I want to pick up on what I wrote about two months ago, in my post on “Angels’ Love”. We all find ourselves in many situations where we have to work together, whether it is in the workplace, at home, with friends or partners or family, or anywhere else. In all of these places, there seems to be a fine line that runs down the middle between two possible scenarios - the one where we are on the same side, and the one where we are competing with each other.
Sometimes the distinction feels very illusive. But the feeling is unmistakably different. I have been in a relationship with a partner who was always “on my side” - whether she agreed with me or not - and more than one good friend has told me that they love their partners because they are “on their side”. It’s not about agreeing. It’s about respecting the other person, wherever they are. If “angels’ love” is the connection we all have as humans, regardless of the way we act, then being on the same side, to me, basically means seeing and hearing each other from a place of support, as opposed to competition.
When I was in the army, I served in a base where there was constant competition. Everyone was trying to one-up everyone else. The commanders kept trying to catch each other, as well as their subordinates, in moments of slipping up. It was as if everyone needed a constant reassurance that they were the best ones, and everyone else was beneath them - if not by rank, then by competence… or even by morality, which is even more ridiculous - because I can attest confidently that everyone in that base had the best of intentions, and were very highly motivated.
We all have the best of intentions. We just don’t always succeed. Is that a reason to give up on each other? Or to treat each other as competitors?
Two people in a loving relationship are always going to have plenty to work on. But they can work together, or they can compete. If there is something you are afraid of, do you prefer to have to hide it and pretend that everything is ok, to avoid making yourself vulnerable to attack? Or do you prefer to be with someone who can listen to you, and understand that you are human? If your partner is not finding enough time to be with you, as another example, does that make them evil? Or is there a reason for it? Even if that reason is fear, that still doesn’t make them evil. It just means that they are human. Looking for a solution together, with patience, is so different from competing with them over who is suffering the most, and who is trying the hardest.
The challenge, of course, is in having space for all of your feelings - especially when it is a very emotional situation. I have come to realize that the difficulty can come from both sides: Sometimes I criticize and compete with someone, and other times I interpret what they are saying as a criticism and a threat, even though they do not mean it that way. The difference, I believe, is in whether I can make space for the emotions involved, in such a way that they become a challenge but not a threat.
My favorite examples are in dealing with children, because children are not threatening: If my little nieces or nephews throw a temper tantrum, or even throw a toy at me, I might duck. But I still love them. And I want them to know that I still love them.
If my lover does something I do not enjoy, I should mention it. But I still want to be on their side. I still want them to feel loved. There is a place for anger, and it is not INSTEAD of love. Love is bigger than that, and love can make room for the bumps in the road. If your emotional system is healthy, you should be able to make space for the challenges without every disagreement throwing you into fight-or-flight mode.
The ability to be on the same side completely changes the world we live in.
So make space for the bumps, and enjoy the ride - together.
Photo by Klimkini, Pixabay