by Kara-Leah Grant
I didn’t expect to feel this way when he arrived in my life.
But this man who I’d been friends with for four years online before finally meeting in person landed in my heart with the softness of a blown dandelion flower gone to seed.
Looking back, I asked myself, when did I know? When did I realise that we had this connection, this intimacy, this opening into relationship?
Was it when he stayed at my house after getting off the plane? Was it when he got off the plane? Or was it earlier, in Skype calls and Facebook messages across the globe?
When was the moment of surety? Or maybe it’s not that there ever was one moment of surety but a gathering crescendo of moments all leading in the same direction with nothing to halt the flow. No discord. No conflict. No pulling back.
Just an ease of opening into intimacy and connection because that is the path of relationship.
How else does relationship happen? We open to a person, moment after moment after moment. We love that person, in moment after moment after moment. And in that opening and loving we reveal our own tender hearts and vulnerability. If they hold us dear in that opening, we trust them and open more.
It is the dance of intimacy.
And in the moment that something is held back or something is left unsaid, a shadow crosses the intimacy and the connection weakens. Too many shadows and the intimacy fades completely.
So the process of relationship becomes one of staying fully open. Transparent. Loving. No matter what. Even when the difficult emotions are triggered and one feels dread, fear, abandoned, lost, alone, rejected, anxious, insecure or misunderstood.
Normally, these are the moments in relationship when we shut down and withdraw, hiding ourselves away for fear of being seen in our weakness.
Or these are the moments in relationship when we shut the other person out or shut them down. When we don’t want them to be that way, feel that way, or act that way because when they are like that, they’re not giving us what we want or need.
But what happens when two people come together who have been doing the work on themselves – the work of staying open and honest to difficult emotions? The work of turning to face every moment no matter how dark? The work of waking up?
I’ve wanted to know this for so long. And 18 months ago, I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t step back into relationship until I met a man who was on the same path as me.
And now I know what happens when two such people come together.
It creates an opportunity for true intimacy to arise beyond projections and fantasies and needs. The other person is seen and loved for who they are, not who they need to be to make one feel a certain way.
Because relationship isn’t about feeling great. It’s not about making each other happy. It’s not about feeling comfortable and secure.
Relationship is an opportunity to practice intimacy. It is an opportunity to practice opening up and revealing all of yourself to one person who holds you in unconditional love so that your shadows can be melted by that love. And it’s an opportunity to hold each other in the process of waking up and releasing old trauma.
A concrete example.
I awoke one night, at 1:30am. He was up and about, had been for a few hours. Insomnia. I lay there in bed and felt a cold stone of dread in my belly. I was deeply afraid, triggered by his absence and what it could mean. I contemplated.
Did I stay in bed and feel this feeling by myself, breathing into it, staying present, hoping it passed?
I knew enough to know that the feeling had nothing to do with the current situation. It was out of context, and came from a much older trauma.
His absence from my bed meant nothing, yet my body believed it did and was triggered as all hell.
Deal with it myself, or share?
I choose to get up. It felt risky, and added another layer to the dread – fear of rejection.
I padded out into the kitchen and bumped into him padding in from the lounge.
What are you doing?
I’m feeling dread.
He looked at me, contemplating. I knew he wasn’t ready to come back to bed right now. But this wasn’t about what he wanted, or even about what I wanted. This was about healing and about intimacy.
I’ll come back to bed with you and let’s talk about it yeah?
Grateful, I followed him down the hallway and we slid under the covers. He had no judgement about my state of being, about my need for him in that moment, about me pulling him away from his flow. He was there for me.
I shared, describing the feeling. He asked questions, leading me skilfully into the root cause, listening deeply, holding me tight.
I felt his love, his presence, his care. That alone broke me open, shattered a layer, took me into childhood fear.
His love, my vulnerability, our intimacy.
And then, he took me in a way no man ever has, with such love and passion and care and I could feel how his desire was fired by my willingness to open emotionally to him.
He was turned on by my shadow when others had been triggered by it.
And so the difficult emotion – in this case, a deep sense of abandonment – which so often leads to drama and conflict, anger and hurt, shut down and betrayal, didn’t.
Instead, I owned my feeling and didn’t react to it or project on to him. And he was able to listen and respond to my need to be heard and held with love and openness. The difficult moment became an opening into greater intimacy. It lead us closer together.
In doing so, one of Love’s shadows was healed within me. For so long I had been afraid that no man would be able to handle me – my emotions, my vulnerability, my passion for life, my desire to dive deep into the unconscious.
This man proved me wrong.
He showed me a man who could handle me. And not only handle me, but love me more deeply precisely because of my wild and passionate nature.
This is the path of relationship.
It is defined by our willingness to open and share and hold each other as our shadows arise. It is defined by our ability to recognise when we are triggered, and to own our emotional states rather than project them onto the people around us. It is defined by our ability to hold each other with love when we are in a difficult emotional state.
This is the kind of relationship I’m in now.
It was four years in the making. Yet it was lifetime in the making. Two lifetimes really – his and mine together. Each of us, living our own lives, doing our own work, peeling back the layers and learning how to navigate and manage our own emotional landscapes.
Now, coming together, we have the language, the desire and the tools to support each other as our deepening intimacy triggers our shadows.
Instead of deepening love becoming fraught with difficulty – which is the only way I’ve ever known it – it’s fraught with intimacy and ease.
What a blessing.