It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
Imagine that you and your partner have gone out for the evening with another couple, or perhaps with a small group of close friends. Maybe you’re at an intimate bar, a dance place, or just out somewhere to dine.
The atmosphere and conversation are light; people are smiling, perhaps warmed by a glass of wine or two. A few hours pass, the time grows late, and the waiter – maybe hoping to start clearing the table – comes over with the check. He’s not sure who to hand it to, and so he stands there, feeling somewhat awkward.
For a moment, no one really wants to acknowledge that he’s there. Most of the party looks in every direction but his, knowing that accidental eye contact might be interpreted by him as accepting responsibility for the bill. We’ve all been “there” in these moments...and unless our bank account is so flush that we don’t care about the extra cost, and want to pay for the party, it’s a slightly uncomfortable experience.
Maybe it’s not every time, and maybe we’re the kind of person who, wanting to disarm the discomfort, steps up to handle the situation; nevertheless, most of us have felt the tension that comes over the table when payment for the evening comes due.
Finally, someone at the table reaches over, saying, “Let me have it.” At that point, he either announces, “This one’s on me” receiving the chorus of “thanks” that follows; or, he assumes the informal role of “party accountant,” figuring out what each person must contribute to make good the amount owed.
This illustration seems simple enough on the surface; we’ve all been in that situation a hundred times. But just beneath this common experience – of an evening out with friends and being required to pay our fair share for that experience – is hidden a timeless law that exists for the sake of perfecting love. The extent of its influence reaches into and touches all of our relationships, but especially when it comes to the higher kind of love we want to share with our partner.
It’s going to take some dedicated self-study to uncover and refine the riches of this celestial principle, but of this much, you may be assured: the more aware we become of this indwelling principle, including its ceaseless work to help balance and restore love in all of our relationships – the more empowered – freer – we will be to exchange patience for unkindness, understanding for blame, acceptance for rejection...even when our partner is unable to do the same.
Now, with this promise in mind, and to help us see the presence of this “celestial” principle hidden in the “common,” let’s return for a moment to our illustration of a night out with our friends.
Most would agree that when we go out to a restaurant for a nice meal, we never expect to dine or have drinks without having to pay for the services received. I understand, this seems so obvious as to not need to be stated. However, let’s look a little deeper into this same exchange from another, higher point of view.
Whenever we take a seat in a restaurant or a bar, both of us – meaning the establishment, and ourselves – have already agreed to a certain unspoken relationship: they will provide us with food and service in exchange for a mutually agreed upon sum of money that we pay at evening’s close.
This “balance due” – our “tab” not yet paid – represents a kind of momentary inequality between the establishment and us; it gave, we accepted. Services were rendered; paying our bill at the end of the evening balances our account; it reconciles any disparity between us, so that no one is indebted to the other in any way.
Now, if we take this illustration and superimpose its elements over our existing relationship with our partner, we’ll see that there are many parallels between them.
For instance, just as there’s that unspoken agreement between us and the restaurant – namely that they will do all that’s in their power to see to our contentment – so do we have a similar kind of unspoken agreement with our partner. Only in this instance, not only do we expect “prompt service” and that our partner should always be “tableside,” waiting to satisfy our needs – but, in our eyes, when they fail to do so, it breaks our agreement!
We all know, too well, that sense of being disappointed with the way our partner is performing – what it feels like to have our wishes or wants summarily dismissed, as if we amount to nothing in their eyes. And to the point of this parallel, in these moments we’re struck with a strong sense of inequality between us, because our partner has failed to give us what we imagine is owed to us. And, just in case I need to repeat one of our earlier lessons, they feel exactly the same way about us. So both of us are thinking, if not speaking it aloud: “Look at all I do for you...and this is how you treat me?”
Isn’t this a pretty fair description of what’s going on behind the scenes of most of the fights we have with our partner? Sure, there are always extenuating circumstances: some old “stew” left unresolved, like a small event from the past that started as a molehill and grew into a mountain; or maybe an unintended act of inconsideration that stirs up memories of similar treatment, turning old embers into a flame. No matter how you slice these moments of suffering, one thing remains at their center, and it always comes down to this all-important point:
What difference does it make who starts a fight if both of us leave it feeling injured, still stinging from the blow of some perceived injustice delivered by our partner?
In truth, even if we “win” the argument, we never really escape the residue of negativity created by that encounter where, buried in the remnant of our momentarily resolved differences, a pain lives on that can only be blamed on the one felt as responsible for it: our partner. So that even though the moment of contention has passed, a sense of imbalance lingers on. Each of us is still sure that the other remains in debt. They “owe” us something that can’t quite be named but that experience has proven, time and time again, can never really be “paid off” as imagined.
Here's the point: the continuing pattern of “fight and make up” isn’t going to change by itself...because the heartache and pain in our relationships is downstream from the unconscious parts of us that continue to create it. This means that no “payment” – no final apology we extract from our partner – has the power to “finally” resolve the differences we perceive as being between us. Here’s why:
No matter how many times our partner agrees to appease us with an apology, regardless of the form it takes, it is powerless to change the unconscious parts of us that resurface, or remain to find fault with them.
This last insight deserves our attention. It means that our “go-to” conclusion about what divides us can no longer be pinned on just our partner. It means the unseen root in our conflict is a set of unconscious, ever-changing demands that our partner be and do as we want them to be...in that moment!
Have you ever noticed how one day, you might feel some twinge of resentment toward your partner for not giving you the attention or affection you’re sure you need, and the next day be irritated with them for not giving you enough space! Small wonder we drive each other crazy!
Seeing the truth of this kind of pattern is the first step in being able to change it.
Now we’ve reached the point where we are ready to begin the practice of “relationship magic.” This can happen when we realize that when it comes to being partners with the one we love...each of us is responsible for whatever may be happening to both of us.
Excerpted from Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together by Guy Finley.
©2018 Guy Finley
Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
Join Panache Desai on an incredible journey that’s been specifically designed to help you discover who you really are – the person you were meant to be – empowered, engaged, and living the life that you were always meant to lead.
This monthly membership program can help you discover who you really are – the person you were always meant to be – full of hope and inspiration, empowered, engaged, and living a life that is truly without limits. $39 per month
...on all things life, wellness, love, transformation and spirituality...
PLUS! Get your FREE Guide: 12 Mindfulness Practices to a Peaceful Mind