Dating : 5 Ways to Love Well in Relationships

h2>Dating : 5 Ways to Love Well in Relationships

Carefully, nimbly, and lightly

Photo by Caleb Ekeroth on Unsplash

I was struck by the beauty of a statement made in a recent podcast and began to think about how it applies to our relationships with loved ones as well as to large groups of people.

The podcast was on the life cycle of cities. In one segment of the episode, architect Raul Mehrotra was describing the miracle of the temporary city that is built approximately every 12 years. This city is built to accommodate the masses (about 100 million people) who come to bathe in the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India as an act of worship during the Kumbh Mela festival.

He said something that struck me as quite profound. He said that because of the way this temporary city is designed and because the people come as an act of faith and worship, they live “carefully, nimbly, and lightly” so as not to leave a mark on the land or the planet.

How do we live carefully, nimbly, and lightly with our partners and loved ones?

To be careful can mean to be wary, but it can also mean to be full of care. The former implies tension and worry, while the latter implies love and intentionality and is the meaning I’m referring to here.

To be nimble means to be “quick on your feet” or able to keep your balance and adjust quickly to various moves or situations.

To be light signifies gentleness and ease to me.

When we learn to love carefully, nimbly, and lightly we love well. We love without leaving a mark on our partners. We don’t hurt, wound, or scar them.

Here are five ways to live carefully, nimbly, and lightly with our partners and loved ones:

Self-awareness requires us to tune in to ourselves. Specifically, we must tune in to our emotions, the physical sensations they cause in our bodies, and our thoughts. Too often, when we feel some unpleasant emotion, we try to distract ourselves from it. We push it down and try to ignore it as we move on to other things. We do this to avoid pain, but we do it to our detriment.

Our emotions are signals that can give us vital information. When we ignore them, we limit our experience of ourselves, others, and the world around us. We close in rather than open up. We may avoid the pain, but by doing so, we also limit the joy.

In her book 90 Seconds to a Life You Love, author and psychologist Joan I. Rosenberg, writes:

“By moving away from difficult feelings, you actually cut yourself off from emotional information that could help protect or enhance your life.”

She suggests that we learn to identify the feeling as one of eight predominant feelings (sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, and vulnerability). Once we learn to do this we can begin to practice what she calls “the Rosenberg Reset.”

The Rosenberg Reset consists of: one choice, eight feelings, and 90 seconds. The one choice is to choose awareness of your feeling rather than avoidance. The second step is to identify which of the eight feelings described above you are experiencing. The third step is to allow yourself to experience one or more of the 90-second waves of bodily sensations the feeling or feelings elicited.

This often takes practice, because many of us have had years of practicing the opposite . . . pushing our feelings down, distracting ourselves from them, and avoiding the unpleasant sensations they cause.

Practice doing the reset without judgment or reactivity. Be compassionate toward yourself.

In a recent session I had with a couple, the wife said that a conversation she’d been having with her husband hadn’t gone well. As she described the situation to me, she realized that she had begun to feel anxious during the conversation so she tried to change the subject and distract him from what he was talking about. In other words, she was trying to push her anxiety down. The conversation had ended with them both feeling a bit perplexed.

To put this in Rosenberg’s terms, the wife had actually begun to feel vulnerable because her husband’s passionate discussion of politics was triggering her childhood response to raised voices during conflict. She wanted to avoid the painful feeling and tried to distract.

By recognizing what she had been feeling, she was able to understand her response and consider how else she could have handled it at the moment. Specifically, she could have chosen self-awareness, identified vulnerability and anxiety, and ridden the wave of that feeling without judgment or reactivity.

At that point, she might’ve felt fine and more confident in her ability to handle a passionate discussion, or she might’ve let her husband know that she was feeling triggered and asked to take a break from the discussion.

Either way would have led to more awareness of herself and more understanding between them. It would have enhanced their ability to be careful, nimble, and light with each other and hopefully will do so in the future.

When we learn to love carefully, nimbly, and lightly we love well. We love without leaving a mark on our partners. We don’t hurt, wound, or scar them.

A well-known scripture verse says that we should be . . .

Quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

Notice that it doesn’t say “quick to listen” but rather says “quick to hear.” This is the essence of actively listening. When we actively listen, we make sure that we are hearing the intention behind what the other person is saying. We listen with our full attention and we check to make sure we have heard them and understand them correctly.

We can do this in a number of ways. We can say what we think we heard and ask if that’s what they meant. We can ask them to tell us more . . . and then listen again.

This is being full of care.

In the verse above, it says we should be “slow to speak.” This implies thoughtfulness prior to speaking. It implies that we are to respond rather than react. It does not imply that we should not speak, only that we should speak with care.

It is essential that we share the full range of our thoughts and feelings, including the difficult ones. Doing so deepens emotional connection and trust. It allows us to address potential problems.

To love well means being able to say what you need. It doesn’t need to be aggressive to be assertive. It just needs to be honest. Lightness and ease don’t hurt here either. Be full of care as you choose your words. Own them. Start with “I” rather than an accusatory “you.”

Thomas Merton wrote:

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.”

I sometimes breathe the words “radical acceptance” when I feel annoyed with my husband or we are in conflict about something. We are two different people with distinct histories and personalities. One key to resolving our differences is not to try to change the other, but to practice radical acceptance along with the steps outlined above.

When we are self-aware, seek to hear and understand our partner, and then honestly share our thoughts, feelings, and needs, we leave them free to respond in love. This process is transformative. When our partners feel that we love and accept them as they are, they are free to choose how they will respond rather than reacting defensively.

We each bring our full selves into a committed relationship and that relationship transforms us by the working out of life together.

We are infinitely creative beings. When we love carefully and encounter roadblocks, issues, or conflicts, we can pivot. We can find new ways of navigating the roadblocks. We can be nimble and come up with new solutions to the issue or conflict.

A recent example of this was a conflict my husband and I had regarding our son and his new six-month-old puppy. My husband had spent months digging out our backyard, redoing the watering system, and planting a new lawn. It was beautiful . . . until our son brought his dog for a visit. As happens with some dogs, her pee burned the new lawn badly. Soon after their first visit, the new lawn looked like a war zone with burned patches in a dozen different places.

My husband was understandably upset and began venting to me about not allowing our son to bring his dog with him the next time he visited. I had feelings about this. I felt sad. I didn’t want anything to discourage our son from visiting and I knew how attached he was to his dog. I went through the Rosenberg Reset process and then decided to talk to my husband about my feelings, while at the same time validating his.

We pivoted. We clearly communicated with our son and set some new ground rules. The dog came with our son for his next visit and we worked on training her to pee elsewhere. Our son took her to the dog park and on lots of walks in hopes of sparing the lawn. It wasn’t perfect and we’re still working on solutions, but we are happy to be loving each other carefully, nimbly, and lightly through these smalls challenges.

What do you think?

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