Marriage Boot Camp - Week 2: Flexibility and Stretching Your Boundaries In part 2, our expert explains why itís important to see both sides and work together for a better marriage. BY WENDY STRGAR
Find the space you need within yourself to make room for your marriage to work.
“ Flexibility and the ability to stretch beyond our comfort zones are in many circumstances how we learn to feel and express our love.”
"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape." ~Anonymous
Relationships require stretching. In fact, there may be no more important place in life to practice and improve our flexibility than in our hearts. Getting over the belief that our own desires are the most important consideration at any given moment is a lifelong practice in flexibility. Realizing that our relationship is our most gentle and perfect teacher to get beyond our own individual desires is at once its purpose and its gift. Learning to show up for your spouse in ways that are meaningful is how you build safety into your marriage.
Flexibility and the ability to stretch beyond our comfort zones are in many circumstances how we learn to feel and express our love. Participating in any intimate relationship, whether it is as a spouse, parent, friend or sibling is nothing if not a juggling act. Holding our own needs and desires in one hand while recognizing and responding to the needs of our loved ones is an imperfect equation on most days. Success comes in small moments of reaching beyond where we thought we could go in both letting go and taking on new ways of interacting.
In the following story we see how showing up happens in a myriad of ways in daily life. Notice how each partner stretches in ways that are not comfortable but are worth the effort.
A Lesson in Working Together
Janine was getting ready to leave for her book group when her husband, Thomas, called from work. "I have to finish this project," he said. "Iím really sorry, Jan." She knew how much he wanted to be promoted, and how much was riding on his performance at the office. But in truth, she was growing weary of calls like this, which meant she would either scramble to find a sitter, which they could ill afford, or cancel her plansóagain. "Not tonight," she barked into the phone. "I canceled last time, and if Iím not there it means Iíll have read the book for nothing. Again. Canít you just bring the work home with you?"
"Iíll see," was all he said. "Let me call you back." After she hung up the phone and wiped away the tears that were rising to the surface, she headed for the phone to call a sitter. On the way, she passed the shelving unit for her sonís room sitting in the hallway. It was almost completeóThomas had stayed up late the night before to assemble it, stopping only when he realized he was missing an essential part. She stepped into her sonís room with a different thought. "Letís go," she said. "Weíll get Thai takeout and visit your dad at work."
Close your eyes and remember a time in your own relationship where your spouse didnít show up the way you had hoped for. Then remember a time when stretching your boundaries and letting go of expectations actually made you feel better about yourself or your partner/child/parent. What opened in you that allowed you to find space that you didnít know you had? Is there a place in your body that you can sense when you stretch or relax into a challenging situation?
Try this practice. Every day commit to working on a physical stretch that is challenging for you, like bending forward and touching your toes or sitting down with your legs outstretched and reaching for your ankles. Give yourself 10 breaths to move deeper into the stretch and with each breath imagine how you can open up to your relationship.
The Final Stretch
It is easy to confuse our capacity to show up for one another with the more passive tendency we slip into of coexisting. They resemble one another when we grow accustomed to not allowing ourselves to need or be needed. But coexisting doesnít have the stickiness factor that showing up and being flexible does because it happens as a matter of course, not a matter of choice.
Choosing your relationship health and finding the flexibility to feed it translates into all the dynamics that make a relationship great. Communications get easier and softer, passion gets ignited and your thoughts about your life improve. So stretch a little and call itself love.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.