Relationship advice. Really?
This past month gave me a couple of opportunities to consider my way of looking at relationships with people and how I experience closeness, family and connection.
I find the most important thing when I’m close with people the sensation of freedom to be whoever we are and be seen as that. As brilliant and beautiful as we are and with all the mistakes we might make and feel sorry for. That is what actually creates closeness. And before I agree to a relationship where someone feels they cannot really live the way they would like to be, I rather end the relationship and try to create more freedom, than hold onto it because this is what we thought we’ll have.
I also see that with each person, different aspects of me will be more developed or challenged. And I think, that this „sensation of limited freedom“ is not so much based on specific individual habits or behavior, but much more on which aspects would I like to develop and focus on and how much energy I gain from it. I also am curious to learn, how to be free with people, when it sometimes doesn’t feel superfree and shining. To find out how to commit to someone and at the same time create the freedom to change, to be different than before.
Whether or not there is an interest in the other person, whether there is a connection to start with and to go deeper with, seems to be quite random. Or maybe it is physical – I realize that often the way a person moves can be what makes me notice them. It can be a smile, even a short moment of touching the back or feeling the hands.
With siblings, birthparents and -grandparents the physical connection is even more „evident“.
In the end, how the relationship turns out can vary strongly. My experience is, that as long as there is no definition yet, for what this should be, it is often very free. With new people it can be so exciting to experience who I am, learn who they are, without having expectations of what is supposed to follow or grow from this. No agenda of which action or behavior should be the next. To just do something and then notice what will this act do with us? Where will we be; is this bringing us closer or further right now?
Somehow when there is a word, a kind of definition of the relationship (granddaughter, best-friend, partner, expartner, new-partner-of-expartner, affair, colleague, sister, father,…) there are so many ideas around and examples of how it could be, that it is easier to compare what I have, to what it could be for someone else.
More people also seem to have an opinion about whether or not this is going to „work out“, if it’s just going to hurt or whether it is a „healthy relationship“.
What can become confusing and challenging here is that the assessment is then based on the definition in relation to the commentators’ life – rather than the person concerned. Then comments seems to come „dressed“ as advice. As if they are really relating to this individual situation. Plus, they are meant well.
In friendships it seems easy (easier?) to accept that people change, that the intensity of contact and how much personal information is shared, changes at different times in life.
In a (traditional) family-context it is also kind of obvious, as the element of growth and development is such an evident part of the relationship from the beginning. Although there is the trap of different phases maybe… of how the relationship should look like in different ages or key-life-moments (first day of school! marriage! grand-children – you name it).
Anyway – how come, it is more difficult to see this option with a person that used to be a romantic partner? Why is it so common to hear, that I’ll be hurt, if I keep seeing my ex-partner or have him and his new-girlfriend in my life? Or that it is natural that my ex-partner doesn’t want to even be in one room with me, because it would hurt.
I wonder in both cases about the notion, luring in the background, that there is a version of living, that should be without pain.
And, something that I have wondered about since I was a child, if I have loved someone and lived with them, in some ways grown together and shared so much of my life with them – why would I not love them the rest of our lives?
Yes, it hurts, when what I want is not matched by the fitting wish from the other side. It can hurt to notice, when two wishes contradict each other and I have to make a choice. Or a choice is made. Of course, I do need time to digest the pain of loss. The wound that is created by losing someone that is close to the heart is painful and needs time, energy and space.
But here is the great thing, when we just find out that we want to live in different ways and not one of us is dead: they’re still around!
This person, who was so close, is still on this world. This person, who I love, who I connected to, who I feel grew to be part of my personal family, is still there!
Yes, it feels very relevant to make the change real. To create clarity, that there is an end to something – to find new ways of communicating, to be able to actually meet this person anew. To do a kind of reset and then find out: under these new circumstance, how will we be?
But to not see them at all feels like freezing them and our relationship in the moment of the last time we had contact. Be that in a good way or not. My sensation and feeling towards this person is stuck in something that becomes a memory, distorted by thoughts and time.
Distancing myself from them or missing them will be based on my imagination, rather on who they actually are today.
If I do meet them today, I still miss something from my memory. The specific closeness that we had. The dreams that we both shared. Just as there also is the relief for certain memories. Of fights we had. Of compromises we needed to negotiate.
But especially if there are still areas in our life that are overlapping, friends we both have: we have things in common. If we meet, there can be new impressions, new meetings, new kinds of exchange and possibly a new version of closeness.
My experience is, that I learn to deal with conflict in a new way and how something new and unknown can grow from this. I realize, this requires the people involved are willing to deal with moments that feel difficult. This requires trust, that no one wants to screw the other over. That they are willing to be vulnerable and not know, what is going to happen.
But this uncertainty is interesting to me. It is challenging in a way, that I feel I grow. It is in a frame, in which I’m free to be me and see who the other is. It is something, where I feel in contact with another person and curious about them. It makes me awake and aware of the fact, that I have no idea how people „should be“ with each other.
Moments of pain that I actually find difficult to deal with:
When someone I love bashes someone else I love, without noticing what that does to me.
Someone insinuating, that I won’t be able to cope, and not seeing whether I actually do cope or not.
When someone I love doesn’t even want to be in one room with me.
I think what is difficult in this, is the loneliness I perceive and experience. Feeling pain and not being seen in it. Feeling someone else’s pain, without knowing how to be there with them.
For a while I thought my way of looking at relationships, of being close to people will save me from the pain of losing someone or being in conflict. Because when everyone can freely be whoever they are, it’s just the form that will change, the execution of the connection so to speak. I was sure and on some kind of high horse also when looking at other people’s relationships. But actually, who knows?
I can only notice where I am willing to invest energy and which kind of connection is interesting for me to explore. And which isn’t. I can learn how I will deal with the pain that I will inevitably experience.
I can invest and show myself in the relationships, the friendships, the family-ships where I want to be close and free. Sometimes it is scary, not to know who will want to join me in this way and who I might lose.
But it is so very rich, close and interesting, with those who show up and stay!
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