How Serious are You,
About doing the Work on your Relationship
Working on and being in a mature, adult relationship is the most challenging thing a person can do. Why? Because working on your relationship is really working on yourself.
Sam Keen says it best: “One part of love is sweet and easy, something we fall into and are swept away by. But the other part is hard: it requires discipline, willpower, and opening your heart again and again to someone with whom you are angry, can’t stand, and do not like” (Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening The Spirit In Everyday Life).
I wish I could blame my wife for any angst, sadness, frustration, joy, and discomfort I feel in my life. But I came into my marriage with all of these inner experiences and sensations, derived from my earlier years. She is just waking them up in me, when she challenges and confronts me on my stuff.
How serious are you about learning why you feel the way you do, and doing the work on your relationship?
Carl Jung, one of the world’s greatest visionaries and psychologists, reminds us of what happens when we enter a relationship: “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed”
The work involves owning and recognizing your reactions, and finding the roots to these feelings. We do this with therapy. We do this by simply slowing yourself down, sitting quietly so that all your feelings come up. When we slow our rational mind down, our emotions arise. Emotions bring a sense of vulnerability.
These feelings, which are stored in your heart, stomach, chest, and mid-brain, hold memories and an intelligence from earlier years that your adult mind needs to remember. But it is painful to wake them up.
That is the work. Carl Jung goes on to say, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate…knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
The eventual dialogue and communication between your rational and emotional sides is the goal of the work. Helping your logic-infused, adult mind to really understand where all your feelings of frustration and anxiety originally came from will create a completely different perspective.
So many people are not ready to feel old memories. I completely understand. It is much easier to look outside of ourselves, at our partner, parents, kids, boss, bank account, etc. as the reasons for our longing and discomfort. It is immeasurably harder to sit quietly, by ourselves, in a chair in a dimly lit room and just listen to our inner world.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”. That is Jung again. I wish there was an easier way to work on our relationships. It always comes back to me though. “There’s no coming to consciousness without pain” (Carl Jung, again).