Warm-up Exercise: Think Differently
Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths. With each breath, let go of the thoughts and concerns filling your mind. Then, with the next ten breaths recall a memory of when you fell out of love with someone or they fell out of love with you. You could even just look for a memory of when you fell out of love with yourself. Try to remember what that disappointment felt like and even where you felt it in your body. Make a mental list of five things you told yourself about you, your partner or your relationship when the in-love feeling was fading. How did you resist the changes that were happening? How did your communication change? Were you able to be kind to yourself? Did you blame your partner? Did you blame yourself?
Imagine you could go back to that time and do three things differently. Imagine yourself back in that situation with one new thought about yourself or your situation that would have eased the situation. Imagine one way that you could have communicated more kindness during that change. Imagine one way that you might have embraced the change that was happening in your relationship: how would that have looked?
Take ten more slow even breaths and see if you can feel in your body how those changes register physically. Paying attention to physical sensation while imagining a new way of thinking and interacting is a powerful way of remembering and embodying changes we want to make.
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What we pay attention to multiplies. Emotional pain that comes from seeing the full view of who someone is after the “in love” feeling goes away often gets multiplied by our resistance to look at it. This is a useful way to become mindful of whether you are allowing yourself to attend to the painful aspects of relating or whether you are multiplying your pain with resistance and falling into suffering through something that will quickly become untenable.
Pain of all the small annoyances that make a life together both challenging and rewarding is workable if you are willing to give it the air and attention it is asking for. Resisting it only multiplies its impact because our thoughts that are left unsaid become an internal storm. Other people sense the storm, too. Giving our weaknesses or those of people we care for our full attention is usually all it takes to dissipate their force. Adding humor is better still. Try throwing a balled up sock into the middle of distant conversation. Risk bringing full presence to your relationship, especially when things get hard; for this is where you both can transmute the pain of learning how to love into a new experience of really being loving.