Have you ever wondered how your level of impatience, frustration, or just plain anger with the one you love can go from zero to sixty miles an hour in less than a split second?
All such negative states are “powered” by one kind or another of an unseen, and therefore, unresolved pain that lives within us. Experience proves this true: just because the storm of some conflict has passed, even by mutual consent to “just drop it,” doesn’t mean the cause of that argument has gone away. At the end of any confrontation between two people there’s always a residue, some kind of grudge that goes “underground,” just waiting for the right circumstances to come charging back out...to fight another day!
Unresolved issues between us and the one we love are... irritants. We even get used to living with them, that is, until some unwanted event brings them, and their pain, back to life. And when both partners carry the seeds of this kind of pain – born of whatever unsettled objections they still have with one another, then the smallest spark between them can turn into a towering inferno.
The main point is that even before a fight, let alone afterwards, you and your partner are already living with a kind of pain that burdens both of you equally, and yet neither one of you knows that this is true about the other. If you want to learn more about healing your relationship, you might ask: "Why do my partner and I keep doing to each other what both of us say we don’t want to do?”
Whenever we find ourselves in a fight of some kind, pretty much all we can see is who’s to blame for the pain we feel. This pain-induced blindness does more than just pit us against one another. It also stands between us, blocking any awareness of a truth that – once realized – acts to change something deep within us: in any disputed moment with a loved one, we’re not the only one suffering through it; our partner is in pain...too.
If we wish to love our partner unconditionally, meaning no matter what they manifest toward us – even if it seems uncaring – we must never return unkindness with unkindness. Can you see that nothing positive, helpful, let alone healing can ever come out of a negative reaction, regardless of how justified it may feel at the moment?
Regardless of our certainty as to whether we or our partner starts or rekindles a quarrel, the real cause of the continuing conflict between us lies elsewhere. Despite any appearance to the contrary, it’s not our partner, nor is it we who strikes the first blow in any dispute: It’s pain that picks the fight.
Just as it’s clear that we’d never hurt the one we love were it not for some pain pushing us to do so, the same holds true for our partner. So much depends on our being able to remember what our heart already knows is true: if love is that timeless divine force that unites and heals all that lives and breathes, then how can it ever be that which divides us? It can’t; it’s never love that fights. Never.
With this last thought in mind, let’s say we have a “bone to pick” with our partner. This should be easy enough to imagine! Is this because we feel good about them in that moment? Or, is it more likely that there’s a pressure and a pain in us that “knows” who’s to blame for it, and what they must do to make things right? The answer to this question is pretty obvious, which leads us directly to the insight that follows.
This particular pain that we feel in these moments doesn't exist without our partner being there – before us – either in body or in our mind. The same holds true for whatever pain our partner may experience in our presence; it doesn't exist without us being there in the same way. This means that even though there are two of us “there,” between us there is only one pain.
Whatever we oppose in our partner causes our partner to oppose us; for instance, any time we oppose something about our partner’s attitude, we can be sure our partner will oppose anything we have to say about that! Pain opposes pain. Which means that as long as we look at our partner as the one responsible for the pain we're in, we remain effectively blind to the one thing about this condition that we must see...if we’re going to stop hurting one another.
Half the responsibility for the unwanted pattern of arguing – including the pain that helps keep it alive – belongs to us, and the other half belongs to our partner. In other words, the pain that first sets us against one another, only to push us apart, isn’t his, or hers, or theirs. It’s our pain.
Only when we feel that truth will we be able to ask ourselves a question that unconscious pain is incapable of considering. In truth, this is a question of conscience few of us have ever thought to ask ourselves. But for those of us who wish to know a healthier, more loving relationship with our partner, we must dare to ask it of ourselves, and even better...right in the middle of a fight with our partner: “Why is my pain more important than yours?”
If we’re both suffering for having been set against one another by unconsciously identifying with opposing forces, then we have to ask – especially if we love our partner as we profess – why do we feel as if our pain is more important than theirs?
When we really love someone, the last thing we want for him or her is to suffer. Who among us hasn’t thought upon seeing a loved in the throes of some kind of pain that, if it only were in our power, we would gladly take their pain away by agreeing to make it our own?
And yet, though most of us have felt something of this higher wish – to surrender ourselves for the sake of love – regardless the personal cost – we’ve also witnessed our inability to do so; the truth is, when it comes to some trial by fire, little to nothing in us can remember what was foremost in our heart only moments before. And there’s a good reason for this kind of spiritual amnesia:
This kind of unconscious pain that lives within us needs someone, something to blame for it. And, in much the same way, blame must have pain in order to keep itself alive. These opposing sides are literally nothing without each other to maintain the misery that they create together. The more aware we can be of this unconscious partnership, the less tempted we are to want any part of it!
Any pain in us – that demands our partner pay for it – can’t heal itself; if it could have, it would have long ago. Add to this fact – as we’ve seen is true – that whatever “payment” we’d exact from our partner in these moments not only does nothing to heal their pain but also, in fact, only aggravates it further! Which in turn...then turns on us, re-seeding both of our suffering, and guaranteeing that same unwanted pattern is reborn.
The unconscious pain that pushes us into, and then through the repetition of any unwanted pattern with our partner is, in fact, not what it seems. It is not proof of some irreconcilable difference between us, but rather stands as evidence of something that lives in each of us, that we have in common.
Even the faintest first stirring of this higher awareness – that whatever pain divides us is, in fact, a single pain shared between us – makes it possible for us to open our heart and mind to embrace a new idea that can’t be reached in any other way.
We have but one, true hope of being able to rise above this unseen world of opposing forces that cannot heal themselves, let alone bring an end to the patterns they create each time they attempt to do so. It is time for us to learn how to call upon a “third” force: an altogether higher order of wisdom, compassion, and kindness whose singular power is not only to unify these opposing forces but, in the moment of their appearance, to complete the very purpose of their existence.
In truth, you already know this celestial force; its most common name is love. But, let me ask you to suspend, at least for a moment, all that you think you understand about it; for the “love” that we know, in whose name we call out what we now care for most, is to this higher order love that we’re about to discover as is a candle’s light to the light of the sun.
We’re not talking about the kind of love we have for a delicious meal, a beautiful day, a family member, or even for our partner in the most tender of moments. This level of love can flip-flop into its opposite at the drop of a hat.
We’re talking about a level of love that can neither be imagined, nor created. It can’t be made to change a single unwanted moment into one that we want, even though that’s the reason for its existence. And while we can’t cause this higher order of love to appear at will, we can learn to understand, and eventually have full trust in the following:
Whenever, and wherever two or more of us are connected by a shared pain of some kind – as in a fight with our partner, or suffering some misfortune with loved ones or strangers alike, there is – already with us in that same moment – a higher love waiting to heal it, and to help make us whole at the same time.