M: When did you begin to consider this relationship as a conscious partnership? What changed for you?
R: It started on a conscious note, we didn’t just drift together, we had a clear understanding of what we wanted from one another. We made some clear agreement at the beginning.
M: So it was really a conscious choice that was made. I had an insight, that in my previous relationship I resented my partner for the fact that he was not becoming something that I couldn’t be myself. I saw his limitations and I realized at that point, that what is required for me to be in a successful relationship, is to accept somebody exactly as they are. Otherwise I live in despair, hope or resentment. That was a breakthrough, there was a real knowledge in my heart that I had to be able to say “yes” to somebody fully.
R: That was my requirement; what I needed in a relationship. I had been tired of trying to live up to someone’s expectations rather than just simply being myself. I have always wondered about this: Am I asking too much, to be loved for who I am in a relationship?
M: I think there was some clarity around what I was able and willing to offer, which was to accept you as you are, as well as what I needed, which was healing.
R: Remembering, especially in difficult times, that the intention is healing makes the relationship purposeful. It is not just about having fun together, to have a weekend relationship, but also to share difficult times together, which is part of life.
M: I think, that knowing and agreeing on a purpose too gave me some safety and security to enter into what I didn’t know was going to come. I had a sense that I needed to heal with a man and yet I didn’t know exactly how this was going to be, how this was going to unfold. I needed the commitment to that particular goal as a framework, as a vessel, that holds the experiences to come. I was really stepping into the unknown, I didn’t know what was going to be asked of me, I didn’t know which wounds were going to be revealed to be healed. There was a lot of fear there, safety was very important.
R: For me a sense of mutuality is also what provided safety. There was an exchange happening where both of us were giving and receiving. First it was easy for me to be available for your healing but it didn’t take long and you said that you also needed my vulnerability. For me to be open with my needs was harder than to be there for yours.
M: Somehow in a strange way those events made sense in the large picture. They were steps towards the next experience. We needed to have the agreement of healing so we could go the next step, which was our first challenge. I remember it being a moment when we almost cancelled each other out. I had felt reproachful towards you, and you shared with me, the last thing you wanted is for somebody to be reproachful of you. I felt really conflicted in myself. Somehow I felt, I needed to share what I had experienced so that we could move on. I didn’t want to hold it in myself, I felt it was relevant to our relationship that I shared it, let you partake in my difficulties. Yet I was really aware that I might possibly lose you. My challenge was how can I share my experience with you without making you wrong or putting you down, and yet still place at your door what I felt belonged with you. My old patterns would have been to attack you, feeling self righteous and resentful, or to fall into fear, scared of offending you and basically holding the information back, withdrawing from you. I didn’t, and that was another conscious decision: to expose my response to you and yet not make you wrong. That took a lot of courage and a lot of restraint. Rather than impulsively presenting it or holding it back and it erupting in another situation, I reflected on it for a few days before I shared.
R: What is important for me is to feel accepted. When I feel accepted in my core I can be open to your reproach, feedback, criticism. You are not telling me that I should be different which would put me in a very difficult bind, because I have no other option than to be who I am. That doesn’t mean that I have not got the chances to consciously make different choices. To the degree that I am free and not compulsive I can change my behaviour. What is important is that change comes from within. If it is me who decides to change I can keep my dignity. Whereas I would lose my dignity if you forced the change.
M: I think too, when I can present it without wronging you, then I don’t have to stay in my conflict of feeling guilty for sharing my truth with you, and I have the experience of being received, of not being wronged either. As I give space to my experience, and you can receive me, I can learn something about myself. It brings us closer, also closer to the truth. We become more informed about what happens in us, and how we effect each other with it.
R: Conscious relationship brings us closer to the truth. We can trigger old stories and patterns in each other. Providing there is no violence, no intentional harming, we are not the cause of the hurt. As we are aware of this process, we don’t have to be defensive and go on fighting each other.
M: What is important for me is the learning that your feelings are not threatening to me and the other way around. They might bring up fears in me. If I regard them as a threat I have to fight them to regain my sense of self. As I make space for your experience, in knowledge that you will take responsibility, examine, investigate and study yourself, and not use them to turn against me, I begin to trust. That knowledge allows me to embrace your experience without viewing it as a threat. That’s a vital insight.
R: It is not this “against” in conscious relationship, it’s the wisdom and the knowledge that’s a “with” one another. This way we are coming closer to the truth that ultimately we are connected. I remember the saying: “Your truth serves my truth, and my truth serves your truth.” This way conscious relationship also has a spiritual connection.
M: And the spiritual for me is, that the spirit is already there. It is not something we particular evoke or somehow gets created. I have the sense, when there is space for both of us in the relationship then our spirit gets awakened, then more of who we are can be present. That to me is spirit, where the relationship can breathe, can be, can exist. In that kind of spaciousness, more of myself can come true: Not just my joyful, playful, creative self, also more of my grieved self, my unfinished self. Aspects that have laid dormant come to the surface, an immense opportunity to deal with unfinished business, to allow for old pains and hurts to emerge to be released, transformed.
R: This transformation happens by accepting what is there for what it is. I remember, a very strong experience for me was when I felt like a little boy. As you didn’t reject the little boy in me, it seemed much easier to come unstuck. In fighting a pattern I stay stuck. That’s why I encourage the exploration of your patterns. This may not always be comfortable, yet together we can stay with the discomfort and the fear easier.
M: It takes practice, the trust builds through experience. This is the first time I had to meet my distancing pattern in myself. I have been very conscious of acting out in past relationships without much knowledge of what I could do differently. I learned that with you and allowed myself to really experience the fear around my distance, without coming to the conclusion that you or I are not the right person for each other or this relationship is not meant to be, but really explore the feelings in myself, my own isolation. Coming out of that place and feeling more connected was an incredible revelation. It felt like going through the fire and ending up in water. I didn’t know that. It took tremendous courage to enter into this place. There was the willingness and the openness for you to embrace me in there, which was an absolute prerequisite, I couldn’t have done it without, I couldn’t have taken that step without your willingness to partake. I didn’t have any guarantees of how you would react or respond to i t. All I knew was that you were willing to give me space. That was sufficient to invite my courage to take that step.
R: Space was the ingredient to make the relationship work. Space to be myself, space to have my say, to express myself, to let my needs be known, space to attend to your needs. What often happens in a relationship is people competing for space. That is what happens at the “cancelling out” pattern: Something happens for you that triggers an issue in me. Subsequently I want attention for my issue. Like a child that can’t wait, I want it now, rather than putting my issue on hold and allow for space to be with you. Then there is a chance that we compete for space, as we both want it at the same time.
M: There is fear of abundance too, as well as a sense of scarcity, not-enough-ness, that comes into it. If you regard space as my space versus your space competition comes into it. But if it becomes our space, our relationship, then we don’t have to compete for the space, there is a sense of abundance. We get out of this feeling of “not-enough-ness”. I wonder often if our inadequacies we feel, particularly as women, have to do with the space that is not given in relationships; the “not-enough-ness” in us, the space we don’t give ourselves in our own relationship with our selves. We restrict ourselves, our needs. What would happen if we gave ourselves more space? Would we have less sense of inadequacy?
R: What an interesting question. I agree, it is not so much about your space or my space, when we can consider the relationship as something that lives between us, like a plant, a tree, something that we both share. When I give time to you I give time to the relationship. So it’s not against me, or for you, it is for both of us. Everything we do for each other, we also do for ourselves and for the relationship.
M: With this notion there comes a higher purpose into it, something beyond you and beyond me. It is not only that I look after myself and you look after yourself. It is bigger. That gives it a spiritual dimension again.
R: I had a strong sense of something bigger when it occurred to me that what was happening between us was not just between you and me, but it was tied in to the healing between men and women, which I believe is essential.
M: I am just aware of the misconceptions and misguided assumptions we make of each other as men and women. As women we often live in despair that men can’t meet us in our emotional needs, that they aren’t able to listen, to be present, to be loving, to be attentive, to really be there for us. My biggest surprise I had to give space to was, to receive your support and encouragement. I had to be willing to imagine it to be different. The picture that I held of men was that they were takers not givers. You really encouraged me and were not frightened of my strength and my power. I didn’t have to hide it. You encouraged me to come into my power, you honoured my wisdom, my knowledge. I was challenged to honour those places in myself which I had questioned habitually in the past. There was a real turning point, I had a choice between projecting my ideas that I had of men onto you or to imagine a new scenario, that it may be different: to be supported, cared for, appreciated, seen and loved for who I was.
R: Suddenly getting what I asked for, what I wanted was quite a shock to the system. I longed for unconditional love, and as I began to experience it, I also had to give something up, so that I could receive. What I had to let go of was my sense of not getting, a sense of not being loved, a sense of poverty, my melancholic streak of missing out, of not being understood, not being known. It’s quite a challenge, and it seems that sometimes it is easier to hold on to old patterns, because they are familiar. To be unhappy with them seems easier, than to really take the jump, take the risk of something new. What stands out in conscious partnership is the constant newness, every moment is new. There is also the knowledge of endings, this kiss could be our last kiss, this embrace could be our last embrace, and each embrace is a new embrace, and each time we are intimate it is different. Conscious partnership seems to not leave much space for routine, which can be a killer of passion and of excitement. It seems there is not much routine other than a comfortable discipline.
M: Some routines have to do with fear, a way we safeguard ourselves and each other from discomfort. In this we have an agreement, spoken or unspoken, to keep some consistency. In that we seek safety. A conscious relationship brings with it a lot of change and uncertainty. We may be afraid of getting hurt, yet there is a much larger likelihood for wounds to be revealed, for old grieves to come up, for old pains to emerge – which in itself is an opportunity for healing.
R: We are also more in reality. The reality is that we all have to die, we don’t live forever. The truth is that even the most beautiful moments don’t last, painful moments don’t last either. There is constant change.
M: We are becoming familiar with impermanence. The more I am living with the knowledge of change, the more I am able to embrace what is. Because I know all will pass, and see the larger picture more readily, I don’t get caught up in the smaller picture. It allows for times where there is distance, or there is tension we are holding, with the knowledge that this will change again. So we can bear the tension. We don’t always have the solution, we are in process with each other. And often the insights are revealed once we have experienced the emotions. Often we don’t know where it takes us when we enter into a journey with each other. With every change, I have a sense, there is a request of us, there is work to be done, there are demands on us that the relationship has.
R: Conscious relationship sounds like a lot of work, and not much certainty. What’s good about it?
M: It allows me to live from moment to moment, because I live more fully in reality, and not a fantasy life, isolated in hope and despair. I can respond to reality. Reality has many joyous moments. It allows me much more to be present in the beauty of the moment when we do meet, and the beauty of the nature that we share with each other. We notice what is enjoyable or beautiful, because we are not living in anticipation of something that may or could be different. As I embrace what is, I embrace the difficult and the joyful times more fully.
R: I don’t have a sense that some day I will wake up from a state of illusion which sometimes can happen in relationships. When we lead a dream life and we have a focus on what should be rather than what is, then there is always some deep disappointments that can be overwhelming. Disappointments happen naturally. They are nothing negative, they bring us closer to the truth. In conscious partnership they are part of life, not more, not less.
M: What does truth mean to us? I have the sense it’s being more fully where I am at any given time, bringing more of myself into each moment.
R: When I live a truthful life I relax into being rather than trying to live up to some ideas or expectations. I can let be more; as I can let myself be I can let you be.
M: Letting be in a being state allows for times of spaciousness and timelessness that we have. It is a very restorative process. I feel restored at those times, washed over gently, bathed and soothed. I regain my strength and my vigour. Times of inspiration are important. They are times of peace. The garden can rest after the rains, after the storms.
R: Conscious relationship also has a sense of homecoming for me, arriving at myself. I noticed that I have lost my restlessness, my seeking, my trying to find. There is a quality of quietness.
M: It reminds me of surrender. Surrendering to what is gives me a sense of peace. There are still times when I am restless, questioning, uncertain. Often they are the beginning of another opening, another change. That evokes fear, anxiety, restlessness in me. The difference is that I don’t make the relationship responsible for that. I am not sure where it will take me. I don’t make you responsible for this experience. Yet I request from you that you can bear my uncertainties, my doubts, my restlessness, my questioning. And in you bearing it our relationship is strengthened. I can actually enter into the change without having to take responsibility for you, or protect you from it, or worry or risk our relationship. It allows me to go to different dimensions and evolve and grow. With every growth-step there is a threshold into the new world.
R: The biggest challenge with surrender is in the area of sexuality for most men. There we were conditioned to be active, to be doing, to be goal orientated. It is quite exciting to learn from you to relax more, to accept whatever is or isn’t. I experience the connection and the difference between us.
M: My challenge was to ask for what I wanted. As a woman I learned to accommodate rather than to ask or to request. First I had to recognise my needs before I could express them. I had to learn to name them, to feel comfortable with being a sexual being. To let you know what I like and didn’t like and wanted is quite a challenge too. It was difficult to be “selfish”, as a woman I was meant to be serving and accommodating you. As I honoured my own needs, allowed myself to express what I wanted I felt myself more present and more able to receive you. There is a link between giving and receiving. I have to be able to receive to be able to give. In allowing myself to receive, giving becomes a free giving, not a compensatory giving, not a giving out of guilt, obligation or habit, but a giving that grows out of the joy of receiving.
R: It’s very liberating when you are clear about what your needs are, because then I don’t have to guess, I don’t have to get it wrong. My fear as a man is to be made wrong by getting it wrong. Pretending that I would know is a way to cover up this fear, this insecurity. It may appear as strong and confident, when it is not. I needed to overcome my pride that I should know in the first place, which of course I don’t.
M: In the beginning for me there was fear in knowing. It’s almost like I didn’t dare to know. I might know it inside of myself but I didn’t dare to show it in case that I was going to be threatening to you. As a woman I had to learn to expose my knowing without the fear of being punished for it. I was absolutely aware of your male pride, not wanting to step on your toes. Denying my knowing is a habitual pattern, as not to provoke your anger, your scorn. So I had to face my fears. I needed your attention, your encouragement, your willingness to hear me when I say “no”. That took some time and practising with each other, because some habits are so ingrained. They are beyond logic, we can’t talk each other out of each other’s patterns. All we can do is experience them, experience the impact and share with each other honestly. As we do that consciously, we get more information about what has led us to believe or to behave in that particular manner, the stories connected with that. Only then can we explore some ne w options. That kind of process can be quite messy. It can be difficult to understand what goes on. It takes tremendous trust to allow for things to unfold, even if we don’t have the full understanding and insight, but to trust that what is emerging has a place.
R: For me it is this commitment to say “yes” to what is. If what is, is your “no”, I have to say “yes” to what is otherwise we go into a space of un-reality, a space of conflict, a space of fantasy, a space of what should be rather than what is. I experience as I say “yes” to your “no”, I say “yes” to you. My experience is that you are more there, more present, when I am aware. For example, no sexual experience is fulfilling if you are “not there”. I honour where you are at the moment and enjoy the moment for what it is.
M: What happens in those times when we have difficulties doing that, when fear meets fear and we get quite stuck?
R: This is cancelling each other out.
M: We have been at these places, we have not always resolved the situation. At times we got quite stuck in a way that we were not able to move out of our positions. What changed it was that one of us needed to acknowledge that. It still happens that we get stuck, we may fall back into old patterns. One of us may walk out but with the knowledge that we will come back together.
R: What helps is the knowledge of the “cancelling-each-other-out” pattern, that we can name it. [End of tape side 1 – Mirjam wants to finish, Rudolf wants to continue]
R: This is a good example for getting stuck. You wanted to get up half an hour ago when the telephone rang and I wanted to continue with this dialogue.
M: I actually was willing to give up on my desire, which was to get up and be active, but I chose to do this with you, because it was important to you. This is part of conscious partnership, the willingness to go with the other person’s desire. And now that I feel I have done that and the tape is finished and you are asking more I feel like I have reached my limits, I feel like it is unfair.
R: I see. I don’t want the telephone or the end of the tape to determine when we are finished, I want to feel finished, and I almost feel finished, not quite.
M: And I do feel finished.
R: Then we are finished.
M: Thank you. It looks like we needed to decide whose need is stronger.
R: When there is a “yes” and a “no”, the “no” always wins.
R: Yes, otherwise there would be force. For example, if one has a sexual need and the other one hasn’t, it would be rape.
M: This one was a clear “no”, sometimes it is a “no” where one is just hiding in the old pattern, then the other one can challenge.
R: So we have got much more to say about challenge.
M: Yes, we have!!! (We will continue)
Mirjam Busch is a counsellor & body-centred psychotherapist of Dutch-German descent, and has been living and working in New Zealand since 1981.
Rudolf Jarosewitsch is a Gestalt therapist, supervisor and trainer in private practice. Originally from Germany, he has been living and working in New Zealand since 1983.
Both started working together with groups and couples in December 1997.
Mirjam Busch & Rudolf Jarosewitsch
Copyright © 6/1998 by Rumijabu | Originally published in Gestalt Dialogue #8, Jun1998