The first step to a win-win relationship is realizing you can both win.
Yesterday, my beloved and I talked about the possibility of writing “How to” manuals for the other. I joked that he’s fortunate that I likely wouldn’t just launch into the project, because my manual would be “300 pages long, filled with items such as: you bring me chocolate, you rub my feet, you do something cherishing five times a day…no maybe five times an hour.”
“As long as I could use it at will rather than do it all,” he said.
“Yes, I said. “It would be like writing prompts…you could just choose what you feel drawn to do.” He nodded seriously, like that would work great for him, and then he jotted down item #1 in the Christopher manual, meaning it’s off to a start. And being a systematic guy, he just might finish it.
But what about me?
One of the key results from our gendered upbringings is that Christopher is much, much better at asking for what he wants and needs than I am. I used to get mad at him for asking so clearly because a) I felt like I had to accommodate him with whatever he asked for and b) I had no idea how to ask like that.
Both of us (like everyone) are moving from the Piscean age of domination (two people, one winner) into the win-win Aquarian age of teamwork and cooperation (win-win). So first, I have to understand that Christopher getting his needs met won’t interfere with me getting my needs met. So simple in theory, yes, but shedding these age-old patterns is so much stickier and messier in real life. It’s hard. It’s taken us a lot trial and error and a lot of fighting and working through our own issues. But we’ve made progress, we really have.
We’ve also been reading Hal and Sidra Stone’s book “Partnering: A New Kind of Relationship.” When our partner drives us crazy, they say, it’s often because our partner represents a disowned aspect of our selves. If we want to understand what aspect we own and accept (our primary self), we ask what’s the opposite of that annoying aspect of our partner.
For example, Christopher’s systematic and scheduled ways have driven me crazy because my primary self wants to go with the flow and see how things unfold. There’s this richness to life when I do this; I understand my own timing and am able to recognize a deeper and bigger truth than my own brain at work. It’s like participating in each of the parts of an orchestra, not understanding that they connect, and then all the sudden seeing that all those pieces and instruments are about to converge into a giant wide sound radiating off the rafters!
The Stones recommend we begin to accept and embody both the disowned and primary self in any polarity, that this gives us two legs to stand on. The richness in the space between the two opposites holds us in a much more satisfying way than trying to keep part of ourselves or our partners at bay.
So all this leads me to ask: Maybe I should write that Sara manual. What’s more systematic than a manual? It might be a really terrific giant act of asking for what I want and need. And Christopher might appreciate a guidebook.
Let’s see what happens when I free-write on it for a minute.
The ‘How to Sara’ book
Item 22: Dinner
Take your time. Slow down. Look inside yourself and feel what you are feeling. Then walk up to Sara and nuzzle her and kiss her neck. If she responds and turns to you, take her in your arms and tell her you love her. Then kiss her for real. Then at the table, give your full attention to the meal, while also tuning into Sara and how she seems. Make sure you feel connected with yourself, the present moment, the food, and Sara. Take a deep breath. Then you can launch into what you need or want to say, or ask questions. Be yourself. It’s all good at this point because you’ve laid the groundwork for a peaceful, connected, rejuvenating meal together. This is an opportunity to rest and recover. You both work so hard. Savor the flavors and the feeling of being together in the room. It’s over too soon, but at least you enjoyed it while it lasted. Hug and kiss Sara goodbye as you go off to do your stuff (after helping cleanup of course). THANK YOU.
It’s hard for me not to feel selfish for writing that down. My training as a female says I’m not supposed to say it all so clearly. Also, I imagine that if he really loved me, he’d figure all this out without my needing to write it down or ask him.
Good grief! And I was raised as a feminist, in theory at least, if not practice. To actually practice true equity and balance is so much harder than to believe that men and women are different but equal, and divinely whole, and made even more whole together. (Of course, this wholeness happens in a variety of ways on the gender spectrum, with couples who embody the masculine and feminine in whatever ways help them click.)
I love the first few entries in Christopher’s guidebook. He wants me to use “I” statements, to ask him what he learned today, to remember that words can be imprecise for him because he’s so focused on the principles behind them.
He wants me to say, “Your love is enough.”
Your love is enough.
And it helps to read the manual.