A friend messaged me a few days ago asking if I had sometime to chat or skype. He also mentioned that it was about relationship advice. The first thoughts that went through my head were “Me and relationship advice ? Now ? Are you serious ?” Jokes apart, we got skyping in the next few minutes as I did have time on my hands that evening.
When we spoke, he shared how he was feeling claustrophobic in his current relationship and wanted to unpack what it was all about. He was recently divorced after fifteen years of marriage and over the last two years, had been on a quest of finding himself. He was currently in a long distance relationship with someone who lived in a different country. They travelled to meet each other every few weeks.
He spoke of how, lately he had been feeling wound up when it was around the time to meet up with her. He said that the last time they met, it took him a while to let down his defenses and when he did he loved the time they spent together. After their intimate time together, when he got back home, once again he found himself withdrawing from her and shutting her out. That’s when he reached out to talk to a few of his close friends, including me.
When I asked him about her, he shared that he enjoyed her company and that she was a light hearted and energetic person. He described her as one of those people who was always curious to experience something different and found enjoyment in the little things.
My question to him was, “What are you afraid of ?” It took him a while to respond. He said that he feared losing himself in the relationship, losing his time, freedom and space. He was afraid of giving in too much, more than he wanted to. He was afraid that she was more invested in the relationship than he was. He wasn’t ready to make a long term commitment and he was afraid of this leading to that. He found the distance between them long but also feared the closeness. He liked things as they were now and wasn’t ready for or needed more.
I wanted to ask him (or react) at this point, “So you want to have your cake and eat it too? ” 😊
I did not ask him that though. What I did ask him was if she knew all of this? And shouldn’t he be having this entire conversation with her?He said he hadn’t considered doing that as he was afraid of losing her. What if she heard all of what he had to say and decided to end the relationship. At this point I should have told him, “So you do want to have your cake and eat it too ! But yet again I did not tell him that. 😊
I was useful though. I pointed out to him how “fear” ruled his relationship almost to that point where it seemed like it was Fear who was in a relationship with her and not him. His fear was impacting all his present moments with her and definitely killing any future they would organically have together or otherwise.
It’s easy to stand on the outside and make such an observation about others and we often forget that we also function from that same premise a lot of the time. At least I know I have done that. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you would already know that about me. I recall sharing once that I have done a PHD in fear.
Fear drives and ruins most relationships. A woman I was coaching a few years ago shared that even though she suspected something fishy was going on with her husband, she did not want to get too curious as she was afraid of what she might find out. She was in fact more afraid of the decisions she might have to take if her fears were confirmed.
A client of mine was afraid of leaving her nonexistent marriage as she feared losing the security she had. She had a life already in place and she knew her way around it. She was afraid to step out and explore a life beyond what was familiar.
This obsession with fear takes away the spirit of being in the present. Living in fear is like living a lie. Most people choose to close their eyes and live in fear rather than face the truth, that is staring at their face.
Another dear friend of mine feared conflict so much that he avoided having much needed conversations with his wife which hugely contributed to the breakdown of his marriage. He ended up creating the very thing he strived to avoid, because he let his fear take control.
I challenged my friend to have that conversation with his girlfriend, share his feelings, his dreams, his fears, his anxiety, all of it and at the same time urged him to keep an open mind to anything that was going to unfold from that conversation. She deserved that kind of transparency from him, and had the right to choose how she wanted be with it. Moreover she was a big girl and he did not have to protect her from his truth.
He was so afraid of repeating the mistakes from his past that he was ruining his present with his caution. And at this point, even though they were a “we”, he was fiercely protecting himself, I, my time, my life, my space, my freedom etc.
I shared with him something I had read about fear a while ago. It was something along the lines of .. “If you fear losing something, you are not yet ready to experience that in your life. Fall into fear and willingly let go of anything you are afraid to lose.” How liberating is that ! And.. easier said than done.
There are so many delicate layers interwoven in a relationship. One truth is that we cannot be in an authentic relationship with another unless we are in a right relationship with ourselves. Most of us are looking to fill in the missing pieces in ourselves through our significant relationships hoping that would have us feel whole. Do read the book or watch the video, “The Missing Piece Meets Big O”. It’s a beautiful book and a quick read, which beautifully explains what I want to convey.
Here is the link. http://youtu.be/Af-jZUR3ua0
The other aspect is that we tend to focus on ourselves a lot especially when there is a difference in opinion, our individual wants and needs, and to a large extent our ego gets in the way of being fully present.
When we shift our focus to what the relationship needs, and not our individual needs, we would be naturally willing to stretch more. For example, if a particular relationship is important to me and when I see that some action of mine is going to positively impact that relationship, I would be more willing to do what’s needed to create that. On the other hand, the same situation would be a war of egos if it was about “what I want” vs “what you want”.
At the end of the day, relationships basically boil down to taking that deep dive, baring ourselves, giving all of ourselves and yet not losing ourself or that thing people naively term ‘individuality’ and better yet becoming more of who we are. And through all of this, creating magic together.
It wouldn’t be just on my part if I kept you people hanging. So yeah, my friend had the ‘talk’ with his girlfriend which actually turned out fine to his surprise. All is well in their world.
September 2, 2017