I read an article today on Huffington Post by Jeff Cannon about growing and nurturing healthy relationships. I was reminded by Cannon’s article that the steps to loving relationships are not finite points, but rather, an ongoing exchange to be repeated ad nauseum.
We are all imperfect beings. In partnerships, is how we deal with our imperfections that makes or breaks relationships. Our flaws have the power to seed loving growth, or the power to undermine your best intentions.
To share some of my experience, I used to have a tendency to internalize stress and anxiety. Worry ate away at the core of me. And eventually, anger became the only emotional card I would show. Though I never directed my anger at my partner through physical or verbal abuse, she was impacted by the negative energy. Then on one morning, I woke up to find the love of my life had packed her bags.
What went wrong?
Stress. It was killing me. I was quite simply incapable of showing love. The irony of the situation is that my love hadn’t ever diminshed; true as from day one. But it hid beneath the thick layer of unmanaged stress, anxiety and worry. Making matters worse, I would demonstrate passive aggressive behavior by flirting or speaking mindlessly using vague terminology. Other times I would be totally mindless in speech altogether, unaware of how my words could be misread as resentfulness rather than pure love.
In addition to stress: poor communication. I wasn’t opening myself to be helped. As Cannon points out, the more productive way to cope with stress is to talk about it with your loved one. By mustering the strength to plunge into the void of discomfort, you actually give your partner the opportunity to understand your concerns in a way that empowers them to help.
In retrospect, I understand the triggers which lead to angry, temperamental version of myself. With that, I have also got the tools to prevent that kind of thinking, thanks to the mindfulness teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, and a wonderful, supportive network of friends. Emerging on the other side, I feel more capable than ever to establish and nurture healthy relationships, which I hope paves the way towards a brighter future; it’s already looking that way. I feel no resentment or regret for what happened; it is as it is.
For anyone who is prone to anxiety, I can lend a few tips. First thing: mindfulness about the causes of stress the first step to recovery. The next step forward is to relate your experience with your partner; share with your loved one in all the nitty gritty details what has got you bugging. They will understand. Me, I am still working on the second step. But it is progress. We are on speaking terms.
Now truthfully, your partner may harbor some resentment after living with a humongous pain in the butt. But can you blame them? We as a culture are trained to make judgements about everything. Fortunately our wounded hearts heal with mindfulness and honest communication.