I know some people have the kind of relationship where from Day 1, everything just came together…they have everything in common with the other person, they have a fabulous connection, and they have the most delicious sex life. When asked how they handle arguments with their spouse, they say things like “I don’t know, we never argue!” or they assume that if someone else doesn’t have this kind of perfect-from-the-start relationship that they must be with the wrong person.
That’s great for those people, and I mean that sincerely. But for most of us, relationships are not always easy. In fact, often they are downright challenging and sometimes it’s everything we can do not to throw in the towel and move on to someone else, hoping for an easier relationship the next time around.
But challenge is an opportunity for growth. We aren’t here to give up every time something isn’t perfect. And we’re definitely not here to ignore problems and bottle up how we really feel about things. We’re here to find solutions to our problems. We are here to work together. We are here as people who chose to live with, love, and create beautiful things with each other. And couples who do this are going to be healthier and happier than their counterparts.
My relationship with my current partner did not start out perfectly, and we have made quite a few mistakes along the way. Our backgrounds are about as different as can be, from how we grew up to the structure of our families in childhood to our previous relationships (my partner was in a 15 year relationship; my longest relationship was 5 years and I had several intense but short-lived relationships, too). Even our beliefs about relationships were different, from our expectations of an intimate relationship to the type of relationship we were looking for.
In the first two years there were many threats of leaving the relationship (99% of them from me, a commitment-phobe for most of my life). There was some yelling. There was some anger. But worst of all, there was a disconnect. We were acting as if we were separate* and so we started creating distance between us every time we had disagreements.
*Disclaimer: This is much different from the thought of “completing each other” and I firmly believe everyone needs to be their own person, have their own interests, take time with their own friends, and focus on themselves as a whole person. I am referring to “separate” on a spiritual level. Here’s a Tom Walsh quote that perhaps better explains what I mean: “When we separate ourselves from the rest of the world, the world becomes a lonely and difficult place to live in. When we see ourselves as completely separate, we cannot call upon the power and strength that comes from unity, from being part of a greater whole.”
I started learning that we must work on our relationships in the good times so that when we have a problem we have tools to help us through it. We can also take time to focus on the positive. We can remind ourselves that we are one. That our partners are magical. That we love them and chose them for a reason. That we’re not enemies fighting a battle, but a team built on love. This team in the good times works together, and should learn to do so in the difficult times, too.
In a lot of ways I felt like I was doing well in my life. I ate healthy food. My family sat together for meals at a real table instead of in front of the television. We had open communication about anything that came up. But there was a huge piece of the puzzle missing in my relationship…only it took me a while to find out what it was. I felt like something was missing, and as someone who works in the field of women’s empowerment, I know when something is missing we should look within ourselves. But I was on top of the self-love stuff already. I had sticky notes on my mirror with affirming words. I gave myself alone time to refresh and renew. I even wrote a 7 week self-love course! So surely it wasn’t about a lack of love I was feeling for myself. So I waited impatiently (I’m not the best at patience yet) to see if I could figure out what was missing.
And one thing that changed and greatly improved our relationship was this: my partner started a journal just for me about our relationship. Each day she wrote down meaningful things we did together that day or things she noticed about me, or things she appreciates about me in general. The journal collects all the best parts of our relationship and of the things she values about me. See, in our society we’re so quick to focus on and point out the negative stuff. We get knit picky with partners and we start seeing more flaws than positive traits. We get sloppy and careless sometimes and we take each other for granted. Sometimes we have dark lenses on through which we see only the worst. This simple daily journaling, which takes less than five minutes, helps you find the wonderful things about your relationship and your partner. She shared it with me after she’d written in it for several weeks, and it made me cry. I felt so incredibly loved, and I also got to see a vulnerable side to my partner that she doesn’t always share aloud. So not only did I fall further in love with myself, I appreciated our relationship more greatly and I loved my partner even more for showing me this softer side. I started journaling for her, too, and then I started journaling for my children in the same way. We can all use some gratitude and positivity in our lives, and what a simple practice this one is.
So that small practice really did change the way I viewed my relationship. I stopped focusing on what wasn’t working and started focusing on the many, many more things that were. That was the first of two amazing discoveries for me.
Right after we started the journaling practice, I discovered Kundalini Yoga through a White Tantric event. A Facebook ad drew me in…all day meditation with several hundred other people? Sure, why not. I’ve always been the adventurous type (though I’ll point out that I’d NEVER been the meditation type). I probably was mostly excited about getting a whole Saturday to “myself” away from the kids during a week of parenting on my own while my partner was out of town.
As the event time grew near, I became very nervous. On the day before the event I told my masseuse I must be crazy, and that I’d probably just end up leaving after 5 minutes and go upstairs to the hotel’s rooftop pool and enjoy my alone time. Because of course someone like me who doesn’t sit still wouldn’t last a minute at this 8 hour long meditation workshop. Even at home I failed miserably at meditation and would give up after a minute or two to MOVE. Sitting still like that? Not for me. Still…I got up that morning, put on my white clothes (Kundalini Yogis wear white because it’s thought to enhance the auric field), and I headed out.
That day changed my life. I met some wonderful people, had some great conversations at lunch, and most of all, I learned that I can overcome challenges (okay, I’ve overcome a lot in my lifetime, but it’s always a good reminder!). I thought meditation wasn’t going to work out for me, but instead of using that as an excuse in my life, I took the opportunity to open myself up to something new. And I went home feeling so successful.
From that day forward I’ve been doing Kundalini. The person who was grumpy getting up at 6:30AM to get the kids on the bus now was waking up at 5:30 to do an hour of yoga and meditation. The person who for eleven years refused to go to yoga classes for fear of being judged jumped into 2-3 classes per week. I even went to a three hour 4:30AM Kundalini class once (but then I was tired the rest of the day, haha! I learned my limits and maybe I’ll break through them some time soon! I believe it will happen!).
And I’ll be honest. It not only changed my life, but it changed my relationship. See, like I said, my partner was out of town when I went to the event. She came home to find me enthusiastic about meditation (she would probably appreciate my mentioning that she had been begging me to meditate with her for a year). I showed her the different Kriyas (a yogic set of spiritual exercises) that I’d learned in the Kundalini workshop. She’s an open-minded person and she is a great listener, but I didn’t expect anything further from her. She ended up jumping right in with me! She was loving the exercises, the chants, and the connection we felt when we shared this special time together. At first I’d only wake her up twice a week to do the exercises (she’s even less of a morning person than I am) but then we eventually moved into waking together each and every day.
So our day starts out in darkness with yoga, meditation, and chanting. We sit together and pray together and grow together as humans and as partners as we watch the sun rise. It’s a special time for us and it sets a peaceful, loving tone for the day. To end our morning practice, we gaze into each other’s eyes and sing the Long Time Sun song together; this song is a tradition in Kundalini. The first verse is supposed to be sung to yourself and the second is to the world. We’ve modified this a bit by singing the first verse together to ourselves and then my partner sings the second verse to me as I receive her warmth and love, and then I sing a third verse to her as she receives love from me.
And it sounds pretty simple (other than the waking up early part) but it made our bond so much stronger in just a short time. It also connected our energies even further (we already practice Red Tantra and Reiki together, which are other energy practices). I can only imagine a year from now how connected we will be. 5 years. 10.
And through this connection, our relationship has stabilized. I no longer threaten to leave (why would I want to? We have something incredible). It really feels like the missing puzzle piece has been found, and that piece was shared spirituality.
And because I am the independent woman that I am, I’m going to make sure you understand that none of this means we’re now co-dependent and needy and clingy and reliant on the other person. We are two people who have chosen to walk together on this path of love. The spiritual piece overflows into the rest of our relationship, making us better partners, better parents, better friends, and better human beings.
Is our relationship perfect now? Nope. But it’s perfectly imperfect, because that’s exactly where we are in this moment and when I look at her I now see how absolutely blessed I am to be in this sacred relationship. The best advice I can give you is to love yourself, love your partner, and create something special and sacred in your relationship. We live in a time of technology which unfortunately means less interaction with those of us we really care about. Learning to come back to the present moment and to focus on the gifts right there in front of you is life changing and will bring out the absolute best in you. Love will overflow.