My husband is going to Hawaii without me or our children for a week! It’s a really important training with his mentors and it didn’t work out for us both to go. But it’s not fair! I have to stay home with the kids for a week, make three meals a day and do all of the cleaning while he is in paradise. I am pissed. Resentful. He shouldn’t go if I can’t go. I punish him. I cry and yell. He is really great about it even though I still think he is a jerk. He listens to me with empathy and concern but he does not change his mind. He is really honoring what he feels is correct for himself even though it is really, really hard for me.
I start looking deeper at why this is so painful for me. I see that somewhere down deep I think that he is abandoning me and it is bringing up old pain for me. For the first time in my life I totally allow all of the anger, sadness and even hatred to just be there. I don’t talk myself out of the feelings or try to find the enlightened point of view right away. I just stay with the feelings and really feel them. Mostly, I am being responsible with my feelings and thoughts and taking a lot of space so that I don’t lash out at anyone. After a couple of days, the feelings start to disappate and shift. I start to feel compassion, understanding and love for him again. It is a relief to us both. We go deeper into our connection than perhaps ever before. Why? I am not really sure. I think, in part, because something inside of me was able to heal and grow up because I made space for it. The other reason I think our relationship is going to be stronger is because this process is helping us become more differentiated.
During one of the most intense times of this process, I picked up a book that I hadn’t looked at in a couple years. Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, Ph.D. It was just what I needed. Here are a couple of quotes from the book that spoke to me:
“Differentiation involves balancing two basic life forces: the drive for individuality and the drive for togetherness. Individuality propels us to follow our own directives, to be on our own, to create a unique identity. Togetherness pushes us to follow the directives of others, to be part of the group. When these two life forces are expressed in balanced, healthy ways, the result is a meaningful relationship that doesn’t deteriorate into emotional fusion.”
“Differentiation is your ability to maintain your sense of self when you are emotionally and/or physically close to others-especially as they become increasingly important to you.”
“When we have little differentiation, our identity is constructed out of what is called a reflected sense of self. We need continual contact, validation and consensus (or disagreement) from others. This leaves us unable to maintain a clear sense of who we are in shifting or uncertain times. Because our identity depends on the relationship, we may demand that our partner doesn’t change so that our identity won’t either.”
Before all of this started, I had thought that my husband and I had one of the healthiest, happiest relationships that I knew of. And maybe we do. But I was able to see some emotional fusion that I had not before. He was breaking out of our normal relationship pattern by following his own directive, as Schnarch might say. This change scared me. What if I started doing everything I wanted without consider his feelings and needs? Surely we would split up. This was fear talking.
What is true for me is that there is no real security to be found in another person or a relationship. My husband could go to Hawaii, fall in love with someone else and divorce me. And I would be okay. Actually, I would be great because I have so many blessings and so much love in my life, though I imagine I would have some grieving to do. So do I want to try to control him, try to keep things the status quo so there is less chance he will leave me? No! I want him to follow his truth and his passion and I will enjoy (or intend to enjoy) every minute that I do get with him.
Does this mean that we are each going to do whatever we want without considering the other person’s needs? Definitely not. We each continue to be very interested in what the other person wants and feels. It seems that we are reaching a new level of how to be very close, while also honoring our own truths and directives. I feel like this will give our relationship more longevity and make each of our lives more fulfilling. I am extremely grateful for the support that I received on many levels to go through this beautiful healing and maturing. Thank you for witnessing me.
I would recommend to anyone who would enjoy deeper intimacy and/or less conflict or emotional fusion in their relationships (with partners, children, or any other relationship) check out Passionate Marriage, by David Schnarch.
Blessings on your path!