This week, we’re pleased to share with you a guest post by Bruce Kirkpatrick. We think you’ll enjoy his slant on relationships.
The word surrender often gets a bad rap. Surrender can be what you do when you are defeated—like in a war or a battle or a competition. It can mean that you lost, you gave up. Our society teaches that strength, independence and fortitude are qualities to admire. But not surrender.
But in relationship, surrender can hold the essence of serenity, a giving up of individual victories for the sake of not just the other person, but of the union itself.
You can surrender, of course, in an argument. We have probably all done this at some point. I hope you all have, for if not, then we will need to address your need to win every, single argument in much greater detail. You surrender in an argument because you realize that winning is far less important than peace or happiness. A good place to practice the art of surrender is during these disagreements. But the language of surrender impacts the outcome. Please be wary of these little cliché throwaway lines:
- “I give up, you win.”
- “Let’s agree to disagree.”
- “Maybe we’re both a little right here.”
- “Let’s just drop it, okay?”
This is not surrender language. Said with any snarkiness at all, they include subtle or unspoken “you win, but I’m still right” meanings. You will have to come up with something better—more thoughtful with deeper significance. Don’t depend on your partner reading your mind or interpreting your intention, however, well they know you. Perhaps the words you use are less important than how you say them. In a submission posture and voice, you can say:
- “I understand.”
- “I was wrong.”
- “Please forgive me.”
Give those a try—and say them with such a feeling of surrender that your partner knows that there is no reason to continue the discussion. That the love between the two of you is more important than winning any argument.
But surrender can apply in more than just the context of arguments. You can surrender to the relationship itself—to the bond, the union.
Have you surrendered entirely to your relationship? If you’re married, do you hold onto a part of your single life that you cannot give up?
Like what? Here are a few examples to spark thinking:
- Ladies: your last name. Is your maiden name still on your driver’s license or a credit card? I understand hyphenating your two last names when you marry and accepting a new identity for both of you. Or including your maiden name on your Facebook account. But do you hold onto that maiden name like you’ll need it again in the future?
- Men: your little black book. Do you still have a book, little or black or digital, that chronicles names and phone numbers of women you have dated? Why?
- Separate checking accounts: do you each have a separate checking account of your money? Does your partner know about these funds? Why have you resisted pooling your money into one account?
- Do you have money that your spouse doesn’t know about? Is it in an unknown account? Are you keeping it hidden in case the relationship doesn’t work out? Or do you keep this money hidden because you don’t want the other person to know you have spending urges you can’t control?
- Secrets. Are there secrets you are keeping from your mate, that if they knew them, they would think differently about you? I understand, some things in the past need to stay there. A spouse doesn’t need to know absolutely everything, but big-ticket secrets that could damage or destroy the union should be addressed.
- Your fantasies. You know the reality of your relationship now. Are you harboring illusions of how you dream it one day may become? Don’t get me wrong—it can improve; it can get better with time. But if you are lost in unrealities that your spouse will never live up to, that can be unhealthy and lead to unfulfilled expectations.
- Old boyfriends, old girlfriends. Are you holding onto—either in fantasy or real life—aspirations of old loves? If somebody other than your partner holds onto your heart—or your mind—you need to surrender that. Give it up, let it go. Buh-bye.
This surrendering does not happen on Day One of the relationship. It takes time and it takes commitment. It takes talking. Surrender does not come easily to many of us. We took a long time being single, building our defenses, shielding our vulnerabilities, and often we don’t know how to surrender. Or even if it’s a good idea.
If you need to tread lightly in surrendering, do that. Little steps. Little surrenders. Work your way to the bigger beasts you must give up. Don’t try to do it all in one day. Be sure to acknowledge to your partner when they relinquish something significant—and tell them you love them for doing it.
It’s not a negotiation either. It’s not: “I’ll surrender this, if you surrender that.”
It’s really: “I surrender all, because I love you. Forever.”
Are you holding back your surrender? Are you leaving an escape route from your relationship available? Keeping your options open, leaving the back door cracked, unlocked, ready to access if you need it? Why?
Give it up, give in. Surrender.
What can you surrender?
Bruce Kirkpatrick, the author of Hard Left and Lumberjack Jesus, writes from Santa Barbara. He’s now finalizing his next book for parents about raising resilient and responsible teenagers. Visit his website at www.bkirkpatrick.com