Last summer I found this great book, How to Be an Adult in Relationships - Five Keys to Mindful Loving. Ironically, I bought it for myself well after my ex and I split. I found it on a shelf at the Maryhill Winery tasting room/retail shop. (I'm not sure why they carry self-help books in a winery retail shop - after all, the last thing we really want people coming to a winery doing is thinking about self help. God forbid they should then move on to the 12 steps and stop buying our product. Annnnnnd I digress. Shocked, aren't you?)
So I bought this great book and I started reading it. The author, David Richo writes about these amazing and enlightening things people really need to receive from those they love, which are also the same thing a mature person is able to give in a relationship. Of course, I was thinking of what I was learning in terms of "I'll use this to improve my friendships and family relationships" and, "Someday, if I ever relish the thought of being with someone again, this will be useful." But now the rubber has met the road, and I'm reminded in some rather humbling ways that my work is FAR from over.
After my ex and I parted ways, I did a lot of work in therapy, I did a lot of twelve step stuff. And I know I made a lot of progress. But I am arrogant in that I assume just because I'm doing better means I won't have the same problems again in the future.
There are days when I do well. Days when I do exceptionally well. Days when I know that the relationship I am in isn't the end-all, be-all of my existence. I had a life before S, I will have a life after S (in the sad event that someday down the roads things go south), and even while we are in each other's lives, he and I each have things that are our own, lives that we live independent of each other. That's how its supposed to be.
I'm worlds better at the "fixing" part of my codependency issues. Frankly, I don't see anything about S that needs fixing. He's pretty awesome just the way he is. I wouldn't change a thing (unless its the occasional leaving up of the toilet seat - but mostly he's very orderly in that regard). Where I struggle is in my need to control things or to be constantly reassured in order to push away the fear of being left.
Most of the time I am OK. But there are days that come along when I start to feel lost, start to feel needy. And I forget that it is not someone else's responsibility to make me feel OK. I forget that being OK is MY job. Perhaps part of is being selfish, self-absorbed. Part of it is forgetting who I am, forgetting that another person doesn't "complete" me, another person is...another person. Someone I like being around, someone who I feel happy just thinking about, someone in whose presence I am filled with a sense of peace and love and safety. I forget those things in the absence of them, if time or circumstance prevents togetherness...and I succumb to fear.
Not always, no. But sometimes. Richo calls it the "F.A.C.E. of Ego" -- Fear, Attachment, Control, Entitlement. We become afraid, become bound in the shallow pool of entitlement and begin trying to control the other person in order to feel relief from the pain these characteristics embody. When this happens to me, I begin to feel insecure. I act as if another person's actions or words can make these feelings dissipate, I become anxious for them to do the things I want them to in order to feel better, and ultimately my words and actions become a wedge between us.
In a healthy relationship, I'm not possessive of my partner. I know he is not an extension of me, and I know that the only way to be nurtured and cared for is to provide those things for myself. I don't need to manipulate or push him into trying to make me feel OK, because I already am OK.
And so I work to relearn, reteach myself those things which I know but somehow continue to forget.
Confidence in ourselves grows when we feel the immense joy of
fulfilling our capacity to love. In addition, we can be comfortable in the real
world that exists beyond our wishes and manipulations. We can be cocreators
of relationships in which love is more and more cheerfully and
generously given and received. We can love the moment, all we have, and
love in the moment with all we are.
-David Richo, How to be an Adult in Relationships
Its all party of my journey, I suppose. I'm blessed right now, by my work, my relationships, my family, my life. I'm challenged too, by my children, my circumstances, by my self. And that's perfectly OK.
When you simply remain faithful to your own reality, you evoke the
creative forces in yourself that lie just below the permeable surfaces of your
psyche. There you find abundant possibility.
- David Richo, Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side
S: Thank you for patiently accepting my limitations and supporting me gently and lovingly in the face of them.