Udaipur in Rajahstan had no fortress or walls. It was open to the plains. In previous centuries many forts had been built there and were overrun time and time again by enemies. Each time this occurred the town was looted and many of its citizens killed.
A wise leader took over Udaipur and when the townsfolk clamoured for a bigger and stronger fort, he held a meeting with the elders. He pointed out the disastrous history of having each fort destroyed by the enemy and convinced them to rid the town of its treasures, leave the gates of the city open and provide hospitality to the enemies.
Since then Udaipur has lived in peace and prosperity: the only town in that area not surrounded by walls.
(Source: unknown. It was copied from an old postcard found in a diary from my travels in India)
It is a choice to open our hearts, it is a way of living. Walls can keep us held in as well as hold others out. Our marriages can only flourish when we drop the walls. When we jump in with full bodies and bulging hearts. We’ve felt this palpable grace when we witness couples with wobbling chins saying ‘I do’.
Over time though we need reminders of this grace and this choice we’ve made. As our more serious, ‘grown up’ selves often feel weighed down by bags, bills and burdens. It can feel like the individual versions of ourselves get lost.
How do we keep a relationship fresh and alive? We all know the happily ever after Disney bullsh$t is skin deep and expectations are a slow death to relationships. Marriage is a journey into demolition patiently drilling away at the chips on our shoulders and niggling resentments. Left untended they can grow up around us until we can barely see over the walls.
Our busy lives can feel like we have little time left over to give to our relationship. But if we calculated up the time we pick up a device or have that extra drink at night rather than turn to our loved one to share? Distractions are sticky glue and sometimes they can feel like a supportive escape from emotional turmoil. But they take us away from the moment or place to be with our lover and too easily this can become the new normal. A couple I know came up with ‘Massage Monday’, a night of rubs and a night off HBO and social media to reclaim time together. No devices in the bedroom can promote cuddle time cos let’s face it sex will drop but it doesn’t have to be exponential.
When we are operating on hyper (busy, busy, busy) stopping to check in and listen to our feelings isn’t easy. The two are mutually exclusive. Taking some alone time each day, to just be with yourself can really help bring your whole self to your relationship. I keep a journal in my bag that I regularly ‘dump’ (writing without censoring anything) which helps to clear my thoughts, calm my mind and sometimes if I’m lucky, clarity comes. I’m not militant about it . I have no set routine but it is a proven lifeline when I’m upset. Afterwards, I am in a much clearer state to share with my partner.
We still remain two individuals in a healthy relationship. This notion that ‘two become one’ is pretty old hat and from experience, co-dependency isn’t fun. The idea that we see our partner as an extra limb, scratching post or a saviour only builds up resentment and up go the walls. Often our behaviour is unconscious and we expect our marriage to play out like our own childhood version. But after going down this path, we can wake up and forge a new way. It just takes awareness and patience because some days we are breathing easy and other days forgetting we need air to survive. We can start by building a strong connection with ourselves. An art practice, yoga or walking in Nature facilitate connection with our inner selves. Once we have that foundation, we don’t need to lean so heavily on our partner and our relationship flourishes from this new space.
We can live a life not asking what we feel. Our society promotes thinking and analysis, ‘this is what I think’ and we go around with buzzing heads and self importance waiting for our turn to speak. This is very different to feelings that are personal and heart felt. Sometimes irrational, sometimes intuitive, feelings have a place and a reason behind them. It is our job to learn to sit with them, name them and process them so we can let go and move on. It’s not a matter of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings even spiky feelings like jealousy (can help us identify something we want) and anger (can empower us to do something) are signposts that can lead us into more self awareness. Our feelings are always more about us and less about the other person’s behaviour. Taking time out first (if possible) to get clarity on what our emotions are telling us before diving into accusation that only erects walls works wonders.
When we live with an open heart, compassion for each other flows forth. We see the human foibles – narky comments after a bad day, shortness or mood swings as part of processing emotions and how we all need space to grow. That by giving each other time, our relationship gets stronger. This took me ages to realise cos I felt carrying my partner’s load would ‘help’ him and ultimately speed things up. I was in a hurry to get the messy emotional bits over and back to happy land. But all it meant was I got worn out and resentful he wasn’t doing it himself. Good ol’ boundaries is what’s it about – realising what’s your stuff and what’s theirs.
When we pick away at the walls our playful hearts have room to dance. By forming a powerful connection with ourselves, we can feel mighty fine with energy left to give gallons to our beloved. And even on our off days when we ‘think’ we’ll die from sharing our feelings and being vulnerable, life has a way of walking us closer to our truth each time we trust wholeheartedly. It’s not always easy or fun but definitely keeps us growing with each try.
Words by Amy Freya Wilson.
Images by Ania Milczarczyk.