As I may have mentioned, some time ago I was encouraged to read Heartwounds: The Impact of Unresolved Trauma and Grief on Intimate Relationships (by Tian Dayton), but I wasn't instructed why it was a good idea or what I was supposed to get out of it. In my own, very self absorbed way, I read the title and assumed it was to better understand He Who Is In Personal Crisis. To have ammunition for our next discussion. "No, it's not that we are incompatible, it's that you are suffered from unresolved trauma and grief! Look at how patient I am in the midst of that ridiculousness! You need to get a grip on this!"
How very un-evolved of me. (I suspect my therapist knew I would react like this.)
I discovered, of course -- rather painfully -- that it may have been to identify the unresolved trauma and grief wthin myself. To come to terms with the fact that I, too, come to this relationship with baggage and that I, too, act out on unresolved trauma and grief. I think it's fair to say that my grief is neither as engrained nor as traumatic as that of He Who Is In Personal Crisis, and I also think it's fair to say that I am cognizant of its existence and, therefore, do not deny it. But it's fairest to say that I am also very, very smug about my progress, and I tend to view the dynamics of our relationship as of late from that place of arrogance. I (often unknowingly) sit in judgment of his actions, critiquing them and taking note of their affects on our larger relationship. I keep score.
But Heartwounds is making me realize both the folly and the tragedy of this. It makes me not a supportive member of the He Who Is In Personal Crisis team but more of a scolding parent. I don't mean to sound too harsh on myself, as I think most people around me would suggest that my interactions with him have been decidedly deferential and patient. But that doesn't mean they've been loving. I can do something that I believe is right and that I ought to do without the right reasons for doing it. And if I do it while consciously believing that I am right and that I deserve praise because I'm doing what I ought, I have the potential to become rigidly arrogant. To discard the opinion of the other and not to see his/her point of view. To be more disapproving than empathetic.
I don't want to be arrogant, disapproving or dogmatic. I want to be loving, patient and empathetic. That is who I am at my core. Therefore, I don't want to view this experience as waiting for him to get his head out of his ass. I want to view it as an opportunity to love him through this difficult period and as a chance to show him that I'm not reactionary but grounded in the beilef that we have a unique bond, that he is hurting even more than he is aware, and that through awareness it is possible to both heal his hurt and restore our relationship. That is where my power lies; not in convincing him that I am wrong and he is right. Because I, too, am imperfect. And my arrogance is unwarranted. I, too, have issues that I need to continue to address and hurt that must continue to heal. I want him to know not that I have all the answers but that I am on his side, even when he wishes I wasn't. It would be a tragedy if he took the wrong things away from this situation. It would be a tragedy if I did, too.
That's why my arrogance is also terribly misguided: if I allow it to prevail, I will suffer its negative consequences. If I approach the situation from a place of judgment and pretension, I must prepare for a response that is angry, equally critical and defensive. If I approach him thinking that I have all the answers, he will refute every single one of them. If, however, I approach him with empathy and grace, I am likely to be met with gratitude and affection. If I approach him knowing that he is hurt and with the faith that he can be healed, I will reap the benefits of increased trust and appreciation.
It's that simple. I must stand firm but not rigid; must create my own happiness but not boundaries for his; must learn what he is going through not in order to one-up him but in order to better understand and support him. That's how this is. But, god, is that a delicate balance.
#78 - The knowledge that I, too, am imperfect and that my arrogance isn't a good idea or warranted.