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  • Writer's pictureAnnelisa MacBean

Attune, Don't Absorb

At times, you may be confronted by the darkness in your partner or spouse. You may be in a position where you must consider allowing them to fall apart in your arms, unravel, be without hope, and feel lost. You may sense there is some sort of wisdom unfolding, but it is chaotic, uncertain, and not easy to stay with. You may be resistant and feel afraid.

While it is natural to want to withdraw from the call or expectation that you be their parent, at a deeper level you may also want to do whatever you can to help them feel better. Listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. Can you be present within yourself, remember that you are their mate, their equal, their beloved . . . without falling into the parenting trap?

Is it possible, when your spouse or partner has lost perspective and cannot see who you are, for you to extend to them a calm, regulated nervous system where their experience of grief and fear can be validated and reflected, but not absorbed. Are you able to reassure them – with words and with your presence – that you are with them in their process, that they need not "get over it," "accept everything as it is," shift into a "higher vibration," "stay in the present," be cured, transformed, or "healed" in order for you to stay close? To provide such an environment for another, you must first offer safe, accepting passage for the unmetabolized fear and pain in yourself: the unmet sadness, abandoned shame, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and ignored sense of aloneness. If you are distanced from your own inner turmoil, you may find yourself rushing to talk the other out of their experience, urgently spinning to stop them, to stop their feelings, to distance yourself from their desperation as a way to manage your own anxiety and discomfort. When this is happening, the intelligence and opportunity buried within the dark moment is unconsciously disavowed. It goes unmet and recedes, only to re-emerge again more forcefully within the crucible of relationship.

In moments of rest, when the triggers aren’t activated, consider making the commitment to not pathologize one another’s experiences. Pain is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. Shame and rage are not pathology. They are path. When you seed this wisdom into the relational field a new world can unfold. As you attune to the "other" in front of you – as well as to your own alchemical "other" within – notice how the energy changes in the space between you. You don’t have to fix yourself or change the other. You don’t have to wait for the other to see you, to understand you or “get” you. YOU get YOU; so that you don’t get lost in the pain of others. Remember that you are not the parent of your partner; you can only offer your self-awareness and your attentional capacity to their suffering.

This creates the proper relational vessel that can hold the pieces of your broken worlds, the crumbled hopes and dreams that have dissolved in front of your eyes. The truth is that all the worldly forms you have constructed and imagined together, your home, your marriage, your professional identities, will always fall apart – for this is the nature of form – your dreams will die in order that they may come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways. Within the aliveness of the relational field – despite the pain of the present, the traumas of the past, and the broken dreams of the future – may you see that it was only ever and will always be the movement of love taking whatever form it must so that you can become aware and awake to its unfolding within you and in this world. While this is occurring in ways the mind may never understand, you can still attune to your own emotional experience, listen carefully to what your body is saying. As you attune and attend to your own experience, you will be more available to hearing how “others” are making meaning of their lives. Slow way down, bracket your favorite psychological theories and spiritual jargon. From within the safety of your own self-holding, allow yourself to be curious about how your partner is making sense of their experience. Feed yourself – feed them, hold yourself – hold them, speak kindly, provide sanctuary and safe passage for both souls to reveal their mysteries. You can be present to your loved one without giving yourself away. Love is here; Love is alive; and Love is holding you both.

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