Relationships! What do they mean to you and how do you manage them? When you think about it relationships are the most crucial part of our life - without relationships, we do not have the quality of life we want and need. From the most basic biological point of view, you need to find someone and reproduce, otherwise, you are unnecessary. We develop from there.
The first time I felt emotional pain from a relationship was in the 4th grade when I lost the love of my life...at least it felt that way. It was not the last time I would feel this type of pain, and it never got easier. As a teenager and young adult emotional distress disrupted my life terribly, and as a father and husband I still cannot function while I am in emotional pain.
The toughest relationships to manage are those that hurt us.We start off with fireworks, and things don't work out. Then there is pain, not the kind of pain that comes from death or grieving, the kind that comes from rejection or failure. What do you do with that?
We do not want to fail or get rejected, it sucks. Often we want to assign blame, even if we are better off. No matter how much awareness we have, we have to prove who is right and who is wrong. And it is always the other person that is wrong. Maybe nobody is wrong.
At first, we try and find some way to eliminate this pain, but that does not work. What does work is to accept that pain is a normal part of life and discover effective ways of moving with the pain, even learning from it. Without this ability, we spend more time than necessary in suffering and distress, and we lose a significant portion of what life has to offer.
People should feel safe as they go through life, and see a purpose in learning and discovering what life and pain have to offer. When I read other articles or meet people that are helpful in this area, I love to share that with you. Phil Petachenko is a great friend and writes many good articles on this topic. Recently he wrote an article titled "Moving Forward When We're In Reaction." If you like the article, you can read much more by visiting this page on Phil's site.
Pile it On
Should you decide to mate, you get a relationship. Children anyone? More relationships. Let's not forget the in-laws, not to mention your parents and siblings. What about some co-workers to go along with those cousins? Managing all these relationships is an art.
Did you say you do not have time for this? Big mistake. But you are not alone. Most of us do not spend time learning what we need, or what we are willing and able to give in return. We take our culture's laundry list and work with it the best we can - sometimes praying for it to change.
Personally, I want to get through life without needlessly hurting or hating anybody, even passing acquaintances. I do not know why I care about that; it could be that I heard the Golden Rule when I was in kindergarten and thought it had merit. Most of my life I did pretty well but often felt terrible, until I remembered to include myself on the list. Too often we forget to do that.
Our relationships are an essential part of our lives and happiness. To make them work we need to get clear about what we want, and equally important, what we are willing to give. And we need to remember to take care of ourselves too.
When the relationship is a marriage ending in divorce, we have to deal with all the cultural beliefs about staying married for a lifetime. That means everyone has an opinion about it, and it is probably not too great. Just in case we did not already feel bad enough.
But staying married can be tough! I like the idea of being married for a lifetime too, but you are not just talking about a fantasy of happily ever after, you are talking about a life partnership. And there are dozens of essential deal points and negotiations. I mean this goes way beyond how often you are going to have sex.
What about children, how to raise them and all that. Or what to do when you get tired of each other, when your careers change, your social preferences change, what if one of you gets fat, or lazy, or becomes a couch potato? There is a lot more to consider here than the chemistry you feel during the first few years and deserves more time and attention than purchasing a car or buying a house.
But we do not treat marriage that way. We usually decide we are in love and everything else will work itself out. But it doesn't. Not always.
And then there is the relationship you have with yourself; this is a whole bunch of work too. You have to love yourself enough to take care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being. Without using substances that are bad, or make you fat. Including food! People tell me to drink tea when I would prefer a cocktail. Gag me with a spoon.
A relationship is about soul searching, knowing yourself, what you want and what you need. It is about caring for the other person enough to help them find these same answers. And then it is one big, giant, and constant negotiation.
Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left write down ten things you need in a relationship, and what form that relationship takes. For example, you may write down that you need someone to go camping with and that could be a friend, and you may write down you need someone to have physical intimacy with (sex), and that could be a mate, probably not the other way around.
On the right side write down ten things you will give to relationships and what form the relationship will take. You may write that you are willing to provide financial security to a mate and children and that you are ready to provide strategic planning for incredible camping trips to a friend.
Now you have a basic template of your wants and needs; you will be surprised at what you find. More importantly, your relationships will be more clear and beneficial to all parties.
Let me tell you a story. My wife goes to see her family in Kazakhstan about every 18 months, and because you ride a camel and turtles to get there, she stays about 4 or 5 weeks. I have gone twice in 10 years, and every five years is too often as far as I am concerned.
Anyway, I get to go through some inner reflection and feelings when she is gone. First few weeks I am glad for the time apart and then around the third week or so I start to get... antsy. Or worse. This last go around I began to feel some old jealous feelings that I had not felt for many years, maybe even since I was a young man. I hated feeling that way when I was younger, and it is ridiculous to feel it now. But like the trooper I am, out came the pen and paper so I could study this crap.
Where it went very quickly was to pain so deep that I could barely tolerate it, a familiar pain that I have had my whole life. Much to my surprise, it was not about jealousy at all; it was not even about my worst fear of being alone. This was a big surprise to me, and it took many days before I could put my finger on exactly what I was feeling so deeply that it kept me from eating and sleeping.
I mean I got that I wanted my wife much, much, much more when I thought I would lose her, yeah, that made sense. I am not too abnormal to want what I cannot have. And of course, visualizing her with another man was not pleasant, especially when I added her greater love for that man to the visualization. But I was obsessed with finally getting to this deep-rooted pain in myself so, visualize away. I did. Pure torture.
A little sick possibly, but I did finally get to the bottom of it. It was a feeling of being unworthy. This unworthiness began as an infant when I perceived my father rejecting me. Oh boy, what a surprise. I never thought of that before...not. I have visited this whole chestnut too many times to count, gee whiz, give my old man a break! But the truth is that this is deep, deep, programming inside my mind and it has caused all sort of havoc my entire life. So, here is where I got to, and maybe it will help in some way.
Imagine an infant boy, excited to reach out and touch someone, especially the parents around him. Imagine now that the parents are relatively healthy albeit always stressed out and fighting, but the boy develops a sense of love and safety with them. Then one day, about the time this boy is 2 or 3, things get bad. Because toddlers are more human and parents tend to treat them differently than they do infants.
My father had a whole lot of angst and life challenges and took out some significant measure of that on me. Usually, by telling me I was a worthless bum or other words to that effect, and sometimes much worse. He did worse to my mother in front of me.
Well, that had a severe effect on how I viewed my self, my safety in relationships, and my worth as a human being. The pain was far too great to feel as a young child, and I went into survival mode. This stuff has been bubbling up ever since. And this is not an unusual story by the way.
Did I get through it entirely in this round? Doubtful. But this is the first time this layer became apparent to me, and I will keep working on it. I promise. Especially when my wife causes trouble again. Stupid onions, if you know what I mean, don't worry if you do not get this sarcasm.
Oh, and by the way, I forgive my wife for whatever she did in my fantasies, that sultry tramp!
One other important observation - often these things are apparent to other people long before they become apparent to us, even when we think we know what is going on. That is why we must always appreciate those in relationship closest to us; they help us become more aware by reacting to us and better yet, kindly pointing this stuff out. Painful, yes, a pain in the ass, YES! But that is the way it works, and we get so much more out of life when we are brave enough and persistent enough to tackle this stuff.
We are animals with emotions and barely even beginning to learn how to deal with them and incorporate them appropriately. But that is our task as humans living during this stage of our collective evolution.
Sometimes I ask myself where did we develop these feelings? Jamey Johnson gives us insight. I leave you with his lyrics:
I was born by fire in a cold dark cave In the age of the dinosaur When a cave man caught his cave woman lovin On the missing link livin next door There was cryin and screamin and war drums a beatin And a wave o violence None o them folks survived but me And I been hangin round ever since
cause Im a heartache never see me comin Ill always take you by surprise Im a heartache hungry and huntin Someone I can eat alive By the time you know Im on you Buddy its too late Im a heartache, heartache
I watched you takin off tonight And I knew where you were headed to I saw that sweet young thing you met At that dirty ol motel room Well Im gnawin on your pretty little wife Waitin up for you at home You dont even know it but Im just savin you for later When I can getcha all alone
Yeah, Im a heartache never see me comin Ill always take you by surprise Im a heartache hungry and huntin Someone I can eat alive By the time you know Im on you Buddy its too late Im a heartache, heartache
From Anthony and Cleopatra Samson and Delilah To Jackie and JFK To Elvis and Prescilla Charles and Diana Id say Ive had some pretty good days And you may not believe it But you and me son Are bout to have some real fun cause Im comin...ah Im comin
Im a heartache never see me comin Ill always take you by surprise Im a heartache hungry and huntin Someone I can eat alive By the time you know Im on you Buddy its too late Im a heartache, heartache Im a heartache, heartache Im a heartache, heartache