Both partners should be capable of surrendering to each other.
We all know that our personal daily habits affect the environment: the very survival of our civilization requires each one of us to become more self-responsible for the ripple effects of our lifestyle choices.
But is it possible that the health of our planet is threatened not only by our sense of entitlement to wastefully consume resources, but also by our emotional entitlement in our love partnerships?
Absolutely—the same self-serving denial is at the root of both.
This is my analogy:
A few weeks ago, I decided to try a “garlic cleanse.”
I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I heard it was good for you, so I improvised, and threw a ton of raw garlic and onions into each of my meals for a whole day. It was so strong that my body burned, and alarming amounts of fluid poured from my eyes, nose, and skin—but I was determined to boost my immune system, or whatever.
However: not long after ingesting my final meal of the day, I attempted to give my wife a loving hug and a kiss—just for starters, if you know what I mean—and discovered I had apparently morphed into a monster raw animated sex-crazed bulb of raw garlic: she hissed like a B-movie vampire and shielded her face with her arms, and cried out something about the garlic and onion smell—my smell!
I couldn’t tell. I smelled just fine to me.
So would it have been OK for me to continue to push myself on her: “Get over it, babe, it’s not that bad?”
That’s actually a rhetorical question. But now I have a real question for you:
Have you ever made a “joke” at your partner’s expense—a smart-assed comment, maybe – and then wondered why they got all freaked out about it?
What’s the big deal—it’s just a joke, right?
Or perhaps you made a critical comment—”Hey, I’m just being honest!” But their response seemed incredibly, disproportionately emotional!
What’s the problem? You didn’t say you hated them, you just made a penetrating observation that they could probably benefit from—they should listen to you and get over it!
Well, the fact is, it really doesn’t matter how “true” your words may—or may not—have been.
In an intimate relationship, if you say or do anything—yes anything, no matter how small—that does not feel kind, caring, and respectful towards your partner then you are stinking up the place, and can’t smell yourself—even if what you said is “just a joke.”
The words do not matter; the feeling of shared experience does—and that means both of you being comfortable, not just you.
Many men and women take their own emotional responses very seriously, but dismiss their partner’s. This lack of empathy is an arrested stage of emotional development which eliminates the possibility of a healthy relationship.
If there is any behavior or habit which you feel your partner makes “too big a deal” of, and so you do not validate their experience, then you devalue them—and this is death to a relationship.
If they are “too sensitive,” it is your loving care that will heal them. Therefore: honor their truth. That truth may change—and that is the point. Or you may even discover that your “truth” is not as absolute as you thought.
Throwing out at your partner unsympathetically-expressed “hard truths,” or teasing, or any kind of rough-and-tough “get-over-it” energy, is like the difference between jumping on a sidewalk, versus jumping on wet cement. If you and your partner do not feel “rock-solid” with each other then you are in the “wet cement” stage of your relationship. The sidewalk can take the jumping; the wet cement will be destroyed and then harden into a mess.
More to the point: even a tiny pebble or a leaf will imprint the wet cement, and ruin the final product. It would be delusional to ask the wet cement to “get over it, it’s only a leaf.” (It would also be delusional to talk to a hardened sidewalk, but that’s another topic.)
Once you establish a solid foundation of trust and connection – once the cement has hardened into a pristine sidewalk—then you can “jump on” the relationship all you want through affectionate verbal horseplay and “straight-shooting.” But until you have created this bond, it is disrespectful to “be yourself” or “be truthful” in a way that violates your partner’s feelings.
So: was my wife being kind and caring when she told me I smelled “disgusting?”
Yes! Because we have an unshakeable foundation: a constant, palpable feeling of love and connection with each other. This creates a safe and trusting context for any communication, true or false, good, bad, ugly—or even teasing.
It is always possible to communicate anything to another human being, no matter how “negative,” and still care for their heart. This requires the ability to connect with an actual experience of genuine love for your partner—a feeling of sincerity within yourself, and speak only from there.
If you do not think your partner deserves this kind of collaboration, because they are somehow “wrong,” then you are in the wrong relationship. This includes if your partner is truly narcissistic, selfish, or unreasonable—then indeed, you are in the wrong relationship! But how respectfully you communicate along the way reflects upon you, not them.
This is one of the great values of being in a committed partnership—for each partner to care for and nurture the other’s vulnerabilities without judging or dismissing them.
That is how both partners heal and grow stronger, and more mature. That is how unshakeable trust is established. Unless both partners are capable of surrendering to each other in this way, the long-term prognosis for the relationship is quite poor.
The lessons here have consequences far beyond those of individual relationships: this ability to empathize is surely essential for our world, as it becomes ever more crowded with multiplying individual perspectives.
When men and women transform themselves to more generously serve their partner’s emotional needs, they change the very energy of their environment. As more couples learn how to communicate with emotional sensitivity and generosity, the more this ability becomes generalized, as a conscious approach affecting every dimension of their lives, and the lives of everyone they touch both directly and indirectly.
The more our sense of self-responsibility creates ever-greater inner peace and interpersonal connection, the more this energy can increasingly inform our civilization – indeed, the more we can become capable of truly “listening” to our planet.
Perhaps this can neutralize the wasteful societal tendency to restlessly pursue self-gratification, self-justification, and entitlement, at the expense of humility, maturity, service, and love.
If your partner is hurt, or offended, or angry, with something you have done or said, it is not evidence of their being “too sensitive.” It means that you must become even more sensitive.
If a couple does not palpably feel that loving connection with each breath they take, then an attitude of “get over it” is disrespectful. And any successful relationship, bar none, requires a “zero-tolerance” policy for disrespect—between two people who are intimate, vulnerable, and naked with each other.
In fact, if you don’t have the patience to do this, then you are either selfish and immature, or in a relationship that you don’t really care about.
How’s that for “just being honest?”
Photo: TVZ Design/Flickr