For so many years, I was the one working hard in my partnerships. Always considering what was my responsibility, cleaning it up, and asking for feedback.
If we had a fight, I'd be the one examining how my behavior contributed to it. I thought it was my (and only my) responsibility to make sure my boundaries were respected, that I was heard, and that my needs and desires were expressed.
I did my best to make sure I was skillful, aware, and considerate. It goes without saying that of course I wasn't always, but still, I aimed.
It never occurred to me that in taking ownership of the lion's share of responsibility for the relationship, I was expecting too little of my partner and thus, robbing myself of some of the most delicious parts---being held, supported, seen, attuned to, and protected.
I couldn't receive. Because I was doing all the work.
And because of that, it was impossible for the relationship to nourish me.
Even though I got it intellectually, in actual practice, I never quite realized that it was also my partner's responsibility to learn about my boundaries, listen to me, and ask about and consider my needs and desires.
I was too busy working hard to be skillful and evolved, whatever that meant.
And it's not as if I partnered with people uninterested in contributing (although sometimes that was true), but it's just that they weren't as dedicated or fierce (or hyper-vigilant) about it as I was.
The issue here isn't them, though.
It's that I never thought twice about doing it that way. I couldn't even see that I was doing it and how unhealthy it was.
When I sit with clients who hold themselves to incredibly high standards, do more than their share of the work, or expect too little in their connections, all I want is to wrap them up in compassion and tell them that they deserve to have an equal partner.
They deserve to share the work of the relationship so they're not holding it alone. They deserve to feel met!
They deserve to let go, relax a bit, and find out if their partner will meet them halfway.
Looking back at my own behavior,
I can see now that while I desired so fully to feel met, as long as I was working so hard, I just couldn't be.
I can see that I needed to relax and let them come to me more. I can see that I was working so hard because I always felt like I was having to play catch up for not being enough. And I can see that this pattern was an old one from a toxic parental relationship when I was young.
The more I've healed that wound, the better I've gotten at receiving and feeling nourished. So for some of us, learning to work less at the relationship and instead enjoying its pleasures is actually an evolution.
In true partnership, both parties hold the reigns to what makes the thing work. And both parties reap the enjoyment.
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