Sometimes people come into our lives and there’s an instant and real connection there, but circumstances prevent us from exploring it. There’s no need to agonize over this. You can’t pursue every road; life is full of choices. There’s a reason we have the word “bittersweet.” Also, understand that there are times we idealize someone, or the feeling we have when we’re with them, simply because we’ll never get to really test it. Fantasy is easy, even with a real bond. Meeting once a decade for tea, or reconnecting on Facebook with someone you knew twenty years ago can bring you back. It can make you feel like you’re in a time warp, but if you really want to know how things would be with someone, you have to be in the foxhole with them at some point. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel like this would have been the person for you, if only things had worked out. Sending messages, meeting at Grand Central Station for an hour-long wistful coffee while you’re in town on business, that’s easy. Holding your baby at 3 o’clock in the morning as he’s throwing up for the sixth time in four hours, covering you both in vomit until you finally strip down to your underwear to lessen the laundry load, that’s something. Especially if your partner is there to take shifts with you, to discuss the merits of a trip to the ER, to hold you, too, because you’re on the verge of collapse—that’s when you really know, one way or the other.
Focus on what’s real in your life. Try not to take people for granted, or to be reckless with the heart of someone you say you love. If there are problems, welcome to real relationships. Life will never fail to put challenges in your path, it’s how you handle them that defines your relationship with yourself, and anyone else. It’s easy to lose the thread. You wake up with someone, day in and day out, for weeks, months, years, decades, and it’s easy to stop seeing them. I mean, to really take them in, and not just glance and nod your head like you’ve got it all figured out, because guess what? We’re all changing, all the time. Every single one of us. The person you chose to share your life with ten years ago, is not the same person today, and neither are you. We like to “peg” people, to think we “have them down”, but we’re always in process, and so are they; if you stop paying attention, you’re going to miss a lot, and no one likes to feel unseen or unheard. If two people stop showing up for each other, but continue living under the same roof, you can bet problems will follow.
A relationship exists in the space between you and the other person, whether we’re talking about your partner, your child, your parent, or the person behind the counter at the juice bar. What you put into that space is up to you. If we’re talking about intimate, longterm relationships, you have to be especially mindful about what you’re contributing, because complacency won’t get you there. Boredom, rage, frustration, blame and criticism won’t do it, either. You can’t control other people, or where they are on their own path. You can only do your end, you can only work to keep your side of the street clean, but you can inspire other people to be kind, compassionate, caring and present, by being those things yourself. If they don’t follow suit, if you try to communicate but find it’s falling on deaf ears, you may not be able to walk the distance together. It takes two people to make that third thing beautiful; that third thing being the relationship.
Maybe it can’t work, and that’s hard. It hurts. Depending upon circumstances, it can hurt a lot. If there are children in the picture, for example, it’s brutal, but understand that they live in that space between you and your partner, and if it’s polluted, they’re going to suffer. If you can’t make the space safe, loving, healthy and nurturing, it’s time to come up with a new plan. Turning your attention to fantasy won’t help anyone, but people do it all the time. They allow a flirtation at work to grow into a full-fledged situation, with heated emotion, and lying and desperation. It’s easy to justify poor behavior when you’ve felt discarded or rejected for years, but that just adds to the mess. It involves a whole other person, with all their feelings and complexities. It adds a layer of guilt and shame and hopelessness to a situation that’s already bleak. You really have to go to the source. If you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, misunderstood, it’s time to have a conversation. It’s time to sit down and get real with your partner, who already knows things are not okay. If it’s so bad you’re ready to trade in your integrity, and your ability to feel good about yourself, communication is long overdue. Some things are just not sustainable. Sometimes the foxhole is full of broken promises, dreams, hopes and potential. All that stuff has been shot up over the years, and now it’s time to see if you can piece things back together. If there’s enough there to start again, and start new, as you are now, and maybe you’re going to find that you can’t. But dealing with reality as it is, is always the place to start.
When we struggle in a relationship, we all like to think that things would be different if we had a different partner. And let me say this—maybe you chose someone when you were too young to really know yourself. Maybe you got hitched because you turned thirty and it seemed like the thing to do. Maybe you thought you knew your partner, but found out once you were in it, that so much had been edited out. Maybe you thought you wanted intimacy, but once you had it, you realized it isn’t for you. It isn’t for everyone, and that’s just reality, but if the truth is that if you’re not happy on the inside, finding a new partner won’t fix that. It’ll catch up with you. We can’t run from our pain, or gloss it over, or push it down or numb it out, and expect life to feel good. It won’t. Whatever it is, deal with it. Take it by the horns, and own it, because you don’t have all the time in the world. You want to be at peace, and you want the people you love to be at peace, and you want to be able to face yourself in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of the day and feel you can look yourself in the eye. These things are really important. There’s no judgement here. People screw up royally, all the time. Someone is making a huge, messy mistake right this second. Sometimes that’s what we need to learn a painful lesson, or own the fact that we’re miserable, and start to make hard choices. So don’t go to self-loathing, because you’ll get stuck there. Just start where you are. Yoga is great for this, by the way. One of the biggest things we work on is the ability to lean into our uncomfortable feelings, and to work with reality as it is, to breathe when we feel challenged, to trust that everything is always in flux, to understand that how we feel now is not how we will always feel, and to pause and listen before we act. When you follow your intuition, the way becomes clear.
Sending you love and a hug,