Mind the Gap
Michael and I have a rule, and it’s that no matter what, we never spend more than 3 days away from one another (unless we are saving the world – there’s an exception to every rule!) As a couple, we happen to spend a lot of time traveling, and we are mindful of what too much space can generate, so we want to avoid situations that can create an opening. Of course this is our commitment to each other, and each couple will make up their own guidelines as they go along and see fit, but the point I want to make is that, in life, there is value in immediacy, and appreciation for what and who matters in our lives. It is crucial to our relationships that we feel and stay connected, because the minute we become disconnected, the more time passes, the harder it is to find our way back to that intimacy – or even appreciate why we came together in the first place.
When either my husband or I travel independently, I enter a place of feeling completely autonomous. When he’s away, it feels like I’m visiting with an old friend, (that would be me) just like when I was single and had only myself to depend on. I sit in front of the fireplace, sip a glass of red wine, study, write, read, and get in touch with the independent me. I don’t feel like I need anybody, and being on my own is great. When I wake up in the morning, the sheets remain crisp and perfectly tucked into the bed all night. When I retire the next evening, I can do so without having to remake the bed. Whereas when my husband sleeps, the sheets get so twisted and bunched up, it looks like the bed has been hit by a tornado!
For the record, when he is in town none of these things bother me, but as soon as he or I travel, it’s as if a part of me that needs to “survive” kicks into gear and almost convinces me of how easily I could do it all on my own.
I pretend that I am an island, and that I have no need for anyone, not even my husband. It’s an enjoyable place to visit, but I never stay for too long, because it is just an illusion. It’s not sustainable, and it’s definitely not something that I even want. But this kind of thinking can be a trap, it can create an opening, and once we create a gap, in essence we invite something else to fill it.
In my time counseling couples, I have witnessed that an opening can stem from an argument, when words are said in the heat of the moment like, “FINE! We’ll just get divorced. Let’s go our separate ways.” Or noticing and appreciating that someone else is attractive – maybe even envisioning what it might be like to be with them. No harm in looking, right? NOT TRUE! We don’t realize the impact and the weight those thoughts actually carry. Openings can stem from:
- Carelessness or thoughtlessness
- Spending too much time away from one another
- Or even just getting too complacent in the relationship, and not valuing each other.
This may be surprising, but if you have a trainer or a massage therapist of the opposite sex, that can create an opening, too. In fact, I have a little story to share. Michael came home one evening, and I happened to be getting a massage. After she left, Michael asked me if I had ever received a massage from a male therapist since we’d been married. I told him that I had. Michael made a comment about how the same massage would have looked intimate if a man had been giving it. It gave me pause. Although I could have justified that I like very deep tissue massages, and that a man would be stronger, it’s reasonable that the thought of another man touching my body is undesirable to my husband, and since then I’ve made the choice to only go to female therapists.
Kabbalistically, openings create a space for negativity to rest and manifest. The inconvenient truth is that all of our negative actions towards others carry repercussions – every cause has an effect, and the sooner we can realize that, the sooner we can limit openings coming into our lives and relationships altogether. Anytime we act with anger, judgment, resentment, become defensive or bitter toward our partner, friends, family or the random people we encounter, it creates an opening, which invites doubt, sadness, more judgment, more anger, more resentment or even jealousy to fill that space. It’s the ultimate boomerang effect. On the flip side, it is completely avoidable!
We can avoid opening our lives up to feelings of doubt, and general dissatisfaction by maintaining our sense of certainty and trust. We need to honor our partner’s feelings and instincts, not second-guess them. For instance, in my experience with counseling couples and helping them navigate through their relationships, I have observed both men and women complaining about their partners keeping tabs on them. “Where are you going today?” “Who are you having lunch with?” “What was your day like?” These are familiar questions we all ask our partners and vice versa.
In most cases these questions are asked casually, out of a sense of knowing about our partner’s life. It’s another level of intimacy within the relationship; it’s a mindfulness about staying connected, engaging with each other, and knowing the facts, and understanding that our well-being as a couple is linked over the long-term. However, sometimes it rises from a point of jealousy. Of course the intention behind the action really says it all, and knowing the difference can be of great benefit.
What are the facts? All too often we get confused, because we sometimes look for validation from the outside, instead of from within. The truth is, we are all guilty of comparing our relationships with the “others” we observe, whether on the big screen or even those of our neighbors and friends. Recognizing the difference between fact and fiction in what we observe is key. Take your classic love-stories… The Bridges of Madison County, Titanic, Dirty Dancing (dare I say Twilight…) their connection and chemistry is almost palpable – the exchange between them exudes from the screen. Who could ever forget the moment Johnny returns and says, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”? We sit watching the film with rapt attention, imagining it was us up on that screen having that experience, whilst simultaneously nit-picking all the flaws in our own relationship. Perhaps we even come to the conclusion that we don’t have that same connection with our partner, that relationships should be effortless, and that it might not work after all.
Commitment is not a simple vow. It’s a choice, and one that we need to keep re-choosing. One thing is for sure; closing the door on openings is the first step. A successful relationship is about being emotionally accessible and available to one another; completely knowing what is going on in each other’s worlds, and day-to-day experiences. When you’re committed, you have the inclination to react constructively – by accommodation – rather than destructively. This commitment also means that some things are never an option. Once we understand the danger of openings, we can take proactive measures to close them, and make our most important relationships that much stronger.
THOUGHTS INTO ACTIONS:
What “openings” currently exist in your relationship? If you look objectively, is there something you can do to close it? Even if it’s something you enjoy and don’t particularly want to give up, but you can see the potential danger.
Write it down, and make a conscious effort to close that opening today.