Practicing Peace and Love in a Relationship
PHIL: This relationship is unlike any other I have been in. It was obvious within a year, and nothing has changed. We’re not the only couple with a peaceful relationship, but it is so powerful that we feel that we are driven to describe it. To do so effectively means that we must write directly about our experience, rather than assembling a collection of advice from other writers, good though that might be.
When I look at our relationship, I see that I have every reason to stay and no reason to leave. I think it’s constructive to explore why there is no urge to leave when it was the cause for the end of so many of my former relationships. What is different here?
The first is the feeling of full acceptance, of being able to do my own thing without being criticized, of being a free agent. In previous relationships, I think that I lost that sense of autonomy and only regained it by leaving, even though its return was often overshadowed by the pain and grief of losing the comforts of the relationship. Of course, every breakup had its own character, and I have simplified to an extreme by describing only this one aspect.
Another feature of the sense of autonomy is that it is not entirely made up of freedom given to me, but also of freedom that I take; in other words, I know myself and what I want, and do not allow my boundaries to be trampled on. This self-knowledge is gained through experience, and I have to thank my previous partners for contributing to that – for showing me what I don’t want from a relationship and for showing me what was good.
The second aspect is that of dissatisfaction. It was an itch that could only be scratched by leaving, and yet with Maude, it is totally absent. There are several possible explanations for this, and perhaps they are all true at once. I so often found my partners to be flawed in some way – not smart enough, beautiful enough, interesting enough. Maybe Maude and I are uniquely suited for each other and it took a lifetime to meet up. Yet it’s easy to imagine that if we had met at 25, I would have struggled as with my other relationships, that my dissatisfactions stemmed from a Hollywood image of romance or a discomfort at being loved.
Sex might have been a factor in my dissatisfaction, too. It’s not that I was promiscuous – sex and guilt were far too intertwined for that to be the case – but other women were a ubiquitous attraction that generated a constant distracting inner voice. I still find other women attractive, but the temptation is gone. The smooth flesh of younger women is accompanied by the culture gap, the energy gap, the needs gap, and older women are now just pleasurable daydreams. And sex with Maude has become an extraordinary ecstasy. By being totally present, it is different and new each time and transcends sex to become a union of unspeakable delight.
Of course Maude and I are well-matched, particularly in that we both practice acceptance, but I want to close with something else of importance. It’s the cliché of glass half full, think positive, look on the bright side, and it’s a cliché precisely because it is true. You change your reality by what you look at. I think that is why my earlier relationships failed. Change how you see your partner, and you will change your relationship.
The power lies within each of us to decide how we see what happens and what we do with it. Click To TweetMAUDE: Phil and I have been reflecting about our relationship, how we are together and what makes this relationship special and different than others we have had, or from those of people we interview and talk with.
We feel that the nature of our relationship encompasses a way of being together in peace and love that supports the individuality of each of us, while at the same time forging a deep bond of union. Although there are many things we do that support and enhance this way of being together, we also feel that there is grace involved. This sense of grace has led us to feel driven to share with others our direct experience, with the firm belief that this way of relating can be practiced, learned and spread.
We write and speak from our direct experience and from what is happening for us in the now. So I want to share what that is for me at this time.
In the early part of our relationship, we discussed how we would be if there were medical situations that impinged on our life together, or other challenges from the material world. We were quite certain that we would be the same and that we would find a way to respond together that was of the same essence as how we are with everything.
This is a truth that we are experiencing now and although we said it would be this way, I still find myself thrilled that it is. It is so reassuring to find that the nature of how we are together can rise to these challenges and even expand through them.
In facing changes brought on by a medical situation, we find ourselves having different styles and perspectives in how we react and deal with these things. We are two separate individuals. One of the threads of our togetherness is this ability to honor and accept the true difference and uniqueness of the other. But we are not challenged by these differences. We have learned how to communicate our feelings to each other in a manner absent of charge, with deep assurance that each of us wants to understand and that we always want the best for each other.
It is in this time of challenges that I find such deep comfort in the experience of how our constancy and commitment to mutuality have taken on a life of their own. These qualities carry us through this time and have turned it into another opportunity to find new ways to be together and to come together. I marvel at the way we have been able to be present with what is and make the most out of it.
In past relationships, I experienced partners who got angry, favored arguing as a method of communication and, in general, with whom I found myself at odds, feeling distant and separated by changing events. I always thought to myself that if I were with a person who did not have these traits, that there would be a loving and kind way of being together. I truly felt that fighting was not my natural way and that there are other ways to be. In Phil, I have found the verification that this is indeed so.
Are there ways to achieve this kind of togetherness? Yes. Do we practice methods that support acceptance and respect? Yes. Yet it is our intention and belief that have made the difference. It is our commitment to mutuality that fuels our actions. We have found a way to go straight for the place where each of us lives in peace in the moment and to connect through that. I am reminded of the line in an old song, “Accentuate the positive.” Sounds trite, but it is so true. The power lies within each of us to decide how we see what happens and what we do with it.
Photo credit: Andy Samarasena, Studio SB