Just as plants need sun, water, and nutrients to grow and flourish, soulmate relationships need a safe space in which to live, breathe, grow, learn, and simply be themselves, warts and all, in order to thrive. Yet too few of us had the luxury of growing up in that type environment. For many, the opposite was true.
“If they knew you, they wouldn’t like you.” Those words were repeated so many times in my childhood, I believed they were etched in stone. They governed my life for decades making it feel unsafe to just be ME until it finally dawned on me that they couldn’t be true. There were a few people who actually liked me just as I was, so that awful old “law” that had so restricted my choices and behaviors was just a big fat lie told by someone trapped in their own struggles.
It was a life-opening moment. In the space previously occupied by this limiting belief, forgiveness and freedom began to blossom, and with forgiveness and freedom finally came the possibility of deep, soul-satisfying relationships.
One of the hallmarks of soulmate relationships of all kinds is intimacy, and genuine intimacy of the “into-me-see” variety can only happen in an environment where we feel safe to be ourselves. Real intimacy involves coming out from our hiding places and allowing our thoughts, feelings, fears, and desires to be exposed. If you grew up in a non-loving, critical, or dangerous family, that can feel risky, but you may have an advantage over those who have not shared those experiences. Consider this perspective instead: if you grew up in a less than loving family, you already know the results that produces – fear, anger, resentment, shyness, worthlessness – and that means you already have a built-in roadmap for what NOT to do if you want different results. In many instances, you can simply do the opposite.
Here are a few examples:
A Little Golden Rule Goes a Long Way – Fear makes us want to wait until someone else goes first before opening up. We know how we would prefer to be treated - trust, respect, and affection are often high on that list - but we tend to approach them like something that has to be earned before we can give them. It doesn’t feel safe to offer them up without conditions. By putting up hurdles and obstacles in our own minds, we make it hard if not impossible for our beloved to achieve this goal regardless of how they behave. Read that last bit again. The Golden Rule says we should treat others the way we want to be treated ourselves. The Law of Giving says the Giver becomes the Receiver. Give first, whether or not your beloved “deserves” it. That judgment only lives in your own mind. By giving first, you make the safe zone you both crave. In that safety, giving and receiving trust, respect, and affection come naturally.
But what if they do something really unforgivable?
Forgiveness – Everything is forgivable. Really. Forgiveness is release for your own mind and heart. It has nothing to do with condoning their behavior. When your beloved does something awful – and they will simply because they are human - resentment will want to take up residence in you. Righteous anger will boil up. You have choices. Some indiscretions need to be talked about. Some even need a third party such as a counselor. Sometimes you need to exit the relationship. The vast majority, though, are the little day-to-day annoyances. If you allow them to build up, you are putting up walls between you and your beloved. It isn’t their behavior. It’s your attitude about their behavior. One way to release your resentment and forgive is to change the story you tell yourself. If your darling leaves clothes on the floor, you can resent and nag OR you can smile and remind yourself that the only reason these clothes are on the floor is because you have this otherwise wonderful person in your life. That releases you to choose your battles. Forgiveness creates freedom and within freedom, we all thrive.
But why can’t I expect this grownup to pick up their own clothes?
Expectation vs. invitation – In the beginning of any soul-based relationship, things seem exciting and perfect. Everyone is on their best behavior. Then everyday life creeps in. We let down our guard and become our old everyday selves. The typical response is to set up rules, agreements, and contracts, but hidden beneath that seemingly positive approach is a mine field of expectations and assumptions. Before long, we are thinking our beloved “should” do this or that to please us which leads to resentment, anger, and complaining. It’s a vicious cycle. When you reframe your desire as an invitation, AND allow your beloved the freedom to say yes or no, you up the odds of receiving what you want and you create an environment in which it is safe for both of you to be yourselves. Perhaps you love rock music and your darling only likes classical. Instead of a rule that says you (grudgingly) trade concerts, you could offer this invitation: I would love to share one rock concert with you and tell you what I love about it so you can know me better. If you never want to go to another, that’s OK. Then let it be OK for them to accept or refuse even this invitation. That freedom to respond authentically creates a safety zone which is far more likely to encourage your partner to try new things or do things you enjoy or prefer. Maybe even pick up their clothes!
Notice the Little Things – It’s way to easy to fall into the habit of only noticing the things that irritate us. Before long every little thing irritates us, but that creates an environment where no one is safe. Wayne Dyer is often quoted, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” What if you decided to focus on noticing the good things about your beloved? Make it a game. Every time you catch yourself noticing something that annoys you, stop and notice at least two things you like and appreciate. If you are deeply mired in being exasperated, this will feel difficult, even impossible, in the beginning. Stick with it, and I can promise you will be amazed at how your beloved transforms, both in how you think of them and in how they actually behave. There’s magic in seeing the best in people. It inspires them to really be their best and guess who benefits form that? Best of all, when you focus on all the little things you can appreciate, you make it safe to be human for those inevitable times when one of you messes up.
Creating a safe, loving environment is largely about reducing the triggers for fear. When your beloved knows its OK to just be her/him self in all their human glory and imperfection, they can’t help but bring their best self to the relationship. And on those days when one or both of you mess up, you know your relationship won’t go into freefall. After all, you have a safety net.
Anne Wade is Teacher, Writer, Mentor, and Coach for courageous women in midlife and beyond who want to disrupt their own status quo and design life on their own terms, even in turbulent times. She has developed the Becoming Found process of going within to find and address the inner barriers we have all inadvertently built up against love, happiness, health, wealth and any other desires of our hearts. Teaching women to unapologetically shine like a superstar and live their legacy is Anne’s mission. You can follow her on her Facebook page “Anne Wade – Becoming found” or join her “Becoming Found” Facebook group.