Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Relationship Diamonds

Every so often in a marriage or any other significant relationship, tensions build up and overflow in the form of sniping comments, angry words or stony silences. All of these serve as poison to the overall health of each person within the relationship, and the antidote seems to come in the form of clearing the air through an honest discussion.

I always struggle to initiate these difficult conversations. Something is inbred in me, deep down, which feels allergic to confrontation. I have learned to improve in this area, as I've discovered it's impossible to be authentic without it, but it still mimics the action of pulling teeth. Eventually the scales tip, and I can't take the tension any longer, and I find a time when the kids are away or sleeping, and begin talking.

Intimacy functions best when both people are open to its work. True intimacy is impossible unless you can be seen by the other person for exactly who you are. I've had enough pretending to last a lifetime, and now I want to be seen for me, and accepted as such. Of course, for this to work well, I must also see my husband for who he is, and not who I think he is or who I want him to be.

Misunderstandings can happen at any time. You don't get a warning, and suddenly you are angry or resentful or sad, and a conversation has to happen to restore balance and equality to the relationship. This happened for us on the weekend. As much as I hate the beginning of the conversation, I realized somewhere in the middle, when I was crying and sharing honestly how I felt and really hearing Jason's side of the situation, that being willing to risk who you really are with those you trust is the only way to build intimacy in the relationship.

It's no good investing in something which is built on half truths and shaky perceptions. You need a base to work from which is as honest as possible. This requires risk like I have never known before, because there is no wiggle room. If I am rejected when I'm being as honest as I can about who I am and how I feel, it's very hard to bounce back from that. I see now that I didn't have the moral courage to be fully myself before, because the stakes were simply too high.

The flip side of this is that when you are truly yourself in a vulnerable conversation, and you aren't trying to impress or make yourself sound better than you are, and you are seen with your warts showing and are accepted anyway, you get a sense of intimacy which can't be found any other way than through this beautifully messy process.

It's the difference between a cubic zirconia and a diamond. One is cheap and easily accessible, and the other is valuable and rare. I want relationship diamonds now, and it doesn't matter to me how much they cost because I know that the price is worth it. What lasts is genuine and true, and that's where the growing happens.

I learned this weekend that what hurts us the most also brings with it tremendous healing power. When we risk who we are with people who are worthy of that risk, we can sew up our wounds and find true intimacy with another in the process.

What is life about if we can't be vulnerable with each other, and if we can't reveal our true selves to those who love us most? I want to take more relationship risks from this point forward, and trust that those who love me will be gentle with the deepest areas of my heart, when I am able to offer them up in search of understanding and acceptance.

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