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Relational Work...

Are we willing to do it? 


I have always thought I was willing, but when push came to shove, I wasn’t.  I just wanted to be who I was and have the other person change.  I wasn’t really willing to do the work.  

Relationships, of any kind, are hard.  Very hard.  And we as humans have this idea that they aren’t or shouldn’t be.  It is as if we all are raised on fantasy and then the fantasy completely supplants reality and then we attempt to build our lives on the cloudy, ethereal nature of nothing solid or real.

I have been at this relationshiping thing for some time now.  And I have entered a profession that divides up relationships and watches them implode daily.  I didn’t choose this profession, it chose me.  And this is what I do now.  I attempt to help people exit marriage and commitment and children and finances which is just a different kind of relational work.  And, seeing as how I have done this for a very long time, I think I have learned some things.

And what I have learned is that blame is way easier than understanding.  And fault finding for others is way easier than accepting your own faults and flaws.  Finger pointing and name calling is also way easier than working to change the underlying things that cause someone to act out in ways we don’t like or understand.

I think the most healthy and universal shift we need to have as humans is to see our relationships are the places we need to change the most.  These relationships are the cocoon if you will.  When we enter, we are changed into something else, and that can be as much for the better as it can the worst.  

But we enter with this delusion that this person will make us happy or will change or will just get us in ways that no one else ever has.  And no one (or very few people) in my experience, enter relationships looking to do the work.  We just want the love and sex and heady stuff to lift us up and make us feel good.  And I say this with no moral judgment.  ME  TOO! 

But eventually that will wear off and we will have to be in a place where this person we have partnered up with is going to let us down, hurt us and cause us dis-ease.  And we have to do something about that...together.

And the biggest, most fundamental way I think we can change our outcome is to look at all relationships as opportunities to do work.  Our work, their work.  They aren’t opium dens of hedonistic pleasure.  They aren’t artificial zones of safety where we will be cared for, loved and cherished forever, the end.  They are dynamic, every changing landscapes of our lives intertwined with another who will change in relation to us, but also in relation to themselves.  They are multifaceted and demanding.  They require our whole self even though we may not even have access to that ourselves.  And it is required that we and they do the work if we want to continue to exist in the relationship.

I think we need to change as a society in how we view relationships.  I think we have all bought into this model that says, “get your shit together then go find someone who has done the same!”  And I don’t really know a lot of people who have their shit together...and I know even less who can find someone to partner with who also has their shit together.

How we are attracted, why we are attracted is one of life’s greatest mysteries.  It is this giant unknown.  To some we are and to other’s no matter how wonderful they may be, we just aren’t.  And perhaps maybe when we die, we get to see the why.  But in this life, we just get to see all the disasters that come from trying to make the wrong thing be the thing that saves us.

The saving, that is the individual’s job.  We have to save ourselves.  This much I know to be true.  And we are never really entering into relationships with others who are whole and complete and all done with growth and work.  What we are really doing when we enter a relationship is asking a question...except that no one really understands this.  And so, the relationship goes off the rails because no one really truly understands why they are there.

In my opinion and from my experience, relationships is where we go to do our work.  It is the place we are provided to heal the past.  To see the why’s and how’s and understand ourselves and others better.  There is always going to be work involved in the intimate communion between two souls.  And we should stop thinking there is some magical fantasy land that absolves us of this most awesome and life changing responsibility and work.

Relational work IS relationshiping.  If we are in one, then there will always and forever be work.  Our own, theirs and the work that must be done as a couple, or parent/child, or friend/friend.  The asks are very different because the risk is very different.  It is in the most intimate and intense relationships that ask us for the most, in fact, demand the most from us.

And if we are lucky enough to find someone to do the work with, then we should hold that person close and dear.  Because the fact they are here, the fact they are willing to walk through the shitstorm of life and living with you is remarkable indeed.  The fact they can see from the beginning that there will be work involved and not just magic and chemistry and fun is even more remarkable.

Probably one of the greatest and most magical things I have ever known is to endeavor to do this life work with another person who knows me intimately:  mind, body, spirit.  And having had a relationship like that once, changed me so fundamentally that I saw that all I had been doing before was simply not worthy of the title “relationship”. 

If we are not committed to doing the work together, with love and compassion and honesty and transparency, then we shall never, ever receive that which we all seek and long for...because is is only in the doing of the work that those gems, those brilliant depths can ever be reached.  We can love many, we can want many, but until we find another soul who is willing to show up, be vulnerable the do the excruciating task of working together over time, we shall never, ever know what it means to love and be loved.  Because the love is what is found on other side of the work completed.  Ever varying levels of intimate connection available to us if we are willing to bare our souls and commit to one person to do the work, together, forever.



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