This is the model of most relationships I know...to include my own sadly. This is how we operate in relation to those we love most of the time. Our culture and society reinforces this idea that we can, and should, be able to have it all, security and safety and complete autonomy and independence.
We can’t. It doesn’t work. And I would proffer that is why the divorce rate is 53% and also why an ever greater percentage of couples are together but not happy.
We go to relationships, loving, committed relations because we seek to find safety, commitment, companionship, sex, intimacy, love, security, and someone to be our match, our port in the storm. I am not sure how many of us ever really find that...and I am even less sure how many of us are actually capable of being that, all of that, really.
I have had these ideas kicking around in my head for years. Sitting ringside to relationships demise, for almost 28 years now, I have seen and witnessed a lot. Like a lot, a lot. And for at least a decade now, I have had this vague notion, which has grown louder and more crystalline, that I should be able to help people stay together better because I know so very well how they break apart. And I know how much time, effort, money and emotion is wasted on the shores of divorce.
So this post will be the first in a series that examines, from my perspective, what goes wrong and how to right it. Or at least try to right it.
So we begin here and from what I have been able to ascertain over the last 28 years, well my life time really, what is wrong with everyone’s (to include my own) relationship or marriage is that we are mostly all cutting a service to self model. And the operating principle appears to be “if it is good for me, you should be alright with it!”
It is painful to admit that though I love my partner, the way I have operated most of the time is that I want to do what I want to do and I want him to be happy about it. And this seems to be the guiding principle of our relationship - he does what he does and I am ok with it and I do what I want and he is ok with it. I mean we have certain boundaries and limits that are agreed upon, but for the most part we are two individuals who sleep in the same bed every night, sharing, caring but not really in this whole deal together even though I think we both want to be.
I have felt for years that unless and until the relationship becomes the most important aspect of the union, it is likely to perish. And I can tell you from experience it does, even if it doesn’t end. Relationships ending is just one way they die, I have seen many, perfectly intact unions, where neither party likes the other, isn’t happy, doesn’t want to be there anymore, and has no real value for their partner, but they remain because of fear or money or the kids or because it is just too damn hard to leave...
In my own inventory of my behavior in my relationship, I come up far shorter than I would have thought or like to admit. I want to do what I want, and I want him to be happy about it. I want him to see that I need a certain level of independence. I want him to be ok with me doing what I want, when I want. And for the most part he is. He lets me be for the most part but I wonder how safe this makes him feel, how cared for, how important, how involved. Does he feel loved, valued, cherished? Or does he feel like an afterthought, an accoutrement, an ornament in my lovely life?
The whole of my life I have spent in relations with others in this service to self model and I have always called it something else. Sometimes I have labeled it correctly...self centered, selfish, self serving, codependent, sick. But what I never really looked at was that I was always the most important component of that relationship. I was what I thought about. I was what I was concerned with. I never loved anyone more than I loved me, thought about me, worried about me. This is not to say that I didn’t ever think about “them” but sadly, they were always the after thought and the thing that I thought about only after I spent all my time and effort thinking about myself.
Wow, that is really ugly...but true.
I was in relationships to receive. Now, I gave, sometimes a lot, sometimes more than I really had to give. I gave to get. And then was really shocked when they were not ok with whatever thing I threw down as the new world order. Hey! It is good for me! So what is your problem? Don’t you love me? Don’t you want me to be happy? Don’t you care about me?
Egregiously, I never, or rarely never, thought about the relationship coming before me. Like ever.
Is it any wonder that so far none of my relationships have survived? The only relationship still standing is the one I have with God and myself. Why? Because I put those relationships before all else. Or at least try to. I have to maintain spiritual contact, or let’s just face it, I am an asshole...and drunk. A very drunk, disconnected, asshole. That is me. Yep, totally. And even though I am sober a long time, I know that if I let up on this whole spiritual living practice, I am a goner in days not months or weeks.
So I am capable of putting a relationship first. I do it with God. I put that relationship first, at least I do my best. Why can I not put a life committed relationship first then?
Lots of reasons really....
I haven’t wanted to
It feels like I would be turning in my Women’s Liberation Card if I did that
I haven’t met or dated someone who was willing to do it either
I am and was terrified that if I put the relationship first, that that would be all there was left of me.
And, most importantly, I believed, quite arrogantly, that I was capable of doing this but the other person wasn’t so why bother.
And that last one right there is what I have witnessed in every single relationship I have ever seen implode. Fear. And delusion. That we, us, we are more capable than our partner. There is contempt and disdain, for the one person we are supposed to love and cherish. Where there may be love, there is not a true feeling of good will and care, instead that has been replaced with something else...and I would proffer that that something else is service to self.
How can we ever have a stable, committed, loving relationship with another when not only do they not come first, the relationship doesn't either? Everything is chucked to the sidelines of our lives in order that this great, giant ego that is who and what I am far too often, is appeased, revered, prized and maintained at all costs...to include my relationship no matter how much I think it is important, needed, valued and loved. My service to myself has always won out.
Because it takes a very highly evolved person to be able to see that service to relationship is a better way to go. And to even be able to see that, or say that, requires someone who has done the work on themselves to see that service to self will only get you so far. Of course, service to self is way safer. But you are never, ever going to get these higher needs met. And to find another person, someone else willing to commit to service to relationship over service to self, that seems just about impossible.
Which is why the tail wags the dog...and why we all spend gazillion of dollars on dating sites, love rebounds, therapy and divorce professionals repeatedly. Service to self is the only kind of relationship served in this capacity...like ever.
So the first step, has to be admitting that we have an issue. Admitting that all our previous attempts at love and relating have failed because of one fundamental and perverse truth...we give to get. And so long as we give to get, we will always and forever be chasing our tails. That is the only thing that can happen in the practice of this model...sadly. Always with the delusional hope that this next person, or relation, or partner or whatever, will be different...and it never is. Because we come in and maintain at all costs, “if it is good for me, then you should be alright with it...”
More to follow in the days that come. And please, understand, I am not preaching from some mountain top that I have climbed to the nadir to pontificate from...no, please, know, I am here in the trenches with you, offering up perspective and what I find to be true. There is no gospel according to me, only ideas and thoughts that hopefully lead me, and maybe you, to somewhere we have never been before...in love with someone while being committed to a relationship equally and in good measure.
Hard but exciting stuff...can't wait to see where it takes us!