How to fall even deeper in love and stay that way.
Intimate relationships promise so much, but only deliver what we put into them. This does not mean that it’s all work—far from it! Much of what we need to put into it is what we need to extend to the world anyway: our love, our compassion, our integrity, our courage, our yearning for a deeper life.
The path isn’t neatly laid out, because we, with our partner, are co-creating it as we deepen our intimacy, stepping into and embracing a trailblazing mutuality, without having to know where we’re going.
I’m sixty-seven, and see no end to the deepening of my intimacy with my beloved Diane (who is sixty-three), and am absolutely fine with that. Every day, I am grateful that she and I get to be together. There may not be much time left, but what’s left is enough. The foundational practices that follow are offered in the spirit of such intimacy.
If you’re being defensive and know it, don’t hesitate to say so.
Be your own whistleblower. Don’t wait for the other to pressure you into owning up to your defensiveness. And don’t slip into being defensive about being defensive!
Don’t allow emotional disconnection to last any longer than necessary.
When you lose touch with your partner, reestablish it as soon as possible. If you’re staying emotionally disconnected to punish her or him, confess this without delay, regardless of how uncomfortable that may be.
Deepen your curiosity about what you least know about yourself.
The better you know yourself — and such knowing is not just intellectual — the more available you’ll be for truly intimate relationship.
Don’t allow what’s working in your relationship to obscure what isn’t.
When there’s a relational conflict, resist trotting out your good points or using them to extricate yourself from the hot seat. Don’t let your strengths camouflage your weaknesses.
Don’t confuse accepting the other with accepting whatever the other does.
If your partner has behaved disturbingly or hurtfully, and says, “This is just the way I am; accept me as I am” (perhaps along with alibis like “I’m just human” or “I never said I was perfect”), don’t let yourself be seduced by this. And avoid the temptation to use this excuse yourself!
Learn how to give yourself without giving yourself away.
As you open up and reveal more of yourself, don’t abandon your boundaries. Instead, expand them to include the other, while maintaining your autonomy.
Learn to listen with your whole being, not letting your thoughts distract you.
This means being mindful of what’s arising in you as you listen, and not allowing it to get in the way of your listening.
Learn to look with compassion upon all that remains unhealed in you and your partner.
Doing so helps creates a conducive space — simultaneously nourishing and challenging — for whatever healing is needed.
Remember that the deeper you dive, the less you’ll mind any upsetting waves.
View your relationship as an ever-evolving adventure, potentially deepened by all that happens, however unpleasant. You may hurt more as you mature — because you’re more open to feeling — but you’ll mind less.
Continue making your connection with your partner a top priority.
Keep it central. Keep it alive and thriving, and don’t begrudge the time it takes to do so.
Don’t take any of the preceding practices as “shoulds,” but rather as guidelines, invitations, and reminders.