.
Of course, starting or ending a relationship are just one set of risks that can be taken. Another giant risk I took (also written about in Light in the Mirror) involved choosing to make my relationship with Joyce more important than my medical career. Saying the words is one thing, but actually choosing to give up my psychiatric residence in Portland, OR so I could remain with Joyce who had a fulfilling career in Southern CA, was taking a real risk. As it turned out, Joyce was so moved by my willingness to give up my career for her, that she took the risk of quitting her job to learn new life lessons in Oregon.
There are many other ways we fail to take risks in our relationships. Perhaps the most common is simply taking our partner for granted, assuming this person will always be there. Allow yourself to imagine your loved one not being there with you. This might help you to more appreciate him or her, to take the risk of speaking or showing your gratitude or appreciation. Many of us don’t feel comfortable doing this. Why? It makes us feel too vulnerable, too open to being rejected or abandoned. So rather than showing our appreciation, we stay in our comfort zone and try to protect ourselves from too much vulnerability. Yet “the risk to be vulnerable is the risk to love” (from Risk To Be Healed).
Then there is the risk to bring more newness to your relationship. It becomes so easy to fall into ruts, doing the same things every day. Risk doing different things as a way to stretch yourself and your relationship. Take classes together, read a new book out loud to each other, vacation in a totally different place, agree upon a spiritual practice to do together each day, volunteer together for a service project in your community. There is no limit to the outer and inner adventures you can share with your loved one.
Perhaps most important is the risk to bring depth to your relationship. We recommend periodic couples counseling sessions even if you are having no obvious difficulties in your relationship. Why? It’s an opportunity to go deeper into your connection. Couples retreats can bring healing and renewal. Emotional honesty with your partner will bring deeper vulnerability. In short, we urge you to spend quality time with one another. You and your relationship are worth it.