Talk To Me: Relationships

Talk To Me: Relationships

*Many of you shared your interest in this personal project. Many of you – both in relationships and not – are pondering, or have pondered, these very same questions and asked if I would be willing to share what I took away from this reflection…

I was in a relationship for half my life. And then one day I wasn’t.

The details of this journey include the valid voice and steps and sentiment of another, and that is to be respected. It can be uncomfortable; the balance of loyalty and respect for others’ privacy and the protection of their journey, and the desire to live free, open, purged, clear. The desire to own my experience, reducing the burdensome shame or stigma many carry after separation, and provide comfort to others who have weathered similar storms, reciprocating the support that I was given when I sought out the stories of other brave souls before me in my time of need, is strong.

I needed to know that others looked like me. I needed to know that others felt what I felt. I needed to know that I was not alone. Their voices told me I wasn’t.

For the purpose of this exploration, the details don’t matter anyway. Despite the circumstances that extinguish a relationship’s flame, we all play a role in the scenes of a partnership lost.

Although I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now, this space is still very new to me. I’m exercising my voice in ways that were once uncomfortable. I push myself to follow the lead of my urge for authenticity and engagement.

I spill more and worry less about how it’s perceived. I get closer to the woman in me each time I do.

I’ve always wanted this space to be less ‘me’, more ‘we’. I want to stretch from interaction with each of you. I want to know what’s on your mind and learn from you.

At the risk of appearing, well, I don’t exactly know what, and eventually I just didn’t care, I asked:

Friends, will you join and inspire me???

Love & life stung me, as most people can relate in some way. I’m building beauty from the rubble. I’m fiercely independent and don’t want that to morph into ‘closed’. I’m doing a little personal exploration project on intimate relationships to keep myself open, thinking, and growing. I’m curious about your story. Looking for your thoughts…

-What do you value most about being in a relationship?

-What do you find most challenging about being in a relationship?

-How has your relationship changed / shaped you (for better or worse)?

-What have you learned about yourself as part of a relationship?

-What is the ‘secret’ to your particular relationship operating smoothly?

-Other nuggets?

I’m looking for REAL thoughts, experience, wisdom, and words from many different relationship flavors.

I asked you to talk to me, and talk to me you did. I am still completely blown away by your response. I am overwhelmed and honored and so very grateful for you for trusting me with your stories, friends. I prayed for honesty. I prayed for real, raw stories and you gifted them to me. You gave me your gold.

You invited me in to have a look at the guts of a working relationship (read: that which is a constant work in progress), something that I have been distant from for years, something that I’ve pondered much about from the outside, but have lost touch with what the inside holds. I wanted your truth. You disclosed your happy, your heartache, and your hope. You showed me your scars and offered me your badges of wisdom.

I am fiercely independent, even more so since navigating single parenting, living alone for the past few years. I’m a creative and reflective soul and often find myself content diving deep into the maker in me. I want to avoid drifting too far in one direction or another – neither adopting a defensiveness or complacency in my solitude, nor glossy, Hallmark love story stereotype ideals that feed unrealistic appetites for what love is not.

I have found that we spend a lot of time not talking about our defining moments in life and relationships until we have been given permission.

I experienced permission in different forms – I granted myself permission when the bottom fell out, by necessity. Life fell apart and I had to begin to figure out how to put the pieces back together with a sturdy foundation. For that, I needed others who had weathered similar storms. When I reached a point of having to ‘out’ my status to loved ones around me, for the mere purpose of emotional survival, dams broke, walls started to crumble – both mine and the walls built around others. I show you mine, you show me yours. Through trust and mutual exchange, real dialogue was born.

In return, and received in shock, I was presented with accounts of genuine, messy love – hurdles, mistrust, betrayal, regrets, and loss. Also those of second chances, starting over, lessons learned, defenses stripped, lives enriched, and happiness realized.

I had to find the courage to start using the words that balled up in my throat, gripping on for dear life, not to be spoken aloud…single, separated, divorced, single parent.

I live in a place where I perceived things as looking really shiny all around me, and my newfound rust made me feel very marked, alone and isolated. Little did I know, many of those shiny paint jobs were simply a Band-Aid to hide the wear underneath. And others were the result of those who have faced their own rust head on, labored at sanding it away layer by layer, and added a fresh coat over a solid base. New beginnings.

There is also permission by invitation. More than a handful of you expressed your gratitude for being given the opportunity to express a story that may have otherwise remained in the shadows eager for a slice of light.

A beautiful contributor shared with me that she, “…spent many years comparing the ‘insides’ of her relationship to the ‘outsides’ of others…” Brilliant. This is so perfectly powerful. We spend so much time here. I spent a lot of time there.

Placing unnecessary, unrealistic and specific expectations upon something that is simply wild and free and without control is a guarantee for disappointment.

This piece should really be written by each and every wise soul that shared with me. I could never convey the depth of their stories better than they have; their individual accounts, loaded with life. There are so many similarities and themes in the responses, yet each offers a unique and beautiful voice, a story delivered with inflection while narrating paragraphs of words loaded with tears and trial, hurt, smiles, and growth. Love-speak.

I spent a lot of time with these words, absorbing them, reading them over and over, and shedding all flavors of emotion. Because many of you told me you ponder the same things, house the same questions, because some of us need to really dissect and understand things to move through them, I want to share some of this gold, and what it means to me…

*You agree we are SELFISH creatures…

“My marriage and children have shown me how entirely selfish I can be – and they demand that I not be. That’s clearly a very good thing.”

“Self-sacrifice or submissiveness – it does not feel natural to drop your needs and wants for others, but once you do, those needs and wants get satisfied tenfold. Take the plunge.”

“We were both selfish and arrogant. Life slapped us both around but fortunately we emerged together by changing our paradigm from it’s all about me to it’s all about something bigger.”

*You reminded me of the potential of PARTNERSHIP in my life…

“Having someone who I can talk to about anything and everything, who knows my many flaws and still accepts and loves me in spite of them. Unconditional love even when I’m not being very loveable.”

“The security of knowing that you are in it together. Unconditional love. People just want to be loved and accepted for exactly who they are.”

“Whenever I was outside a relationship prior to marrying my spouse, my pendulum never swung outside 4 – 6. My highs weren’t that high, but my lows weren’t that low, either. Being in a relationship has brought me to the full spectrum. True, the lows are lower because there’s so much more exponential emotion on the table. However, in a healthy relationship there are two individuals working as one who incessantly work towards getting out of the funk.”

Someone to help me figure it out or “take the reins while I do it myself.”

“I feel like he is a bit of a ‘home base’ for me.”

“I have a lot of shortcomings, but I am glad to have my wife with me to help pull my stupid ass out of the jams I get in and I am glad to help her too.”

*You reminded me to GUARD YOUR RELATIONSHIP…

“There have been several times that I have, however incorrect, placed my relationship with my spouse on a back burner and focused on the children’s needs first. It took me awhile, but I learned that by placing our relationship on hold, I was doing a disservice to our entire family.”

“Intimacy takes a lot of work, yet I know it’s something my husband needs to survive.My husband’s love language and mine are not the same. He needs more physical touch; whereas I’d rather him show me with his actions.”

“Sex!!! If we are having regular sex, we are pretty good…it helps us stay connected…he needs to feel wanted and it helps us stay emotionally connected too.”

Date, date, and date some more.

“We had the conversation actually today that we are going to go to dinner next week, just the two of us. We have to make time to reconnect or otherwise I’m scared where this will lead. Unfortunately, there are far too many moments where I forget why I want to fight for this.”

“It is incredibly easy for us to slip through the cracks and we have, with nearly disastrous results. So you see us now and we’re protective as hell of OUR time. We date. He takes all kinds of little gestures to show me his love. I validate that and I often do so publicly. It may not seem like it, but we are intentionally wrapping a force field of protection around our relationship. All of these little things add up to really big things in love.”

“To me, love is not a feeling but a commitment. Love is, or should be, present regardless of what’s going on. However, I think it’s important for two people in a relationship to be kind towards one another and continue to work on being likeable.”

*You reminded me of the importance of maintaining your INDIVIDUALITY in a relationship…

“I don’t subscribe to the “you complete me” motto. Who wants half a person? I do not believe that my husband can fulfill all of my needs; that would be too unfair to all involved. I have made sure to fill my life with many loving people. My husband and I love to spend time together, but we also value our time apart.”

“Challenging…losing my individuality, I truly miss it. I feel I’m not enough just being a mom and a wife. I’ve lost my value to myself.

“The challenge is maintaining you in a partnership, not losing your vivid color in the blending of lives.”

“Blending two personalities to create a happy life and remembering that I married someone that balances me… I don’t want him to match me.”

“I feel like (my relationship) has made me such a stronger person. The patience I have gained – and sitting with feeling uncomfortable is a skill I have gained. Knowing that it’s ok to be different.” (have independent interests)

*You agreed that, as within any relationship, COMMUNICATION IS KEY…

“(Relationships) require work and a willingness by both parties to be open, communicate and adapt, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard…what I’ve learned is, we need to be willing to be uncomfortable in a relationship; and we need to be willing to deal with it head on and to express it to our partners.”

“I try not to set him up for failure. For example, if your man is not a “flower giver” and that’s something that’s important to you, either tell him or go get them yourself! Don’t be continually disappointed when they don’t appear….”

“I have learned to shut my mouth when I really, really want to say something opinionated. I have learned to actually LISTEN instead of just waiting on my turn to speak.”

“I apologize more, I open the dialogue up sooner, and I try to practice the act of love.”

“Staying on the same page…keeping communication open. We don’t give each other the best of ourselves…we can get too comfortable.”

“I got tired of being the “nagging” wife, so eventually I kept my mouth shut. I stopped asking for help, stopped communicating my needs and wants, because nothing ever seemed to change when I did. I didn’t feel like I was ever really heard. Resentment crept in and anger followed.”

“One of my big lessons has been to make sure I’m not creating more intimacy with someone else than I am with (my partner). Sharing creates intimacy and if I create more of that with someone else, it’s too easy to fall into the ‘he doesn’t really get me’ trap. Of COURSE he doesn’t if I don’t share!”

*You realize the importance in maintaining RESPECT for your partner as a fluid, changing, evolving person and ACCEPTANCE of their past…

“So I guess one might say that the hardest part of being in a relationship is just understanding the baggage that comes with the person you decide to be in a relationship with. We all have baggage, the trick is to find someone who will help you unpack it.

“When you marry someone, you marry their whole family and their own special blend of insanity.”

“Some of my proudest traits have been discovered and pointed out by my spouse, along with my darkest demons. When I was single, I suppose I only surrounded myself with people who saw me at my best. In a relationship, however, the partner has a back stage view of everything. Getting honest feedback has allowed me to look at an untainted mirror. I’ve learned, grown, and changed because of it.”

*What threatens to BREAK you, can also spur GROWTH…

You shared deeply personal stories of forces that threatened to break you – illness in loved ones, raising children, financial stress, and family dysfunction. For some, in past lives, it did. You learned from this. You grew though it. For others, it presented a turning point in which you renewed your commitment to riding the waves together. The cracks let new light in – a light that reaches deeper within to access and nurture the seeds held closer to your center.

*You prefer to Sleep On It…

“We don’t abide by the “never go to bed angry” mantra (although we always kiss goodnight). Sometimes we’re so angry that all we can do is go to bed. Often it takes a good night’s sleep to gain some perspective and calmly solve the problem.”

“I have learned that feelings are temporary. Life is a roller coaster. If I am feeling super upset with him or annoyed with him or frustrated or hurt or whatever…that it will pass. Tomorrow is a new day.”

“I find that 9 times out of 10, when I sleep on it, I wake up with the perspective that it wasn’t worth arguing about in the first place.”

*You’ve discovered that HAPPINESS IS AN INSIDE JOB…

“And I have learned that happiness is an inside job…that it must come from within and project itself outward.”

It’s important…“to practice the art of loving someone and see what comes back.”

“When I start to get an inkling of resentment or feeling like he is not doing/being enough for me, I take that as a trigger to turn the microscope back on myself.  The more I think “If he only….” or “he should….”, the more I am making him responsible for my happiness and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Relationships ARE:

Tired individuals trying to juggle careers and the needs of a family without losing ‘self’ in the act.

Two evolving people who will not always experience equilibrium in the same season, or travel the exact same path.

Miscommunication of personal needs.

Grueling compromise.

Pet peeves – rigidness, snoring, loud chewing, underwear on the floor next to the hamper, an imbalance of household duties.

A tug-of-war between independence and connection.

Trickledown dysfunction from extended families and past wrongs.

Littered with external noise from fabricated expectations of love.

Really freaking hard.

They are ALSO:

Friendship, companionship…the deepest shade of partnership.

Comforting. Supportive. Enriching.

Someone to take the reigns when you may not be able to.

Laughter – at life, each other, ourselves.

Second chances…or third or fourth or fifth chances.

A mirror that reflects the beauty in us, the ugly in us, and the value in us when we have trouble seeing it on our own.

Unconditional love. The kind that makes you love better because of the way another loves you.

Unarmed, wrinkled beauty.

Completely unique. Every last one of them…

Behind each and every bit of wisdom shared was a long and winding road of hills and valleys, life revealed along the way. And even as we can clearly define these gems on paper, we still struggle with practicing them routinely. All of us.

I’ve spent the past few years in a relationship…with myself. I’m starting there. I will dedicate the rest of my life to maintaining the health of that relationship first whether I would remain single or stand alongside a partner. I’ve got to believe that something this impactful placed into my life must have a more profound meaning than ‘shmit happens’.

That is a conscious decision we have to make for ourselves. We can continue plugging along hunched over with the weight of our pasts gripping our shoulders, head down to balance the load, or we can slide it off our backs and set it on the ground next to us, sort through it to find anything of value, stretch the tension out of our necks, and view the expanse and horizon of potential.

I remain deeply dedicated to extracting all that I can from this time and building upon it. Peeling the layers back one-by-one to the heart has allowed me room to expand in the spaces that were once confined. Nights spent reading, writing, dissecting, and pondering – connecting with interesting and inspiring thoughts and people and ideas. Asking myself tough questions.

It hasn’t always been easy. Even chosen solitude has a way of flirting with isolation and loneliness once in a while.

Through trial I am learning much. My personal journey has allowed me to unlock and identify my basic needs, the pieces of myself – my being – that I will not compromise going forward. I’m also working to identify traits and qualities in myself that don’t serve me well, or others for that matter. It’s hard to cut them loose after all the time I’ve spent perpetuating them in defense or denial.

I believe the universe responds to what you put out into it – as cliché as that may sound. I trust that by taking the best care of this life – appreciating and listening to the now for exactly what it is – not deciding ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ for the future before I know what it may hold, I’ll be in the best possible position to receive its gifts. If those gifts include an intimate relationship with anther, that will present itself.

Many different walks of life reminded me that we are really so the same. We all fear. We all dream. We all battle internal conflict. We all combat shame and guilt. We all feel someone somewhere is doing it better. We hope. We seek. We want to be heard and understood. We are really so very similar when you strip away the finish. We long for connection or partnership in whichever form that may take and yet we struggle maintaining the integrity of the union.

According to a contributor’s grandmother who was born in 1915,

“Before you get married, you should have your eyes WIDE OPEN. After the wedding…squint.”  (that was too good not to share…)

Thank you for sharing yourself with me…please share this post for those who could stand to feel less alone in this ‘love’ thing.

XO

Comments

  1. this was so, so very beautiful. loved every word. and i know that there is someone out there that will cherish you, Jessa. you are too amazing not to be shared. much love.

  2. Oh Jessa!! Wonderful, fantastic, beautiful post! I love that you took the time to read others’ stories and share little snippets here. We are all in this life together, and so much good can come from reaching out and connecting. Your words and the words of others in this post had me nodding my head and saying silent, “amen”s. Thank you for sharing. Xo!

    • It was a wonderful exercise. I’m so grateful for those who participated. We ARE in it together. Thank you for your generous sharing, Amber!

  3. Summer says:

    Big lump in my throat reading all of this. Thank you for reminding me once again of what i already knew….that love and a relationship is so much hard work, but also so worth the effort. Wonderful piece friend, you are finding your voice in this world and it’s bringing a lot of beauty to everyone you share with.

    • Summer, yes. We know it well, but how do we own it, right? One step at a time, just how we’re progressing. When we open and allow ourselves to understand and feel, things will take shape – in whatever form is right. XO, Beauty.

  4. This was really beautiful, Jessa. I expected myself to be “AMENing” with all the negative crap about relationships, but it was the positive stuff that really struck a nerve in my heart. We’re all knee deep in our lives and sometimes forget to really enjoy the beauty of it, instead of commiserating on the negatives. Of course there’s a time and place for a good b*tch fest, but there’s nothing better than being lifted up by a community of honest sharers.

    Although you didn’t divulge your own personal details (the he said, she said variety), I feel like I know such an intimate part of you now. Without realizing it (or maybe it was a conscious thing on your part), you revealed so much of your inner self. You believe in the power of relationships, although you’ve been burned and tainted. But you’re a believer and, because of this, one day you will be invested in a good old b*tch fest about undies on the floor beside the hamper. I just know it, Jessa. Not that your world pauses until that day comes, obviously.

    Your strength and vulnerability coexisting together is very magnetic and inspiring. Thank you for sharing these tidbits with us and your thoughts on the topic.

    • Angie, thank you for all of this. So much. That last little tidbit is a big old hug for me and you are always generous with your words. To undies on the floor – Cheers! J

Leave a Reply