The Dance of Intimacy
Posted by: Sue Atkins
This week will be all about Valentine’s Day and can be a time of great romance or great pain.
Many people put their children first and of course while this is necessary and honourable is it at the expense of your own relationship?
I remember a great friend of my Mum and Dad’s Nuala Gannon, telling me something that shocked me but has lived with me since I was 16.
She told me that in her amazingly good relationship with her husband Pat, the children came second and their relationship came first.
She told me that the children needed their family’s foundation to be solid first as that underpinned the whole ethos of their family and from that firm basis the girls could grow, feel secure and model a happy intimate relationship for themselves – learning from their parents as powerful role models.
Anyone in a long-term relationship knows that the dance of intimacy involves coming together and moving apart. Sometimes we grow at different speeds in our relationship and sometimes in different directions. But what is important is to press your pause button, like on your DVD and take a look at where you are.
Children are tiring, demanding and challenging so it’s really easy to lose sight of your relationship with your partner. But what’s so different in the “early days” is the intense periods of closeness that you naturally share –that is what can get so lost as your relationship deepens and kids come along.
A sapling tree gets a lot more attention than a full-grown tree, but an established tree also needs nurturing and watering because work, family, friendships, ageing parents and Life takes up a lot of our attention and often our relationships suffer.
To keep a long term relationship healthy and growing you need to feed it with laughter, jokes, playfulness and respect turning towards one another regularly, with the same curiosity, attention, and relaxed intimacy of earlier times and make time for yourselves away from the kids.
In a busy and demanding world full of obligations we sometimes lose track of our primary and most important relationships, thinking they will look after themselves but they won’t – they’ll become like my cyclamen all dried up and dead.
We may have the best intentions when we think about how nice it would be to surprise our partner with a gift or establish a weekly or monthly night out. Yet somehow, life gets in the way.
We may think that our love is strong enough to survive without attention. But maybe it won’t.
This week on my blogs I’ll be looking at some ways to rekindle that fire, and get some genuine humour, laughter and intimacy back into your relationships so your kids can feel safe , secure and nourished in a happy, vibrant and growing, healthy family environment.
Here’s a powerful poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer from the bestselling book “The Invitation” that my great friend Val Weir gave me a long time ago.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
I want to know if you can
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.
© Mountaindreaming, from the book The Invitation published by HarperSanFrancisco, 1999 All rights reserved