View your Relationship as a Separate Entity
Use the power of visualization to help you focus on your relationship. Formulate an image of your relationship as a separate entity created by the two of you but possessing its own integrity and independence. You are both responsible for it, and you are both responsible to it. There are many images to choose from as metaphor for your relationship: a beautiful child, a thriving corporation, a flourishing garden, a wise spiritual guide.
We see our relationship as a garden. If you plant seeds in a garden, in a clear, sunny spot of tilled, rich earth, soon they will sprout in a beautiful flurry of green. You may be delighted and proud. If you simply leave it on its own, weeds will quickly grow up and overrun your lovely plants. Your garden will go to ruin. Relationships are very much like this, and just as a garden requires continual attention to reward us with its great bounty of foods for our bodies and flowers for our pleasure, so does the relationship. If you want love, ecstasy, joy and harmony, you must cultivate them.
Many relationships start off like our garden: clean and fresh and bursting with life. When you and your mate establish an intimate connection, there’s excitement, newness, passion, and great sex. Each of you is showing the other your best, and it’s effortless. It feels marvelous. But soon enough you start to see each other’s warts. You become aware of things in each other you don’t like. Ironically, many of the things you found intriguing and attractive at the outset can soon be annoying or downright exasperating. Spontaneous becomes irresponsible. Self-confidence turns into bragging. Attention to details shifts to nit picking. There may not be any actual difference in the way your lover is behaving, but you might see another side to the behavior or a different interpretation that did not occur to you before.
At the same time the world begins to intrude with demands that cannot be ignored. You can’t continue to focus only on each other because, for example, you have been offered a job in another city, your paycheck runs out before the end of the month, you still don’t get along with your mother, the kids are driving you crazy, you get the flu, someone crashed into your car in the parking lot, and his or her ex-spouse is calling again. In other words, the weeds spring up. This is a critical point in the relationship. Now it has to graduate to another level. You must give it the attention it needs. You have to start weeding the garden and planting more seeds, or the relationship will be lost in a tangled mess.
Paying attention is ongoing. Weeds never stop sprouting. Seeds always need replanting. There never comes a time when you can sit back and expect nothing but fruits and flowers. In addition, you constantly have to invent new ways to fight the weeds, because the old ways get stale and stop working. What was effective yesterday in keeping the world at bay won’t be effective tomorrow. It can be especially dangerous when something that formerly worked stops working. It takes effort to find new solutions, but everyone wants it to be easy. You remember that your relationship was easy at the beginning and you still crave that easiness. So the terrible temptation is to go out and find it with someone else, either in an affair or by ending the current relationship and beginning a new one. Sometimes the urge to run away from the effort of tending your relationship garden is overwhelming. Where do you find the motivation to persevere in making your relationship thrive in the face of obstacles and problems? An effective strategy is to begin to view your relationship as a spiritual practice. More on spiritual practices in our next post……