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Grateful Invisibility: How to Be an Adult in Relationship

Relationships are fertile ground for anyone wanting to become a mature adult. It’s amazing how we can feel so mature, how we can appear to have it so together and then we enter into a committed relationship.

I’ve been in a committed partnership for a little more than a year with a wonderful man. It’s growing me. I feel like my feet are being held to the fire. I am discovering what it means to walk my talk and offer grounded vulnerability to our nakedly honest conversations as we navigate the messiness of being human together.

It’s like when you make a pudding (and I did make a delicious coconut milk chocolate pudding the other night), and you whisk the cacao powder as you pour it in so you don’t end up with lumps in your pudding. Even though I whisked it with some fervor, there were still lumps.

We encounter our lumps in relationship.

Maybe you remember eating pudding or a bowl of Cream of Rice Cereal when you were young and how you would scoop up the lumps with your spoon, and squash them with your tongue on the roof of your mouth?

These lumps are akin to the parts of ourselves that are unresolved and may remain unknown until they cross our palette; in this case the palette refers to an intimate relationship based in trust. When there is trust these previously untasted, or perhaps unwanted parts of ourselves can come up to be known, received and healed.

Sometimes this might mean that we cry, shake, or rest into a partner’s arms, while at others it may mean that we rest into our own arms. In my experience, both are essential.

Ultimately, we need to learn to digest and metabolize our feelings internally, so that our communication is skillful and coming from a place of clarity, rather reactive and coming from a place of flailing about in a tumult of unresolved emotion.

I am expanding my capacity to be truly still in the face of very challenging circumstances in my relationship. I am discovering new ways of tending to myself— to my lumps, and of being fully responsible for my inner process.

Right now my partner has his hands full with work, his son and a serious illness in the family.

This is a case where the proverbial “house is on fire” and we don’t digress to the inessential like stopping to sort through boxes in the garage. When there is an urgent need we turn our attention to what is most critical; everything else takes a back seat.

As an adult I graciously take a back seat, silently digesting the lumps of discomfort and feelings of need that are cropping up inside of me.

Being with your feelings is an inside job.

I turn toward what is arising and I experience being held by a field of loving awareness that lives in me.

I gratefully recognize that this is an opportunity for me to learn how to be peacefully in the background, an invisible support person who rubs the tight neck and shoulders of my sweet man and cooks big nourishing pots of delicious Thai coconut soup. I am committed to playing my role.

I am struck by the fact that it’s the journey through this so called, “lumpy terrain” where I am learning what it really means to be an adult in relationship.

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