I have heard that relationships are like rosebushes, that they require daily attention and care to thrive. You must water and prune them. You must give them enough light and space to grow. Some flowers on the rosebush thrive for a season, and then they begin to wither, to make way for new, lovelier buds to burst.
Relationships are also like digging.
At the beginning, you relate to each other on the surface, where encouragement and excitement are abundant. The beginnings of relationships are light and fun. Though, from my experience, they often contain a concealed anxiety, a current underlying the initial superficiality: Can I trust you?
When I met Jack, all the sparkly feelings of early days were there. Our first date over coffee, our first walk along the Oxford canal, our first dinner together are precious memories. I was surprised, though, because the connection that I felt to him– at that time he was a stranger– exceeded anything I had experienced before. I felt a steadfast sense of safety and trust immediately.
I learned from being with Jack that healthy relationships invest time in uncovering new layers of connection with the person you love: in digging, together.
Love flows. That is love’s nature. Loving Jack has always been easy for me. I have never had to try to love him. Love itself does not require work; love thrives in openness. Relationships, though, entail relating, which demands attentiveness and the willingness to grow.
Sometimes, because we are human beings with complicated emotions, we throw down our shovels and stop digging. We feel too tired or become too complacent to put in the time that’s needed. We resist the growing. We argue. We resist the relating and cling to our expectations of what our partner should say, of how they shouldn’t change or how they should. We project.
A caveat: In order to share the digging, you and your partner must love and respect each other equally. You must be equally committed to holding what you uncover together, hopefully more tenderness. As I have learned in the past, you cannot convince someone to love you. Painful yet always true. Everyone deserves a companion that can match their intentions and receptivity. I’ve seen too many women abandon themselves and their needs for someone who is not interested in spiritual and emotional growth.
Relating is an inner journey that you and your partner, ideally, share. It is an unfolding, an unfurling. As you continue to open yourself, you heal yourself. As you make more space for the full humanness of your partner, you grow in compassion. There is effort in living together and walking a linked path. Jack and I dig to reach deeper levels of understanding, where the soil is richer, where we can each find greater wholeness and more clarity together.
Relating is sacred work. That is why relationships are so damn beautiful. You are each other’s partners in healing, in evolving, and in strengthening. I have found my greatest ally in Jack, someone who will love and accept me as I am today and for who I will become tomorrow, not with expectation, but instead, with loving kindness.