Under mud brick and timber beams, we have a toast for a long awaited event, the sale of this rustic and romantic house of a friend. Over the afternoon, women gather under an alcove and get down to the business of chat. But it’s not chit-chat.
A beautiful theatrical blonde moves over the space posing a question, ‘How hard is it to have 3 relationships in one? I mean you have a business relationship with your partner here…. then you’re meant to have a romantic relationship over there…and then there are the kids’.
A few knowing nods as we take in this clear delineation. It sounds so practical and pragmatic, not in the least bit reckless or exciting.
A redhead with black spectacles quips ‘It’s all too hard: I keep it simple: there is business and there is the kids’.
Most of us laugh because it is true, but it’s also sad.
A beautifully serene lady looks perplexed, ‘But if you don’t have romance, the whole relationship crumbles. You don’t have anything left’.
The rest of us give an eye roll or a nervous chuckle. She is the happily remarried of us who now co-parents with her ex. She admits that she and her man get every second week together kid-free.
‘So let’s separate!’ I blurt. Giggles and laughs.
Is this the easy answer? We hear the grubby reality of having a frustrated son in tears not wanting to live between two houses. He just wants it to be easy.
‘But trying to keep a relationship alive after more than a decade (some are close to two decades) is bloody hard. I mean we change over that time and to stay connected in that change…’ My voice travels off.
‘Yeah..err..’, the others chorus.
‘We’re thinking about couples counselling’, I admit.
Another responds, ‘Yes we thought of that, but how to find the time?’
More laughter. I think to myself aren’t we all just getting by, doing the best we can and all that. How many cliches are there to describe coping?
Back to the redhead with kind eyes who shares, ‘Even on those rare date dates, all I want to do is sleep, I’m so f$%kin tired of doing it all. Sometimes I’ll do some laundry…’
The lady happily married, looks over in wonder and concern.
I find myself running on, ‘ How do I wake up and be honest that my relationship is suffering, but at the same time a big part of me wants to stay numb. Isn’t pretending ok? I mean I don’t have to feel too much or even better actually do anything. If I just hold this position maybe it will all blow over’.
This lady gives me her ear, she’s a counsellor for a living. Sorry no day off, I keep my download going.
‘I mean this question of to stay or go. It’s not black/white like a bloody piano.. I mean.. it is a yes, until it is a no. And if it it not a no, then it is yes. Confusing much…!?’
I’m a bit wild eyed as clicks go off in my brain. I realise if we wanna be seen, I mean really seen by our partner, we gotta actually get clear on what we want. Call it, as my friend says. Greet the elephant in the room, so we have a chat with it.
And obviously, it takes two willing parties. No one needs to bother with a fence post.
Later, I get my training wheels out with my partner. It always feels the same- a bit wobbly at the start as I kick off but slowly gains momentum.
‘I’ve realised that you can’t get me if I don’t actually share what’s going on for me. Sometimes when I’m aggressive, I’m actually afraid. It’s easier to be snappy than actually admit I’m going through stuff’.
Hmmm, he is looking at me taking it in, ‘Yeah’. Good sign.
‘And this whole fighting thing isn’t working. Just like the whole faking it until we make it relationship thing doesn’t work unless we’re after a life of denying our pleasure and ultimately joy.. .’
‘Fuck no’, he says.
We talk, and this funny thing happens by focusing on my own needs, he can focus on his and we are both heard. Anything less is dancing with codependency. That grim reaper of joy that I fall into far too often.
Afterwards I notice how I feel richer, lighter and happier. No resolutions or debates were required, just showing up where I’m at in my own story.
‘What else is possible?’ I ask, and feel tingly delicious.