Today was a wonderful day! I spent all morning with my husband at a couples’ workshop lead by Rabbi Mordecai Finley and later, in the afternoon, I took my girls to raise money for the Malibu library at a painted potty event! (more on that later in the next blog!)
I wished to God that I had known about these relationship skills when I had timidly ventured forth into the dating pool. I can only imagine the pain that I would have been spared!
In Finley’s words, “most people suffer because they don’t know how to love well and to be loved well. They haven’t mastered the tools for intimacy.”
I reflected back through my relationship history and marveled at how easily communication broke down and how cavalierly hearts were broken. Relationships were always a mystery to me. Long after I had let go of Mr. Right, and settled for Mr. Right Now, I still wondered where the handbook was?! And where was the man who was willing to admit he needed to read the manual?!
I am about to celebrate 12 years on marriage on May 8th and if one counts Hollywood years like dog years – that brings us closer to our 94th anniversary! Cause for celebration, indeed! And, thank goodness, I am married to a man who comes willingly to workshops with me. Not because there is a ‘problem’ anymore but out of sheer enjoyment.
We have reached the place where growing together has become fun.
I can’t say that it was always the case.
It seems to be that the first few months are the much coveted ‘honeymoon’ period. The next stage is - let’s meet everything ugly about the other- this is traditionally when many relationships fail. When the going gets tough, and as the glow of infatuation fades, most starry-eyed lovers are ready to launch into the arms of another more alluring object of desire.
I believe that the reason the shadow side surfaces is because -everything that is not love surfaces in an environment of love, in order to be transmuted and healed through that love. But often, the shock of the other person’s shadow is more than most are prepared for and you run for the hills.
The other problem is - very few people will take responsibility for their shadow, instead they blame you. How many times have we heard, “You’re the problem!” or “It’s your fault!”?
The day I met my husband’s shadow, every ounce of my being wanted to flee. This was not the man I had fallen in love with! This was a monster!
Hoping for an out, I went looking for sympathy.
Instead, every single person I met with gave me the same advice. “If you leave Casper, you are going to attract the same kind of man, over and over again. This is your pattern. You need to take responsibility. There is no point leaving him. At least, Casper is willing to work it out with you.”
And, although it was the single hardest thing I ever did, it was the best decision I was ever encouraged to make. (I can’t say I made it all by myself!) At that point, the tables turned, and he took the full force of my hurt and rage. I honestly don’t know how he stuck it out. It took me years to forgive him, and he just hung in there.
What I realized was that he was not the cause of all my hurt. He had triggered a wellspring, but I needed to look at the origin. And I did take full responsibility for my part in our dance of darkness.
What I learned today, is that the opposite of anger is wisdom. You have to make a solemn oath not to be an angry person. (I’m choosing anger, but you could substitute any negative emotion that has a destructive impact on your life)
You cannot dump that anger on others and expect them to metabolize your toxicity and you can’t suppress it either. You have to learn to metabolize your own toxic emotions.
Seems so simple! Well, why isn’t the whole world living like this!?
Instead of suppressing anger, one must replace it with another emotion such as curiosity. Who would have thought of that!?
Curiosity requires one to move out of the limbic brain (fight or flight) into the neo-cortex brain where it is impossible to feel anger. So, you trick your anger by moving into a higher functioning part of the brain.
Curiosity about the other person. What was happening in their life that caused them to react in such a way? Can we investigate before we jump to conclusions and make assumptions based on feelings?
The goal is to become dis-identified with the anger, regain our ability to think clearly and rationally and find a way to access the higher self.
Anger lowers your intelligence (proven fact) An angry person is not a moral person, and I have decided that I don’t want to process the world from anger. I have a choice - regardless of what life throws at me.
It is so inspiring to learn that there exists an elegant language to resolve conflict. This wasn’t bumper cars or ‘Punch and Judy’ (Does anyone else remember those obnoxious married puppets who use to beat each other up or am I really dating myself!?)
When someone comes at you in anger and you are able to respond with, “I’m sorry. I care about you deeply. I want to hear everything you have to say, but not in anger. So, I’m going to have to leave the room. I am not leaving the relationship, I still love you.”
This was so simple, so mature and deeply honoring. Where was this dialogue when I was in my teens!?
And I wondered, why aren’t my children learning these skills in school?
Why isn’t everyone educated in the language of inter-personal communication? In the language of love?
Why does it seem that a bunch of angry teenagers are running this world?
It is a cruel irony - that many of life’s most valuable skills – the ones that would guarantee leading successful love-filled lives - are not part of our mainstream curriculum.
My marriage is no longer a battleground. Our union is blossoming and flourishing as a beautiful garden that we commit to tending together on a daily basis.
I feel blessed to share my life with someone dedicated to living a life of virtue.