Sometimes we want to maintain peace in a relationship above all else. I used to have an unbalanced view about how to be in relationship. I thought that keeping the peace and being giving without expecting anything in return was the way to be loving.
Certainly, peace is one of the keys to a satisfying relationship and there are situations in our lives when peace is of the utmost importance, for example when we don’t have the bandwidth to deal with turbulence. But when the goal of peace supersedes love, it could create an environment where conflicts are not actually resolved and nobody’s needs are really met.
In the distant past, I knew someone who would quickly apologize whenever there was a conflict in a relationship, even if she didn’t think she had done anything wrong. She told me that she had begun doing this as a way to keep things peaceful. For her, it just wasn’t worth getting into messy conflict and possibly losing the relationship.
One time we had a disagreement and she apologized to me. At first, I thought she understood me and I felt relieved that we were beginning to move through our misunderstanding. But something felt off, and then I remembered what she had told me about her false apologizing. Smoothing things over in that way did not make for true peace, nor did it make for a feeling of safety, love, or a genuine friendship.
At another point, I was in a friendship where I gave a lot emotionally, always being very supportive and listening patiently and nonjudgmentally. I, however, did not feel seen or heard. I would get off the phone and feel drained, but I chided myself, telling myself that if I was a real friend, I would just give selflessly. Eventually I realized that in general, a healthy friendship has some measure of reciprocity. Looking more deeply, I saw that I was not being loving towards myself because I wasn't acknowledging my needs. Making my needs known was not comfortable or easy, but it ultimately resulted in more self-love because I was being true to myself.
Experiencing authenticity, safety, and love is more important to me than maintaining a facade of peace. Sometimes it can get uncomfortable while things are being worked out, but to me, it is ultimately more valuable to be in an authentic relationship.
I have found that tuning into love as my guiding light helps me know how to proceed and communicate in a way that is for everyone's highest good. It also helps me to be calm when things are rocky.
This may be a slightly different orientation than what we are used to. Rather than focusing on catering only to the other, catering just to our own needs, or trying to figure out in a solely intellectual way how to balance everyone's needs, we can cater to the love in the relationship. We can ask ourselves questions such as, “What would love have me do right now?”, or “Am I increasing or eroding love?”. And/or we can tune into our Higher Self, or Divinity, the Source of Love, for guidance. When I do that, I am led down a compassionate path to working out relationship challenges, one that is gentle, kind, and respectful to both of us.
I leave you with a poem by John O’Donohue and a blessing from me. May you be in touch with Love as a guiding force in all of your relationships.
Love in a Time of Conflict by John O’Donohue
When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.
When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.
When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.
Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.
PATRICE SPITZ, C.S.C.
ThetaHealer, Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor