The other day my hot water heater broke and rusty water went everywhere. Even the carpets in the adjoining room were completely soaked and discolored. The next day a new heater was installed, and the carpets were delicately spotted, cleaned, and dried, making them look brand new! But what if my deeper heart had broken in a relationship — what could I do?
Relationships are infinitely important. Even the basic constituents of matter in this universe are, according to particle physicists, arranged in families of particles that stick together. Faithfulness in relationships can even be seen in the universe, as precise and predictable movements of the Earth around the Sun give us time, seasons, and celestial beauty.
There are also atomic relationships that matter in every cell in our bodies. These faithful relationships contribute to life-sustaining chemical reactions every second, without our conscious effort. Where would we be without hydrogen’s faithful relationship to oxygen and to carbon?
But what about our human relationships? Have we studied them? Have you ever taken a course to learn to be in human relationships? And what do we do when critical relationships become messy and out of control? Human relationships can be scary. They can also be sacred and transcendent, familial and communal, professional and organizational, loving and supportive. At best human relationships are complicated and mysterious and at worst troublesome, traumatic, and even lethal. So what are we to do with something so vital and yet so complicated? When our hearts break where can we go and how do we handle the pain? Or when our hearts rejoice with sacred love where do we go to share the wisdom brought on by falling and staying in love?
Answers to these questions are perhaps the most important endeavors of our times. We need relationship intelligences at every level because relationships matter a lot. Relationships start wars. Relationships challenge our ecology and yet with shared intentionality could sustain it. Relationships begin and end marriages, and matters of the heart are vital to our families, our communities, and our nation and even for our very survival.
In this column I plan to engage in conversations with you about relationships, and we will start today with some of your questions!
Why do I go for guys who are not good to me and reject the ones who are kind and sweet? —Anonymous
Unfortunately, for some, our emotional patterns are not our own. Just like our eye color is inherited, relational patterns can be also highly affected by the previous three to four generations. I suggest you reflect on the relationship patterns on both sides of your family. Often we choose someone who rejects us because the pattern of pain is more familial and familiar than the joy and is often an unconscious way. Break the cycle! Run to the kind and the sweet. Listen, and even tell yourself words of acceptance and love, and focus on how they make you feel. Small words can make a huge difference. This is all in our precious hands to change!
I so envy your wonderful relationship with your husband. My sister and I talk about our husbands all the time, and after 20-30+ years, they just make us crazy with how weirdly obsessive they get about strange stuff like a cataclysmic end of the world or how right they are about everything! (You can intuit how dreadful those two together might be!!) They didn’t start out that way … did we develop more sense or did they lose theirs? —Anonymous
Thank you for your kind words. This is a great question! You say they did not start out that way — well, how did you all start out? Often years of family life, work, and keeping it all together can rob our passionate hearts and shift our focus from love to what is wrong with the world or wrong with our spouses. When we are falling in love, the whole world looks rosy. Recapture your deep joy. What actions bring you peace, reduce your stress, and speak to your deep heart? Cling to these daily, and find your joy and peace again, and share in what brings your husband joy. Rekindle gentleness, kindness, and romance. Let me know how it goes.
How do you know if you have found “the one”? —Justin
Wow, Justin, that is a big question, because we all want to know if we are with “the one.” Love is foundational, and if you do not love the person, run! Now really, we can fall in love with many people, but “the one” constitutes much more. It is a deeper love, one you cannot imagine living without. Sharing common values, faith, and lifestyles and having open communication are vital. But there is also another side. Baba and I were opposites in many ways, and we had to come up with a process to even decide on what movie to watch together. But there were always underlying ingredients — love, respect, prayer, and the big one, commitment. You find “the one” when you both agree to commit to life together as long as you both shall live. Be blessed, Justin, in your choosing “the one,” and write me and let me know how it goes!
Akivah Northern is a certified Family Wellness Trainer and holds a Master in Divinity from Yale. Her biweekly column explores the deeper heart in all its dimensions. She welcomes heartfelt questions from readers of all ages at email@example.com.