Working Through Intimacy

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.  If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” — Dalai Lama XIV

All relationships have a pattern. Well almost. As much as we promise ourselves after each experience “this is the last time I will let this effect me so deeply”, we promptly go back to the same reaction/space the moment the situation gets recreated. Romantic love is beautiful, but no matter how full the moon that first night, no matter how many willows are weeping and birds singing your song, you can’t build years of relationship on that lovely, fragile foundation and spend nights whispering sweet nothings in each others ears.

There are plenty of roads that can lead to disappointment. But the heaviest traffic probably turns up on the one traveled by people in search of love. Consider the plight of Vikram and Sakshi, a couple in their  late 30s who found each other at a mutual friend’s party. Both successful professionals moving steadily forward in their careers—he as a creative director in an advertising agency who also played bass in a leading band, she with a big job in the media, producing documentary films for a television channel.

When their eyes first met, the din of the party seemed to recede and the room light up for the two of them with a glow of promise. After a few months of Friday and Saturday nights together, they moved in with each other. Within a year, marriage felt right to both of them.

But marriage turned out to be a good deal more than they had bargained for. As singles living together, they’d conducted their lives separately. When they dined together, it was usually in restaurants. Now someone had to shop and cook, clear the table and organise the daily chores. Not to mention the mad dash to the gym every night.  It became more and more difficult to find time for making love. They were both too tired anyway.

The extraordinary experience of romantic love conveys the feeling that “the two of us are as one.” But the daily tasks of living together can quickly dissolve couple of notions that they have found such a perfect union. As their different rhythms and preferences emerge in the course of living together, each comes to feel that the other may not be, after all, the ideal partner who brings salvation from loneliness, deprivation, a sense of personal inadequacy, or other anxieties of the solitary self. “You are not who I thought you were,” they tell each other. And from the depths of this disappointment, they often turn to accusing each other of deception, selfishness, or worse.

Disappointment is a stage of love nearly every serious intimate relationship—probably every one that lasts longer than overnight—has to struggle with. It may strike suddenly or build up slowly, but once the battling begins, it can assume tragic proportions for a couple trying to make a life together.

Falling in love leads to such Herculean expectations of happiness that it can feel like the discovery of Eden. But falling out of fairyland with regularity also seems to be our lot.  There’s nothing like your mind playing games that you have yet again failed at love and that if this relationship does not work, will I ever find one that does?

Unfortunately, most of us grow up thinking, “love is easy or effortless” and the thought of working on a relationship itself is perceived as a tedious task. We hesitate in our hearts and minds to “work through it” because relationships that require work are difficult relationships. Thanks to the information we pick up during our growing years through movies or books, where love is all about oneness, sunsets and did I forget to mention easy. Boy meets girl, falls in love and they zoom off somewhere lovely!

Truth be told, the best relationships are constantly effort in motion. Couples who have perfect relationships have mastered the art of managing each others expectations simply because they love each other enough to roll up their sleeves and deal with what they have. They recognise that they are different individuals who have chosen to live together and accept that there will be differences in their outlook. This is where maturity comes to play. To be able to step back and know that the one you love deeply also has flaws.

At all times being empathetic with each other does the magic. Empathy helps turn anger into sorrow. When sorrow becomes mutual, it begins to erase the lines drawn in the sand. Only then does the possibility of apology and forgiveness become real. I consider this sequence—anger, sorrow, apology, forgiveness—one of the most important developmental passages in marriage or in therapy with couples because it is a prerequisite for the restoration of innocence and trust.

I also think at times it’s good to be disappointed early on in a relationship – it gives you time to realign your expectations and your partners. Plus disappointment has a future; depression doesn’t. There is no where to go if you are already at the end of the story. With disappointment, the plot is still taking shape, even though there may be hard work to do learning to tolerate the unknown of the future despite past suffering and to risk rebuilding a social life anyway together.

A flourishing intimacy is likely to demand an extraordinary amount of empathy and patient cultivation from both partners.

The first drafts of love are usually in need of considerable revision. As long as both the partners are willing to work at it.

I guess Blinkie said it right you Don’t give up on love

You and me, me and you
In the summertime
How we touched, how we kissed
Felt so right
Sun is gone, but the moon shines so bright
And I know we will share under the same star tonight
Oh, don't give up on love, don't give up on love, don't give up on love
Dance with me like no one else can see
Hold me like you don't want to be free
Sun is gone, but the moon shines so bright
And I know we will share under the same star tonight

Cause' I just wanna dance with you
Won't you let me dance with you?
Oh, don't give up on love, don't give up on love, don't give up on love

 

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