There is a moment when you first fall in love with someone where you can’t imagine how you ever lived without this person in your life. Your heart feels wide open. Your biggest problems suddenly seem entirely manageable. You see possibilities in everything. The world is kind. You are gorgeous, sexy, funny. You are complete.
And then you get to know each other a little better. You have a couple of moments of “Oh, I didn’t realize you could be like that.” But still you gaze into each other’s eyes at dinner and get butterflies when you see a text from them come through. You still feel gorgeous, sexy, funny. You are still complete.
Eventually you hit a point where your Uglies come out. You know the Uglies. These are your little monsters who have been sitting back patiently watching you walk on your tiptoes and blast love songs while you brush your teeth. They live inside all of us. They are mean and unattractive. They peek out from the curtains and wait until everything is quiet to start raising hell. They throw things, they scream obscenities, they remember every hurtful thing that was every done to them. They do not forgive and they punish and re-punish innocent bystanders over and over and over.
OK, so eventually your Uglies come out. And so does your partner’s. They have an Uglie party where no one is having fun. They argue, they posture, they harbor resentments, they plot revenge. Pretty soon, it is only your Uglies who are having a relationship anymore. Your heart is gripped by anxiety and frustration. There are no possibilities for happiness or peace. The world is mean. Gorgeous, sexy, funny you has left the building. You are incomplete and hurting.
It is here where the relationship will end or endure in madness. Most relationships function this way. We expect them to function this way. We accept that there is an ephemeral period of bliss at the beginning of a relationship, and that it necessarily slides downward into boredom, sacrifice and dislike.
But that is a great lie. And feeling gorgeous, sexy and funny is not why we have relationships in the first place.
Let me just pause for a second to confess this has been one of the gnarliest lessons I’ve learned (am learning!) on this path I’m walking. I crash into it again and again in my sessions with Michelle. It has been the greatest source of pain in my life over the last year or so. And, even though I know it’s true like I know I’m going to draw my next breath, I fight it like my life depends on it.
Because I am afraid that if I don’t feel gorgeous, sexy and funny, I will feel nothing. And what’s worse, maybe I am nothing. If I don’t feel those things with my partner, what am I? What will he see when he looks at me?
It has been – and continues to be – a process. This conscious effort to diffuse my ego and be guided in my romantic love by spirit. At whatever point I truly understood that he is simply reflecting myself to me and not showing me an image of who he thinks I am, I couldn’t unknow it. I couldn’t hit control+alt+delete and reboot back to that place where I was trying to cultivate an image that he would buy into. I was always being accurately shown who I was in every aspect of our relationship. And still am.
I understand now that the true gift of being in love is not the fuzzy stuff. It’s not the butterflies and the daydreamy-ness and the longing. (Although, gosh darn that’s fun!) The magic is the opportunity to see yourself reflected in your loved one so that you may learn and grow and experience a deep, lasting, unshakable love. It’s not that the hotness you feel when your lover looks at you isn’t real – it is. You are hot! But when you see your partner scowling at your Uglie doing the ugly dance, that is also real.
The illusion is in the story that our partner is doing it to us. “He’s pushing my buttons!” “She’s saying things she knows upset me!” “He’s ignoring me on purpose!” “She just likes to argue!” And then somehow the behavior is justified. The work for me has been in entirely owning my responses to triggers in my relationship. (And when I say work, make no mistake, it feels like swallowing rocks sometimes.) I’ve sat down on Michelle’s sofa many times sure that I finally had a situation where she would agree with me in my rightness. I’ve crafted arguments about something I did in the name of boundaries or self-respect then looked at her for approval. I’ve never gotten it.
It’s not about the other person being right either. It’s just irrelevant. My work is in looking at my responses, my triggers, my patterns – not in analyzing my partner’s behavior. A couple of weeks ago, I sat on her sofa and said “I don’t think I can keep doing this. I am so in love, but it is so hard. These parts of myself are just too hard to face.” And she encouraged me to understand that is where the growth is and also the opportunities for the deepest, truest love. “You can leave,” she said. “But you won’t grow.”
I stay with this relationship because every time I do some work on myself, magically, he looks different to me. I work on myself and that gets reflected back to me. I am increasingly aware of a profound sense of peace and safety that is coming from within me, not from my lover. And I can bring that to our relationship, which is such a beautiful thing it makes me cry.
Lately, I go into a session with Michelle loaded for bear and come out not remembering what it was I so mad at. I work on me, and the story just turns to dust. And I think of the man I love and feel a little lighter and a little more expanded in my heart. And the world is kind. I am gorgeous, sexy, funny.
I am complete.
Abby Harper Slate is a San Diego-based writer and blogger. All of the views and opinions expressed here are her own. You can contact Abby at www.abbyharperslate.com.