A long time ago, I had a conversation with a friend and she told me that her dad and step mom were breaking up. She said her dad was interested in exploring an open relationship and his wife wasn’t. This is a particularly thoughtful couple, as it turns out, so as the conversation with my friend continued, I wanted to know more and more about how her dad and his wife dealt with this conflict and the decision to divorce. It was all super-interesting and yet one part of this whole thing has really stayed with me. The way my friend presented it, their decision was around this central issue: The wife said that her ‘stuff’ comes up when she is in a committed monogamous relationship, and that’s how she wants to continue her personal work…so open isn’t going to work for her.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
That must have been really scary and hard. I could see myself saying, all sorts of things about “waaah-open relationship” or “why don’t you love meeeee” or “I don’t want to break up because that seems too painful so even though I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to work for me, I’ll give it a try and then when it’s so horrible I can’t stand it anymore, I’ll freak out and leave in a dramatic way.” Perhaps she sorted through all this, is more highly evolved, or knows herself well enough to see that what was being offered just wasn’t going to work for her. She didn’t have to try it to find out. Or that’s how the story goes. It is so civilized, isn’t it? Even with all the clarity and civility, I bet it was still really scary and hard.
Being in a relationship, over a long period of time, is a remarkably good way to see what your personal issues are, and then have them highlighted over and over again. But how many of us look at these “highlights” that come up in a relationship as an opportunity to really see where it is we need to grow? I can’t speak for you, but in the past, I haven’t seen things from such a mature and progressive angle. I tended toward, “YOU are making my life hard and if YOU just did things differently, then I’m sure I’d be a much nicer/happier/fulfilled person. Can you pleeease get your shit together so I can be happy?”
I guess that’s why I really appreciate this woman who is out there somewhere, knowing what boundaries and commitments are necessary for her to feel safe and supported and able to grow. That’s some comes from some serious svadyaya and I aspire to that level of clarity. The relationship that she wants is one in which she and a loving partner hold space for one another so that each of them are able to see themselves more clearly and know which way to grow. I guess sometimes that means that they might clearly see that they aren’t in the right relationship anymore. Sigh.
This story gives me hope. I have grown a lot in the last couple of years, but even so, the water is still murky when I look inward—especially when I look into the “relationship” part of my personal pond. It’s not so clear to me what it is that my relationship needs to look like and it doesn’t feel civilized and clear when the growth is anticipated or happening. It is messy and there is cursing involved. But, even with all that murk, it IS happening. The growing continues. As Dave and I sort through it—the together-murk and the murk that is our own, I am slowly filtering it out of my pond. I’m not at a stage where this story can come together as a tidy, one-paragraph parable, but we keep at it. Little by little, there is less murk and more clarity. We get to choose what we want our relationship to look like instead of letting our old habits take over. It takes patience but when I see things shifting, it is empowering to know we can do this differently and better. It is also really hard. It is hard because as I continue with this personal work that I claim to be so interested in, I’m coming up against stuff that I don’t want to be there, but it is. Like anger. Yep. Lately, it’s mostly anger.
So here we are, choosing to be in this kind of relationship where we hold space for each other to grow and we attempt to find a sense of clarity about what it is that we want, offer, and need. Being in this moment without dwelling on what may come in the future is such a worthwhile challenge. It’s now that we are making choices and offerings that lead to the next moment’s choices and offering. We are shaping our time together and our story.
But if one performs prescribed action
Because it must be done,
Relinquishing attachment and the fruit,
His relinquishment is a lucid act. (sattvic)
The fruit of action haunts men
In death if they fail to relinquish
All forms, unwanted, wanted, and mixed—
But not if men renounce them.
You’ve got to do what’s right, not for fear of what might come or because you hope you will gain something as a result of your action. If that’s sticking with someone even though there is resistance, you do it. If it means that you have to leave because your path isn’t aligning with your partners anymore, you do it. That’s assuming that things are clear. Pretty big assumption, I realize. But when it is “a lucid act” and that particular handful of pond scum has been strained and sorted into appropriate bins, and when the action is done “because it must be done,” then it will be the right action. And what follows will be easier. We hope.