Alchemy: “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination.” (Oxford Online Dictionary)
Allowing: “give (someone) permission to do something.” (Oxford Online Dictionary).
Quite a few years back, I was talking with my therapist about my marriage. She told me something then that has become one of those big ‘AHA!’ moments. The therapist reflected how I seem to be getting in the way of my wife feeling her own anxiety. What? I had no idea what she was talking about. She continued, “I see you pushing against each other, and I keep wanting to ask you; why don’t you get out of the way? Let her have her anxiety. You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to make it better or worse.”
To me this has been a profound thought in my pursuit of understanding healthy relationships. In more ways than the scenario listed above, I can see how I unconsciously tried to ‘fix’ my wife’s feelings. I bet if you think about it, you might do this with your spouse as well. We don’t like it when the people we love are in pain.
The question becomes, why don’t we want our partners to feel their feelings (frustrations, anxiety, sadness)? When I ask people this question, many times the response is, “Because I love her and I don’t want her to feel bad.” Fair. But, why? What’s wrong with feeling bad/mad/sad? I think the truth for me was this: if my wife felt anxious, then I’d feel anxious and I don’t want to feel anxious so I want you to stop feeling anxious. Sometimes it’s my own fear of the feeling itself. Sometimes it’s about adequacy: If I can’t help you feel better then I’m a bad husband and ultimately inadequate.
What might happen if you simply allowed your partner to feel how they feel? Even more importantly, what would happen if you “gave” your partner permission to BE exactly the way they ARE? This means stepping out of the power struggle. It means practicing the age old Golden Rule… Do unto to others as you would like done for you. Let me be clear, by ‘letting them be’ – I mean, you are not attempting to modulate, change or in some way alter your partner.
There is a transformational power when you release your need to have your partner THINK/FEEL/ACT in any certain way. When you consciously choose to let them BE - you are granting them a gift most of us rarely ever experience – ALLOWING TO BE WHO WE ARE.
TWO BIG CONSIDERATIONS
Healthy boundaries still exist in the Alchemy of Allowing. Remember, this whole series is on Mindful Loving. In healthy grownup relationships, boundaries protect each partner from the less than grown up aspects of ourselves. Allowing your partner to BE isn’t about giving them permission to be verbally/emotionally/physically/sexually inappropriate. That’s not loving mindfully. At RPA, we teach the necessity of having intact protective and containing boundaries. If you need further information about this, please check out our Journey to Intimacy Course.
And, while all this allowing is a great practice, I also know our partners help us navigate our feelings. One of the greatest benefits of being in a relationship is the support and reflection our partners give us. How grateful I am when Mary (my wife) listens when I’ve had a rough day. Sometimes she even has an insight or an observation that can help me work through my struggles. And, as much as I practice letting her have her feelings, she often does like my help in making her feel better. I can be funny. I can empathetic. I can be insightful. The trick to all of this, is that it begins with allowing and opens up the opportunity for her to ask for what she wants from me.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
For practice – Just for Today – allow your partner their feelings, thoughts, reactions. In fact, first watch this segment of an inspirational speech by Simon Sedik (on GoalCast) about being the last to speak: https://www.goalcast.com/2017/06/24/simon-sinek-be-the-last-to-speak/
Now that you’ve watched the video, make a commitment to yourself to listen and not speak. Hear your partner out fully. Take your self out of the equation for just a moment and be available to hear your partner out and hold back on your opinion. See what happens when you only job is to appreciate and allow your partner their full experience of having their own thoughts, feelings and actions validated by simply allowing the to BE.
Please try this out. Like, share and comment on your experience. We’d love to hear how this goes for you when you practice.