Last night I had an argument with my wife. Somewhere in that jumble of words, she said something that made me pause:
“Well, aren’t you the relationship expert?” she said.
I’ll admit it. Those words sting. There’s a part of me that wants to believe that I’m the relationship expert. There is a part of my ego that gets wrapped up in my graduate degrees, in my training, and in my identification with a role that I find fulfilling.
But the truth is, no. I’m not a relationship expert.
I’m a human being. I’m a human being who works at relationship.
I struggle with the process. Sometimes I lose my temper. Sometimes I yell at my partner. Sometimes I get upset at my kids. I can be gruff and dismissive; I can be sarcastic and defensive. Sometimes I’m un-present to my wife and her needs. Sometimes I’m plain unpleasant to be around.
There’s a voice in my head that reminds me of these shortcomings. This voice tells me that because I’m imperfect I’m not worthy to teach others. This voice tells me that if people knew how I really was in my relationship, then they wouldn’t want to learn from me.
But there is a feeling in my heart that reminds me that it’s ok to be human. It’s ok to be a work in progress. After all, this is what I believe relationship is all about.
I’m a man who strives each day to more fully understand the deep mystery of love and intimacy. I’m a man who is opening, little by little, to beauty and to the dance of the feminine, while stepping more fully into the stillness of masculine presence.
I’m a man who reads, who studies, and who ponders the subtleties of relationship so that I can act as a mirror for other couples, so that I can sit with couples and help to hold up a light that might offer some direction in the face of overwhelming obscurity.
No, I’m definitely not a relationship expert. But I’m a relationship explorer. I’ve summited the peaks of joy and a love. I’ve stood on that mountaintop of euphoria and felt as though I could reach out and touch eternity. But it didn’t last.
I’ve trudged through the murky caves of confusion and loneliness. Through the dark places of heart ache. Through the fires of anger. Through the slime of shame.
I’ve explored the highs and lows in my own relationship and with many other souls who have invited me in to share the experience with them.
Tools for Exploring Relationship
Throughout this journey I’ve found some tools that help. I’ve found that mindfulness meditation and other forms of meditation are tremendous tools to help me be more of the husband and father that I want to be. It surprised me at first that the simple act of paying attention to my breath or focusing all my awareness on a physical sensation could have such an impact on my life and on my relationship.
But I’m not surprised anymore. These tools have been cultivated over thousands thousands of years by people who also struggled to be human and to be in relationship.
Now, I cultivate these tools in my own life and in my own relationship. I breathe. I sit. I explore love.
When I fall short of my own expectations. I ask forgiveness from my wife. I forgive myself. I show myself compassion. And I explore love again.