We're all just fellow travelers (aka Strong Foundations for Hard Times)

Updated: Jan 18

I came across this blog post I wrote in January 2020, it’s still apt today, so I’m bringing it to you again today.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I had an argument. Let me break it down, he wasn’t responding to me the way I wanted him to. To him it felt like no matter what he did I wasn’t going to hear him. (Anyone else have this argument?)

We have a good relationship. He knew that it was going nowhere for the moment. He excused himself to brush his teeth while I stood at my dresser. Our kids were in bed and focused on my breathing and fussed with the layout of my earrings and necklaces. I knew he was partly right, that I was partly right, and both of us were being stubborn.

He came back into the room, told me how my statements made him feel, and that he could also see it from my perspective. Then he shared what he thought was happening.

We sat down realized that the argument we were in was a variation of the same dumb argument we've had before. We saw the thing for what it was, for the pattern it represented. Props to him for going to brush his teeth and taking a beat.

We pulled out of the emotion and into the pattern.

As a person, I identify most with control, and being in control. A major component of my personal, professional and spiritual growth in my life is letting go of the need to be in control of all the things. Because, I’m not. I know this, and I have been stepping into surrender more and more.

I can only control myself, and how I show up. When I seek to control I limit other people AND myself. UGH. In our first relationship together, pre-2010, I was very inside this pattern in not the best ways. Things needed to conform to my expectation.

My husband approaches things like an athlete: steady, focused progress, training, practice, and then the big game. Very hands on and practical, tangible. Then he does it all over again.

The thing about an athlete approach, is that it can be a great thing at its highest and best good. But if you feel that you’ve got to improve and that you are not hitting a mark, or you’re not sure what the mark is, what are you doing?

This can be hard with a partner who's constantly looking at what "should" be, rather than working with what is. I’m always looking at perspective, strategy, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and analyzing things. I want to understand what makes people tick, and how we enact change, so that we improve or make things as we wish.

Now, these traits can be positive, but they have an imbalanced side when they're used to control the people around you. In our relationship pre-2010, this was how I operated, and he was always trying to figure out when we would "get there", for all the effort.

We were young, and running so many patterns and stories from our earlier lived experiences, and those were how we ran our lives. As a single person, these traits made me a good student, someone who excelled in what I took on. It also made me set high expectations on others, expectations that didn't always meet them in their own truth. It made me a bit harsh and judgmental. This side of it wasn't helpful.

The dynamic of our relationship reinforced the unhealthy patterns more strongly. While we could survive with them on our own, as a couple it eventually suffocated us and we realized we had to break the relationship to free ourselves.

We went our separate ways for a time.

We didn’t figure it all out in one go, but when we came back together it was with the explicit agreement that we would both do our own work. I was not in charge, and he would drive from within, rather than from outside.

We framed it simply back then and disentangled our roots and separated out to be pillars that could uphold a roof. Each responsible for our own growth, needs, havingness within our personal fulfillment.

That’s pretty much how we still are, today. As well as two imperfect people can do things, we have done our best and held up our ends of the bargain. Even with kids. Yes, there are times when it's unbalanced, when we feel stuck or stifled. When we're mad at the other person for not being how we'd like them to be (perfect!). But it's not impossible to pull back out and get perspective.

Because the pattern is recognizable. It shows up time to time. For that argument we were in, I needed to be in control of how he was showing up, he didn't like the arbitrary standard I'd set. He could see it from my view and it prompted him to reflect deeper on what was actually important for him. I could see what was mine to manage, and wasn't.

We caught pattern, named it, and assessed where we were. It might never go away completely, but it's familiar, and it's not in charge like it was a long time ago.

A few days later I had a talk with a woman who was telling me about her own relationship with her husband. She's in her 70’s and highlighted that what we are in life with others, are fellow travelers. Take away the "roles", and the expectations fall away. I loved this.

Her questions were, what gifts do we offer each other on this journey? How do we help one another if there’s a rain storm, or when we need to rest?

Boiled down to this simplicity, I laugh to think of trying to control a fellow free-born traveler. We both share the charge and responsibility of the little ones, but to one another? We choose to travel together day in and out.

We're fellow travelers.

Now it's your turn.

What are some ways you approach new points of view? What’s helped you in a relationship in the past? What’s helped you for your own self-awareness? What has this made you think of in your own experience? Do you have an alternate take from your perspective?

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