In Part 1 of “Being Woke in a Relationship,” we talked about how when you first pair up, it would be so consciously next-level if you sat in front of each other and said, “I’ll show you my stuff and you show me yours: What are you working with? What are your traumas, wounds, patterns, hang-ups …? Because I guarantee you I will be pushing up against your issues and I want to be conscious, loving, gentle, and helpful. I will hold up the mirror and inevitably highlight those parts of you in shadow, as you will do to me, so we can take ownership and heal. And we will either go deeper into love or we will break apart. If the latter happens, I will then move on to the next person who can hold the space for me to bravely show up and embrace all of who I am.”
That’s unusual brokering in the early days of love, but it’s realistic, and ultimately, loving in the truest sense. Here are some other ways to stay centered and bring your best self to your relationship in the most woke way possible.
Your first allegiance is to you
You are in a relationship with you, first and foremost. This big love that your partner inspires in you … Guess what? It already exists within you. They are but a catalyst for it. As the great mystic Rumi says, “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.” We trigger this incredible, incomparable feeling in each other that is latently there. Not to downplay their amazingness, but to highlight yours: you have all this love within you already, why not give some of it to you before giving it all away to others? Reminding you that the relationship you have with yourself is the constant our whole lives through. Husbands/wives and lovers come and go, but our relationship with ourselves is lifelong and dictates the quality of our lives and the caliber of love we call in (we attract where we’re at). All good things flow when we love ourselves above all others. This isn’t in the realm of selfishness or narcissism, just some all-important lessons in truly getting to our core, that our relationship with ourselves reigns supreme.
Know that you’re with the right person for this moment. You pulled in the exact right partner to help you grow in love. It’s a sacred partnership whether you like it or not, and there are no mistakes in the picking. Even if your person can sometimes be controlling, impatient, emotionally unavailable, immature, needy … it’s here for you, showing up through them, to move you closer to wholeness. (Note: none of this applies if you’re in an abusive relationship. This requires an immediate exit plan and some therapeutic support to heal.)
I’d rather be happy than right
All of who they are—the good and the bad—is what you’ve unconsciously called in. So buckle up, Buttercup, and enjoy the ride! This is always a helpful reframe. As well as remembering they are doing “them” perfectly. We can give them full permission to be who they are. We run into trouble when we drink the Kool-Aid of thinking we can try and change them. We find ourselves saying things to ourselves (and anyone else who will listen), “If they’d just do this, or act like that, we would be fine, things would be better.” Red flag! That’s an energy leak for you, a colossal waste of time, and it’s how we procrastinate and avoid working on our own life and what’s in front of us on the path ahead. Heads up: We don’t have to change anyone for us to be OK with What Is. We can move into acceptance and let others run their own process, and we can learn to shift our perceptions on just about anything, as well as just focus on keeping our side of the street clean. Choosing your serenity rather than winning an argument is always going to move you into the lasting contentment zone.
When in doubt, a great rule of thumb is to treat you partner the way you want to be treated. Be kind and loving where you can. Be gracious. Look for ways to compliment them, to highlight the good, and to express gratitude for the small things, even for just taking out the trash. Couples can take each other for granted by not seeing all the moments where there is nurturing happening in indirect ways, by expressing love through small actions. If you make this a practice for week—of actively trying to call out kindness and thoughtfulness in your partner when you notice it—you’ll find it’s like watering a plant, and it will perk up and bloom in a different kind of way. What you magnify multiplies. In that same vein, let the small irritants go: when you catch yourself tallying, building a case against them, or harboring small resentments that add up, ask yourself if it’s important, like really. And can you find a way to dig deep to forgive those small irritants and move on? And if you can’t, ask yourself if this is your way of distracting from your own deficiencies. It gets trappy like that sometimes, how we hold our partner hostage, while we behave like the terrorist. So instead, we breathe. We pray or just ask ourselves to let go, and retrain the mind to magnify the good where we can. This will strengthen our own capacity to love deeper and also to be more tolerant of our own human frailties.
What you see in them that drives you crazy? It exists in you: again, that darn shadow aspect! Heal yourself. Consciously notice your own behaviors that are similar and irritating. Notice how you get activated around your partner’s stuff, and observe how that intolerance masks disowning your own treasure trove of negative tendencies.
When you find yourself at an impasse with your partner as things are going down: pull back and get right with you. Exit the space when you’re triggered and the conversation is escalating. You’re not going to solve anything with that person at that moment. Most likely, they can’t say or do anything that’s going to solve this heightened feeling within you—because it’s not actually about them. Go breathe and write about what’s coming up for you, remembering that they are holding up the mirror, and there’s something that needs looked at within you, so you can heal. Then take a walk, draw a bath, spend time letting it settle. When eventually you do have a sit-down with your partner, you’re now bringing your best self both to them, and to the relationship to problem-solve, without the heat of the trigger on top of you both. All good things will get revealed for the relationship’s highest good from that place when you’ve cultivated a neutral space within you.
Bottom line: relationships are the master class of getting intimate with yourself. It can be a heaven or hell of your own making if you choose to obsess over the other person’s uncontrollable behaviors or you choose to refocus on what you DO have control over: your triggers and your reactions to them. Love and honor all of who your partner is, and try not to mercilessly hold them up to what you think is their potential. Accept all of where you both are, at this point in time. It will keep you in good stead, and it will safeguard what you’re building together through love and compassion.