Still Turning, Definitely On the Right Track

My partner and I wound up so enmeshed and embittered by hard stuff we'd gone through together that we were right on the edge of the cliff of ending it all, and we were peering over the edge of that cliff every single day.

We would scrape up what little trust we had left and try to talk, try to make it work. Usually we would wind up shouting.

Then suddenly we came up with the thing that saved us. We've tried all the old stuff: doing what we thought we were supposed to do, doing what we thought the other one wanted us to do, doing what we each felt we had a right to do because we couldn't stand it any more. And we'd been together enough years we'd done all those things over and over again.

But one day one of us said: none of the old ways work. We've tried them. If there's any chance for us to make it, it will have to be because we find a new way.

In other words, when she answers a question in a way that feels familiar and makes me want to scream, I have to find a new way to respond. I've tried screaming, I've tried being reasonable even while all I wanted to do was scream and neither of those things brought us any closer. What if I try stepping back from my powerful negative reaction to what she said, and leave open the possibility that maybe she wasn't just trying to infuriate me, maybe there was something there I wasn't getting at all and I won't know till I give her the benefit of the doubt and ask her, and listen carefully to what she has to say.

This is so hard to do! I had to give up being righteous. I had to give up being the wounded party. Instead I had to trust that we both still loved each other, and that however awful everything had gotten, we both shared the responsibility for letting it get so bad and we were both going to have to do the heavy lifting of making it better.

Well, that was two years ago. We now have the best relationship I have ever been in, with some of the intoxicating in-loveness we started out with all those years ago, but more amazingly we both have a profound sense of how much we are here for each other, and how well suited we are. And when we get stuck, we go straight to: what new way can we find to fix this?

humdinger humdinger 46-50, F 3 Responses Sep 9, 2007

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That's cool, Zen. I know you've got your own heavy lifting you're working on and I wish you the best with it.

Yeah, El, you're saying it particularly well. And it is damned hard material to get your hands on and change in real life.

It may be insane to expect different results, but the picture I get is more of being asleep at the wheel, dreaming you're awake. Most of what I've needed to face and change existed on this nebulous, semi-conscious level where I'd spent years reacting reflexively. It took a whole lot of feeling awful from running into the same walls repeatedly for the patterns to begin to emerge alongside the will to break them up.

And if you'd asked me during that time whether I was conscious of what I was feeling and choosing, I'd have been offended - of course I was! Awareness isn't just a function of the intellect, of apprehending and acting on useful new concepts. The process of aligning beliefs, feelings and assessment in new directions can take this particular camper a very long time.

But it beats the hell out of being stuck in the muck.

This does cause certain bells to ring - i.e. - The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result - or - Keep doing what you've been doing and you'll get what you got. -- It's unfortunate, but the devil we know is like an old shoe, and the angels we don't can scare us to death. I've had to experiment with this a lot in recent years, and although it can be an irritating stretch, it sure does pay dividends.