The idea of love has captured the imagination of humanity and has intrigued the hearts and minds of men and women since the beginning of time.
Years ago I came across a couple who were moving towards divorce following 32 years of marriage. Both in their 50’s, the wife appeared sad and tired of living in what she believed was a loveless marriage.
David was shocked that Diana could make the claim he had never loved her. His life dream had been to go to university and become a criminal lawyer. He envisioned a home in the suburbs, vacationing in the Bahamas, and spending weekends with his wife and maybe 2 children. Yet, when he met Diana all of those dreams changed in a heartbeat.
Diana was a farmer’s daughter who was raised in Saskatchewan. Her dream had been to own a farm. She envisioned getting married, reliving the joy of waking to the roosters crow at 5 a.m. and carrying on with her day, breathing in the soil, and fresh air. She could picture their many children who would help with the chores and the land. It would not be a glamorous life, but it would be the closest thing to feeling alive that Diana could imagine.
In 32 years David had never shared those dreams he once held for himself. He thought it was so glaringly obvious that he loved her. He had moved to the Prairies, become a farmer, worked usually 7 days a week, raised 7 children, and had never taken a vacation further than Toronto to visit his family. Diana was dumbfounded to hear that he had relinquished his dreams to be with her. David said he had simply developed new dreams with his wife.
In Diana’s view their relationship had become nothing more than a co-existence of two very nice people who had little to say to each other. To David’s way of thinking, they had a wonderful marriage as had he not worked hard all his life to give Diana what she had dreamed? Diana had expected David to read her mind and intuitively know that she was craving emotional intimacy. David in turn, assumed that Diana would perceive being loved by his work ethic. Unspoken assumptions created a growing resentment as this very kind couple struggled with their sadness and growing sense of alienation from each other.
It is emotional intimacy that drives the human spirit. That longing to share and be known for all that we are. It takes tremendous courage, coupled with a feeling of vulnerability to let down our guard to be seen for who we are.
Imagine how freeing it would be let others witness our strengths, weaknesses, joys, disappointments, dreams, despair, fears and hopes, all laid out for those we profess to love. However, this self revelation is not without its drawbacks. In that sharing we take the chance of being judged. This is a fear so powerful in many people that they spend their life desperately seeking emotional intimacy yet running as fast as they can when the opportunity to reveal oneself comes along.
Not surprisingly many people have never contemplated who they are. There is a limited self awareness of fears, hopes, strengths etc. They often describe themselves as merely “existing”, without a foundation beneath them. They feel they are wandering aimlessly through life, questioning their purpose for being here.
The beauty in developing self awareness and emotional intimacy is that we become attuned to the richness and varying degrees of depth within ourselves and others as well. We can share it and in return give others permission to feel safe in sharing and discovering who they are as well.
“For relationships to flourish, there must be intimacy. It takes an enormous amount of courage to say to your loved one, “This is me, at times I may not be proud of it–in fact, I’m a little embarrassed by it–but this is who I am”. (Bill Hybels)
“Seek first to understand before being understood. Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening. THis creates an atmosphere of caring, respect and positive problem solving.” (Stephen Covey)
Thankfully, David and Diana were able to share their needs and express their appreciation of one another. In so doing they rediscovered who they were as individuals and as a couple.
We all have a story and it is through the narrative of our life that others come to know us in a very special and unique way. The narrative of our life can also open up a wonderful world of possibilities in where we want to be personally and as a couple.