The Pillars of Partnership
I had a surgery yesterday (a very small surgery in my book). It's my third surgery during the course of my engagement..this one is only three months out from my wedding. It's got me thinking about marriage and asking questions about partnership through hard times that pertain to all of us. My fiancé is clearly signing up for a life of uncertainty when it comes to my pain and abilities. It's not what he wants or would have ever chosen from a lineup or a profile on a dating app but he wants me and he chooses me anyways. Unfortunately the rest is collateral and while I work through my guilt over that, he works on putting on the brave face all the time. Some of us have big baggage when we walk in the door of a relationship but almost all of us will acquire some throughout the course of a marriage. Partnership is about stepping IN and UP when your partner needs to step OUT and DOWN. Jay and I have definitely mastered that part. True partnership is the bees mother f-ing knees. It's the best flavor of validation and as close as you can come to feel like a magic carpet is just floating under you to catch you at all times. Jay passed that course 4 years ago when he had no other choice but to jump up and into the role of nurse, my rock and the emotional glue that keeps me from falling apart. Of course he also has his own scars but his are on his heart. When they bother him, I too run to step in and up. I feel mega confident in our abilities to step in and up for one another at this point, but the other true aspect of partnership seems to collide with it and I am still digging through the pile, trying to sort out what works and what doesn't work when that collision happens.
Partnership also means that his pain is my pain. Truly, I feel his pain so physically and so deeply. I carry his worries and hardships around on my heart and it feels twice as heavy. He scoops up the weight of my problems and bears them on his shoulders. It is the innate response when you truly love someone and choose them as your teammate forever..you just naturally feel sad when he's sad and experience anger over things that bothered him. It feels so damn good to be THAT cared for, backed up and understood. An ally for life. A person that looks you in the eyes and truly listens to you and then stands right beside you...ready to march. But what about when you need to step in and up for your partner but you also are experiencing what they are going through with your empathetic response to it? How do you navigate these two pillars of partnership at the same time? Sure, there are plenty of situations where you just need to step in and up for your partner to DO things...maybe she is working long hours and doesn't have as much time to do chores. But what about a situation where your partner is going through something that is emotionally tolling (or in my case, physically tolling with some residual emotional struggles)? I don't think it's fair that my fiancé should have to act like he's got it all together and isn't upset just because I need to step out and down. He IS upset. He doesn't have it all together. He has to watch the love of his life suffer and I've gotta say that sounds basically as rough as suffering itself. And yet, I'm the only one that gets the stage to have the moment. He's supposed to step in and up. I never asked him to. I never will ask him to because he deserves to share his own experience of watching me get another surgery...he deserves to have his own emotional reaction. Yes, he shares how it makes him feel but he doesn't feel like he can have breakdowns because he's "supposed" to allow me to have them while he stays strong.
So the question of how to deal with the collision of the two pillars of partnership remains: how do you effectively step in and up while also sharing and living the truth of your empathetic response to your partners pain? I'll keep searching for the answers if you promise to keep me in the loop with your discoveries. #fromcarlysheart