Linda: If we can hold our relationships as a sacred teaching ground, where everything can be utilized as an opportunity to learn and grow, our lives take on a more vital, creative, alive dimension. Our personal and cultural conditioning is more deeply embedded than any of us would like to admit. It takes time and effort combined with generous doses of patience and forgiveness, which we can only acquire incrementally, over time.
By holding our partner as our teacher, rather than seeing him or her as the source of our happiness or frustration, we can learn to develop a more integrated sense of self. We can learn to be strong in both our inner male and inner female and more at peace with who we truly are. As we more fully come to accept that which has been hidden, our lives richer, fuller, and more joyous. Our relationships take on the experience of shared power and intimacy. It is at these points of our deepest openness that we become more whole and the loving beings that we truly are. Consider this couple who did a fine job learning from each other.
Sophia: Years ago, in my relationship with my husband, Tobias, I tended to resist learning my greatest life lessons. Having been brought up in the South, I had an unusually heavy gender conditioning around "appropriate" feminine ways of being. When I stopped using my various methods of manipulation and control, to have him become more like I wanted him to be, I began to come to the relationship without so many expectations. It became more evident to me what I was there to learn from his strengths. I began to value privacy, to assert my needs, present my warrior spirit to express anger, be a worthy opponent in an argument, draw boundaries, and become more independent. I began to find my voice to speak my truth.
Tobias: I, on the other hand, was challenged to learn from Sophia how to be vulnerable. I am pleased to tell you that I have owned my sensitive, feeling, nurturing side. I took time and effort, but I’ve learned to be more comfortable with the expression of my needs and fears. In learning to relinquish increasing amounts of control, I found that I could begin to allow my boundaries to blur and become permeable to allow greater intimacy between us. Over time I learned to stop judging my emotional needs as weaknesses and found that it was possible to be both vulnerable AND strong.
Sophia: I discovered that women in general, not just me, need to learn more about boundaries and assertiveness. I found that having contact with others, both men & women who were more experienced in the expression of the qualities I needed, helped me along my path. And I was pleased to find that I too, had some things of great value to offer to Tobias.
Tobias: The notion of learning how to learn from each other has become a dominant theme of our relationship. The perceptual shift from seeing my partner as a competitor for scarce resources such as time, attention, or love to an ally in the process of self-development, transformed me from an angry manipulator into a committed partner. We are now both loving teachers and motivated students with each other. Nowadays, we find that there is literally nothing that can be generated between us that cannot be used to further our personal development and deepen our emotional connection.
There's nothing magical about getting to the place that Tobias and Sophia did in their committed relationship. They didn’t take any short cuts; they did do their work. If we practice with the belief that we are all always doing the best that we can do, given the level of awareness that we have at the time, we have an attitude of compassion for ourselves and our partner while we practice.
To the degree that we can apply this orientation to our closest relationships (they're always the hardest), we can be helpful in assisting others to live together more lovingly. For most of us, this isn't easy and it usually takes longer than we think it should. But the good news is that with support, patience, and effort, it’s possible to bring a higher level of joy into our relationships than many of us can even imagine. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it.