Posted in Midlife Journey, Relationships

Midlife and Dark Night of the Relationship – Part 3

Part 3 of a series on the Dark Night of the Relationship, what it looks like, why it often shows up during midlife, and some resources to support you in moving through this critical stage of your intimate relationship.  Read Part 2 HERE   and Part 1 HERE.  Today I will share my own experience of the Dark Night.

dark night of the relationship

Causes of the Dark Night

To begin, I want to warn the reader that the Dark Night of the Relationship does not always end in a happier, healthier, reconciled relationship.  For many who identify this stage in their relationship, seek help and do the difficult work, the end result (and the hoped for result) may be a healthier, happier, loving, and mutually supportive relationship – renegotiated to meet the newly identified and claimed needs of both parties.  For those who do not identify this stage and do not seek support, the end result will either be divorce or silent misery.  For others who identify this stage and seek help and support, the most life-giving thing for all involved may be a termination of the relationship, this proved to be the case for me.

How we got there

I want to preface this sharing by saying there are things about my marriage that I will not share here.  I will also not throw my ex under the bus by presuming to know his side of the story.  As such, I can only speak from my own perspective and out of my own particular viewpoint.  That being said, hindsight is 20/20.  I can look back now, through the eyes of wisdom and experience and identify two primary issues that, from the beginning, doomed the outcome of our marriage.

1) I believe that both myself and my (now ex) husband were looking for someone to complete us.  As I mention in Part 1 of this series – relationships are doomed when established on this foundation.  For us, a clear pattern of co-dependency was established and when I began to seek help for these behaviors and began to retrieve the strands of my co-dependent behaviors, the shaky foundation upon which our marriage was built began to collapse.

2) We had nothing in common.  Yes, we shared a few similar core values and have similar philosophies of parenting (which we still do together quite well), but our day to day interests and passions could not have been more different.    Over time, and with some work and parenting decisions that were made, we ended up living two completely separate lives.  There was nothing shared, other than our children, to tie us to each other.  Further complicating this was the fact that we were so incompatible in certain areas that this tended to overshadow any connections that might have been able to be established.

Naming my part

With the co-dependency issues and lack of common interests, the foundation of our marriage was already on shaky ground.  Compounding this were the following issues that I brought into the marriage that exerted their influence, thereby undermining the potential success of our marriage (Of course, I was not alone in contributing to the end of our marriage, but I can only take responsibility for my part.):

  • Unhealed wounds from childhood
  • Unresolved issues of co-dependency
  • Not knowing how to name and claim my needs, set healthy boundaries
  • Inadequate tools for managing grief, anger, disappointment, loss, needs not being met
  • Inadequate tools for managing anxiety, stress, fear, loneliness
  • Issues of low self-esteem

Seeking Support

When the bottom began to fall out on a relationship that didn’t have much of a bottom to begin with, I sought help.  Through 10 years of therapy, spiritual direction and intense personal development, the final outcome was arrived at.  The horse that was our marriage was dead (and I accept my part in this death) and there was truly no way of renegotiating a relationship that could be healthy, let alone mutually loving and supportive, so we decided that divorce would be the most life-giving decision for both of us, and our children.

Divorce Sucks!

Yes, divorce sucks, and the journey has not been an easy one.  In fact, I do not wish divorce on anyone.  But, what I can say is that after three years of moving through this process – from decision to now, I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.  Through on-going support and personal work, I feel more content, more whole, more confident in naming and claiming my needs, setting healthy boundaries, etc.  I have terrific tools for dealing with loss, disappointment, anxiety, sadness, fear and feelings of loneliness.  I know who I am and I know what I want.  And, I honestly believe our children are happier and healthier.  Yes they (we) grieved, and things aren’t always easy, but our children will never doubt that they are loved and cared for and that they will be supported in getting their needs met.

Dark Night Work

The moral of the story is that Dark Night work requires us to identify and transform the behaviors, attitudes, unhealed wounds that we brought into the relationship so that we are made whole and complete.  Only then can we meet at the negotiating table with our significant other (who has presumably also done their work) and determine the future course of the relationship.  For those who are able to negotiate their differences, find common ground and a shared desire to be together, the end result is a relationship better than what you ever could have imagined for yourself.  For those who choose to renegotiate through divorce, the promise is a healthier and happier self and tools through which they might be able to find mutual love, support and interdependence with another.  For those who don’t do the work, the outcome is continued unhappiness and pain.

Lauri Lumby is working with Ted Balser to bring Dark Night of the Relationship support to couples.  To learn more call Lauri at (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.

Posted in Midlife Journey

Midlife and Menopause – Dealing with Resentment

The purpose of a midlife crisis, perimenopause and menopause (from a spiritual perspective) is to move us beyond childbearing to birthing ourselves…and this is as true for men as it is for women.  During midlife and menopause, we are invited to leave behind the life we have known to make room for the new life that is trying to be born through us.  In birthing our new selves, we are birthing our Soul – the unique way we are creatively gifted to find meaning, purpose, connection and fulfillment in our lives and the way in which we find fulfillment by contributing to the betterment of our worldDuring the midlife journey, we are invited to confront the obstacles to our Soul’s birth, those things that stand in the way of our ability to find meaning, peace and fulfillment.  Today, we explore the RESENTMENT as an obstacle to our path.

midlife-menopause-resentment
midlife-menopause-resentment

 

Midlife and Menopause – Dealing with Resentment

John M. Gottman, in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, calls resentment one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Resentment, he points out, is the great relationship destroyer and at the heart of most relationship conflicts.  I would argue that this is true not only in our marriages or intimate partnerships, but that resentment is the great destroyer of all human relationships.  Like Gollum with his “Precious,” we grab resentment, harbor and cultivate it until the darkness overtakes us and everything around us.  Resentment is toxic, it poisons us, it keeps us from the noble qualities of compassion and forgiveness, it steels us against opportunities for love and it obscures the loving and peaceful truth of who we are and who God/dess calls us to be.  In the midlife journey, harboring resentment keeps us trapped in our past and imprisons us in our fears and compulsions, thereby blocking the way to the freedom of knowing and sharing our gifts and the meaning and purpose that our gifts offer, not only to us, but to the world.

Resentment – what is it really?

In order to move forward in our midlife journey, we have to confront our relationship with resentment.  The challenge is that few of us have been taught about the true nature of resentment and its purpose in our lives.  Instead, we feel it, we harbor it and it imprisons us.  I had the great fortune of a teacher who taught me the meaning and purpose of resentment and I wish to share it with you here today in the hopes of helping along your own midlife path. Resentment, I was taught, is simply a bio-chemical response to our needs not being met.  That is it.  Resentment, is simply an alarm, a flashing light, a billboard, trying to alert us that one of our needs is not being met.  When we understand resentment in this way, we can now choose a different response.  Instead of feeling resentment and then harboring it, we can feel resentment and simply take notice:

I’m feeling resentment, so there must be a need here that is not being met. 

Then, we might ask ourselves a question:

What is the need here that is not being met?

Once we identify what that need might be, then we have the opportunity to name and claim that need:

Honey, when you said this, I experienced resentment arising in me, which means that I have a need that is not being met here.  I have stopped to ask myself what that need might be and this is it………….  Now, I’m identifying this need and inviting us to work together toward getting this need met. 

Now we’re having a conversation and not getting stonewalled behind the prison of resentment.  In midlife, we are invited to learn how to deal with resentment and to work toward naming and claiming the needs that resentment helps us to know are not being met.  I know, easier said than done…..but if we want to know peace in the second half of our lives, we have to start somewhere.  🙂

What role has resentment played in your life?

How has resentment been an obstacle to inner peace?

How has resentment been harmful to your intimate relationships?

For help and support in the midlife transition, I offer one-on-one mentoring, classes and workshops.  To learn more, call me at (920) 230-1313 or email lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com.

Posted in Relationships

You Don’t Complete Me

Relationships.  Co-Dependency.  Conflict in Relationship.  Unfulfilled Dreams.  Handsome Prince.  Damsel in Distress.  Why looking for something outside us to fill our own emptiness never works out.

angrycoupleclipart

Envy

In Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy, I reveal envy as the fifth deadly compulsion and define envy as the actions that come out of our fear that we are not loved – that love has to be earned and that love can be withheld or taken away.  On an even more general level, envy is looking outside of ourselves for the person who will fill the emptiness we feel inside.  Until we have done some serious self-awareness and healing work, most of our intimate relationships are born out of this envy.

What Drew Me To Him/Her…

Relationships born out of envy start out like this:  What drew me to him was his confidence, his creativity, her acceptance, her understanding, his stability, his drive, her advocacy, her strength.  While these are all nobel qualities, quite often, what draws us to another are the qualities that we wish we had within ourselves, the qualities that we feel we are lacking in some way.  While this, in and of itself, is not a bad thing,  unless we are doing the work to cultivate these “missing” qualities within ourselves, that which initially led us to love will eventually lead us to hell.

Enter the Dark Night

When we are drawn to someone because of qualities that we feel we are lacking within ourselves, the secret hope is that in connecting with that person, we will “get” some of their confidence, kindness, creativity, strength, stability, tenderness, etc. etc. etc.  The problem, however, is that we cannot “get” these qualities from another person…we can only nurture and cultivate them within ourselves.  Until we know this, however, we are compelled to seek this “getting” from the other.  This seeking to “get” is the path to hell.  After the infatuation wears off and reality sets in, we realize that the person we are with is human, flawed, imperfect, just like we are AND, no matter how hard we try, THEY are not making us feel confident, secure, creative, etc.  Because we cannot get these qualities from the other, we eventually find ourselves feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, impatient, depressed.  Most often, we then project this unfulfilled inner state on to our partner and BLAME them for making us feel like crap.  It’s their fault that we are unhappy, unfulfilled, weak, sorrowful, depressed, anxious, shy, etc. etc. etc.  As we are blaming them for our unfulfilled inner state, we then start engaging in all sorts of relationship killers:  criticism, complaining, contempt, resentment, withdrawal, defensiveness, etc.  Now we are DEEP into the Dark Night of the Relationship.

Completing Ourselves

The Dark Night of the Relationship occurs when reality collides with the illusion that the person “out there” is going to complete us…or make us feel whole.  The Dark Night is a painful and challenging time because by the time we reach this place, a mountain of resentment, hurt, even betrayal has taken place.  When faced with the Dark Night, many couples are tempted to cut and run.  But for those who are courageous, bold and daring, there are miraculous treasures in moving THROUGH the Dark Night instead of running from it.  It is in moving through the Dark Night that the real work begins.  Here, we stop blaming the other for not being who we thought them to be and start doing the work of completing ourselves, and they in return.  Only when we are on the other side, having taken responsibility for our own inner sense of lack; healed our unhealed wounds; identified and cultivated our gifts and our passions; come to know ourselves and what we really want in a relationship; found wholeness within; and forgiven our partners and ourselves; can we enter into a relationship whole and without need.  Now we invite our partner to join us because we WANT them in our lives, not because we NEED them.

For assistance navigating the Dark Night of your Relationship, contact Lauri at (920) 230-1313 or lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com

Lauri Lumby

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Being Human, Lessons, Spiritual Practices

Divorce, a Matter of Integrity? And…Cultivating Availability

Today’s blog explores the primary component of healthy relationship.  And Jesus’ teachings on divorce.

Scary Gospels

This past Sunday contains the set of scripture readings that I think every pastor must dread – those scary readings on divorce.  How can one speak to these readings from a place of integrity and compassion knowing that over 50% of the people you are preaching to have probably been through a divorce themselves?  Years ago, I heard one brilliant preacher (a woman, and a Catholic nun) respond to these readings with the following:

Sometimes divorce is  a matter of integrity.

Brilliant!  Let’s face it.   Divorce is real, it is often necessary and often it is in the highest good of all involved.  If this is so, how can we understand these readings on divorce, especially the words that have been attibuted to Jesus.  (Here’s the LINK to the readings if you want to read them for yourself.)  As I prayed with these scriptures, I discovered the answer, hidden in plain sight.

What God Has Joined Together

Here are the words from Sunday’s gospel that revealed the hidden answer:

…and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.

As I read this, our goal in relationship is to be open to and take the time to discern if the relationship we are considering making permananent is indeed joined together by God.  If we believe that God’s desire is always for our highest good, then we can presume that this would be true in our intimate relationships as well.  God wants what is best for us and therefore, recognizes the person that would reflect that highest good for us and we in return for them.  The challenge is that we rarely (if ever) take the time to discern if the person we are with and considering making a permanent part of our life is indeed reflective of that highest good.  But how in the heck do we discern this in the first place considering the complexity of human relationships, fate, karma, etc.?  I believe there is a one-word answer to this question and that is AVAILABILITY.

Availability

We hear a lot in today’s writings on relationship about unavailable men and unavailable women and those who are prone to attracting these unavailable people into their lives.  This unavailability is the cause of most suffering and pain in relationship.  The remedy to this unavailability is to BECOME available and to SEEK availability in the other.  In my Agape’ Meditation Newsletter from last week, I said the following about availability and how it relates to Jesus’ thoughts on marriage:

A relationship joined together by God occurs between two people who 1) know themselves 2) know God and 3) who through knowledge of God and self know how to be available to the other.   While a relationship entered into during our youth may evolve into a relationship such as this, unless both parties do the work, this would indeed be rare. 

In this reading on divorce, Jesus challenges us to a new standard of marriage—one that is grounded in self-knowledge, mutual honor, respect and support and one that reflects the love God has for us and the love we know within ourselves.  A marriage such as this occurs between two people who are available to themselves first—knowing their gifts, their weaknesses, their passions and their joys and who are able to identify and claim their needs.  Availability to the other comes second in our willingness to be vulnerable, to seek inside for the cause of the human compulsions that sometimes cause us to hurt the other, the willingness to admit these weaknesses, ask for help and say we are sorry.  Above all, we love and honor each other in our humanness, support each other in our needs and work together for the common good.  Not all people are willing to do the work of being available to self, then available to the other.  It is here where divorce is of integrity.

The work of availability starts with us.  We have to first cultivate availability within ourselves before we can expect it from another and as we grow in availability, so increases the chances of us drawing available people into our lives.  And…this benefits us not only in our intimate partnerships, but in all of our relationships.  Below are some questions that you can ask yourself as you begin to cultivate or desire to deepen availability in your own life:

  • Are you taking time everyday to be available to self in connection with God (meditation, prayer, contemplation, any form of spiritual practice)?

  • Have you taken time to know yourself– your gifts, your weaknesses, your fears, your unhealed wounds (rejection, betrayal, loss, disappointment) your personal triggers for: anger, frustration, disappointment, impatience, lashing out?

  • How are you at honoring all that exists within you?  Do you love yourself without condition?

  • When you find yourself in a less than peaceful and loving state (when you are angry, frustrated, find yourself indulging in unhealthy or destructive behavior) how do you go about identifying its cause and seeking healing and release for that cause?

  • Do you know your needs and how are you at claiming them for yourself and for others?  How are you at setting healthy boundaries around your right to have your needs met?

  • When you are in relationship with another, how are you taking time to get to know them—their gifts, their weaknesses, their fears, their joys, passions, sorrows, vulnerabilities?

  • When you intentionally or inadvertently hurt another, how are you at taking time to identify the unhealed wound within yourself that caused this behavior?  How are you at working toward healing that wound?  How are you at admitting this vulnerability to the other and saying that you are sorry for your hurtful behavior?

Lauri Lumby

http://yourspiritualtruth.com