Getting the love you want
I’m watching one of those home shows that is supposed to be about renovations, but my head keeps telling me it’s about the ideal relationship. You know those ones on HGTV: a husband-and-wife power couple who work together on huge projects seamlessly, take care of their six adorable kids and five horses, oversee the birth of a baby goat on the weekend and still have time to share a deep, loving connection to each other that is apparent to everyone around them.
Maybe it’s just me, but one show is all it takes to send me spinning between feeling like everything is okay one minute, to feeling that my relationship with my partner isn’t quite what it could or should be in the next. I have done a fair bit of work to understand myself over the years and identified many of the ways in which I trip myself up, the stories I tell myself about how things aren’t quite as good as they could be. And yet…
In those shows, there is always so much love and laughter and lightness, and I find myself yearning for more of that in my relationship. I think: what are we doing wrong?
In the beginning of our relationship, it was so easy! We had so much fun, went on adventures, were so focused on enjoying one another. Now, we are both eternally exhausted and I can find myself ruminating over how it isn’t the same anymore, wondering how to get back to what we once had. I’ve gone through periods of wishing I would change, wishing he would change, and wishing I could just flip a switch to stop the swirling in my brain.
I recognize the pressure that these expectations (and my HGTV habit) have placed on this relationship. I realize that since childhood, I have internalized what a perfect marriage should be. I’ve become more aware of the stories, conscious or not, that I run about how things could be better. I realize it’s those stories that are really in the way – and that they’re completely made up, all in my own head.
I’ve known about the stories for years now; I have many great tools and practices to help bring their volume down. They help a great deal. And the stories still run. Maybe they’re louder just now because of the many things going on in the world that seem so far out of our control. With the heightened level of anxiety that many of us have felt during the pandemic, there is a need to do something about it. Our ego wants to take charge and creates false urges to go fix things or take action; it distracts me from what is true.
What is true is that I love my husband. What is also true is that he loves me. I know this and I believe we’ve proven it to one another thousands of times over the years, in ways big and small.
I also know that I’m distracting myself from these truths all the time, wishing things could be other than they are. When I feel frustrated and powerless, I’m focusing on what my ego or inner critic tells me is wrong with our relationship – whether it’s the ways in which I am not enough or the ways in which he is not enough. Our ego will constantly offer up helpful suggestions on what the ‘problem’ is and how to fix it. The mind is a wonderful tool. But we don’t have to listen or believe the thoughts in our head. They are just thoughts.
There are many helpful ways to practice gaining perspective and seeing your thoughts for what they are – to get out of your head and back into your body – and return to presence. This can be hard to do on your own. We work with clients to help them understand their own stories and provide tools and resources to help them return to balance.
I work with my own coach to understand my personal flavour of thinking, and draw from helpful embodiment techniques and teachings from experts, such as Wendy Palmer, Phillip Shepherd and Michael Singer. I also incorporate practices into every day: walking in nature, hanging out with my dog, writing a gratitude journal…
As I continue to let go of old expectations, I keep stepping back to recover to myself and what I know is true in my heart. Doing the work to continue to be in right relationship with yourself is hard enough, so when you bring another human into the equation, it’s no wonder it can be so difficult.
This is a life-long journey of discovery and practice. What I can continue to do is show up, keep returning to myself (getting out of my head and back into my body), recover to balance, and love the person in front of me just as they are. That person is having the same experiences that I am. It may be different inside their head, but the struggles are the same.
Life is always unfolding. There will be work and kids’ activities and laundry and parents and pets and devastating personal and world events and trying to find time with friends or for yourself…that won’t change. What you can change is your reaction to the thoughts in your head. And let someone else take care of the baby goats.
Sherie Hodds is a ChangeMaker Nation Coach. She has spent more than 15 years working with people and businesses to develop and implement their strategies, helping to shape and share the great stories being produced at home and around the world.
I did a lot of exploring, connecting and training to create work I love, and bring more joy to more people in more organizations. I can’t tell you how great it is to do this work now, and witness a stuck team break through, a quiet vision living loud, a start-up successfully scale-up and a client realize their potential. I’m telling you – you’ve got what you need. Let’s get to work.