Ram Dass (formally Richard Alpert) tells the Sikh story of the Holy person who gave each of two of his disciples a chicken and said ” Go kill the chicken where no one can see.” One of the students went behind a fence and killed the chicken. The other walked around for many days and then came back to the teacher with his chicken still in hand. The Holy one said, ” You didn’t kill the chicken!” To which the student replied, “Well Master, everywhere I go, the chicken sees!” The point, for those of you wondering what chickens have to do with relationships, is that there are unlimited opportunities for creating joy in relationships when we are conscious and willing to see them.
A lack of joy in relationship comes from a lack of aliveness or connectedness to ourselves or each other. In some sense, one or both people in the relationship have made either conscious or unconscious contracts to maintain the status quo or keep things superficial. When you are conscious, there is always another, deeper level to which you can go, and going there brings back aliveness and joy.
Most of us really want an authentic and profoundly present relationship in our life. However, there aren’t many of us who have ever experienced that kind of connection, even from our parents. That means we are charting new territory. It feels safer to get to familiar levels of intimacy, and then put the process on cruise control because going deeper may feel unfamiliar and frightening. Other reasons why we make contracts to avoid going deeper are usually based in fear. For instance, you may fear that going deeper will result in change, and change could result in abandonment. Perhaps, you feel ill-equipped to deal with your intense feelings or those of your partner. You may fear hearing your partner’s real feelings because you are worried that those feelings will reflect negatively upon you or something you are doing. Or, you may not be sure how to get out of the painful dynamics of control, manipulation, or shaming that get triggered when issues become heavy.
The first step in bringing the joy back into your relationship is to open the communication back up and begin talking to each other about your real feelings. The following exercise is a great tool to assist you in that process. For mate relationships, doing this exercise results in greater intimacy, vulnerability and sharing in addition to deeper bonding and increased sexuality. It will impact other important relationships by creating greater mutual respect, understanding, growth and aliveness as well. Here’s how you start.
1. At the beginning of your week, schedule and set aside two half-hour periods of time on different days/nights; one for you and one for your partner. Make this a top priority. No canceling. Decide in advance who will talk and who will facilitate on each night. On your night you will be the talker and on your partner’s night he or she will talk.
2. One of you will be the talker the entire half-hour and one will be the listener the entire time during each session. If you don’t have a specific topic in mind, just talk about how the process feels to you, or what you are feeling in your body. This may seem like a long time but the time will go quickly once you feel comfortable with the process.
3. If the one who is talking has difficulty continuing for the entire time, the facilitator may ask questions or help the talker to focus. Any questions should be completely free from the facilitator’s agenda or needs. Questions should not reflect value judgments, facial expressions that reflect the listeners views or any personal “need to know” that the facilitator may have. When the talker is talking, the space and time belongs solely to him or her. Their space is sacred and should not contain or get contaminated with the listener’s agenda.
4. This is not a fault finding mission. This is a time to express feelings and thoughts from an “I” space. No defending, demanding, ultimatums, no blame i.e. “you make me feel.”
5. No matter what is said by the talker, the listener responds “as if” the content has nothing to do with him or her Act as if you are listening to a stranger with compassion but without personal concern or investment about what is being said. For instance, if your partner says, ” I feel so lonely I could just die.” You would not respond with, ” I don’t understand why, I’ve been home every night this week!” Instead, you might ask, “How does it feel to be so lonely you could just die?” This allows your partner to go on to explore his or her feelings ” Well my best friend just moved away and when I was a child we moved so often I never had a best friend I could count on.” Nine times out of ten, your partner’s feelings will have nothing to do with you. However, the majority of the time, we stop the process by taking everything our partners says personally, and the result is their real feelings never get shared.
6. When you are finished ask yourselves three questions :1. What did you hear me say? 2. Did we do the process effectively? 3. How can we do it better?
7. Discuss ways in which the process could be improved. Do not discuss content unless mutually agreed it’s in the best interest of BOTH of you to do so.
If you commit to the process, you will find you are able to go more deeply into feelings each week. The result? More joy, a renewed feeling of closeness – the real dance of intimacy. One gentle reminder! Be willing to laugh at yourself and the ways you each take yourselves out of the process. We have all invested great amounts of time and energy learning to stay safe and protected from our feelings. Peeling the layers of protection off, if done without blame, can be amusing and exciting. Go for it.
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013