Let me tell you a story I heard from a gifted Imago therapist and trainer named Maya Kollman. The story is about a woman who loves walking on the beach. The woman’s bare feet sink into the warm sand with each step. Without shoes, she feels free and natural. The woman walks like this every day, until she steps on a sharp shell and cuts her foot. The woman is surprised. Her foot is bleeding and it hurts. The next time she walks on the beach, she wears flip-flops to protect her feet from shells. After several days, the side of her foot brushes against a beached jellyfish. The woman’s foot stings and itches. So, the next time she walks on the beach the woman wears sneakers. This works for several days, until the woman stubs her toe on the rocks of the jetty. Frustrated, the woman decides to wear boots for her walks on the sand. She has been hurt so many times and she has finally found a way to keep her feet safe. However, the woman has become so concerned with protecting her feet that she has lost the wonderful experience of feeling the sand beneath her feet and between her toes. She misses feeling the texture, coarse and dry or silky and cool, and she misses feeling the connection to nature.
As we walk through life, both joy and hurt are part of the journey. Yet, it is our natural reaction to pull away from the things that hurt us, whether they are physical or emotional. Although it is extremely scary to be vulnerable to these hurts, the alternative is even worse: isolation. While others can’t hurt us when we isolate ourselves, we also cannot receive love and caring. This is a profound conundrum. Our hearts are protected, but they are also closed to love. And what greater pleasure is there on this journey than to love and be loved? As M. Scott Peck says, to love is to be fully invested in the spiritual growth of another. How divine to love and to be loved in this way! It is exquisite.
So, how do we live with this paradox? We must open our hearts by carefully choosing a person who feels safe. If this person is your spouse, how wonderful! It is important to realize, though, that the person who feels safe may not be your spouse at first. This may surprise you, especially coming from a marriage counselor. However, if your marriage has a history of many hurts that have not yet been talked about and worked through, your partner may not feel like a safe person. You might feel safer being open with your therapist or a trusted friend. This first experience will teach you what it feels like to be open. Through this experiment, you can come to know in your heart that you can be open, survive it, and even relish it. After that, you can begin to open your heart to your spouse.
It is important to recognize that there will be hurt sometimes, even with someone who is safe and even with your spouse. This is because the other person is human, too, makes mistakes and has faults of his or her own. He or she may unintentionally do or say something hurtful. When this happens, and it will, allow yourself to feel the hurt and to talk about it with him or her. Part of a close relationship is being able to discuss everything that happens between you. If you both feel heard and understood, talking about a hurt can move the relationship or marriage even closer. Only then, with openness and vulnerability, can love grow in your marriage. As humans, we need one another. We need to love and to be loved. By opening yourself to love, you will feel the divine joy that you deserve.
To schedule an appointment to learn more about how feeling gratitude for your partner can greatly improve your relationship, call 908-246-3074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org