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Emotional Dependence & Building a Yurt

Yurts are my favorite dwelling structure.  In a yurt wooden beams revolve around a center ring holding the structure up with opposing pressure.  The structure is balanced, integrated, and strong.  The center ring is that from which every other part flows.  I find this a good metaphor for organizing our lives and understanding how to fit each dimension of our life together in a way that creates balance, integrity, and strength.

In reactive, emotionally dependent or enmeshed relationships, each person views the relationship as the center ring.  This is a view that is much romanticized in popular culture with catch phrases like "the one and only", "find your soulmate", and "one true love".  These phrases and the images and emotions that go with them encourage the idea that your intimate relationship should be the center ring of your life.

When you experience your intimate relationship as the center ring of your life, you see that your whole life could topple down if this center ring is pulled out.  That's a lot of pressure.  It's impossible to not be reactive when you imagine the stability of your life is riding on your relationship.  You find yourself doing all sorts of things to make your relationship work - some skillful, others not so much.  Whatever you might be doing, the energy behind your actions has the tone of urgency, push, or desperation.  The basic thought is "I have to fix this." or "I have to keep this going." 

When your center ring becomes something that is a stable connection to Source for you, you have the flexibility to reflect on your relationship and do what's needed to transform not because you are desperate, but rather because you value growth.  Center ring practices of connecting to Source are often called spiritual practices.  For our purposes here, I offer that a spiritual practice is any practice that helps you to open to and receive nourishment from an aliveness that is bigger than you.  There may be many practices, or as we say in Buddhism - Dharma gates, for you.  Some may have more religious associations and others not.  A simple Dharma gate that I have enjoyed since childhood is walking mindfully through the high desert.  Something about mindfully being in that environment gives me an ease of access to the felt sense of an aliveness bigger than me.  What are your Dharma gates and practices that connect you to a greater aliveness?

So, if your relationship is not the center ring, then where does it fit in your yurt.  If you are use to putting it in the center, it might feel a little jolting to let it be one of the many beams flowing out from the center.  It is very important to you afterall.  Take a moment and experiment with letting your relationship be equal to the other support beams.  The other beams might include things like:  your physical-emotional-mental health; integrity and meaningfulness in your work; your communities of friends, spiritual practitioners, and colleagues; being a good parent; and creative expression.

Take a moment now to name clearly for yourself what makes up your center beam and the supporting beams.  You might enjoy doing this with a by drawing a yurt :)

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Equal Doesn't Mean Same
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Reactivity and Agreements

6 Responses

  1. Apr 18, 2013
    Ilene L.

    After months of reading your wise writings, I just had to let you know how 'on target' ALL of them are for me and my relationship. Thank you.

  2. Apr 18, 2013

    Then why be in a relationship ( talking marital) if the relationship is not the most important thing in ones life? I mean, i can happily live on my own- have friends as a support, gratify myself sexually or have nsa experiences, and provide for myself. So why be in a relationship at all---even having children does not requier that. If it isnt to find that someone that is most important to us ( to each other) the one above all else---and together hold hands to walk this life together and together care for all the others that come in and out. Why not make this one relationship so important that without life would not be as whole--as right. Why not fight for this one relationship above all else? And when both do that, then both are taken care of.

  3. Apr 19, 2013

    I love yurts and I love this metaphor. It was extremely helpful for putting things in perspective.
    Thank you again for another beautiful gem!

  4. Apr 23, 2013

    thank you so much to you both for taking the time to share your experience of the Connection Gems :)

  5. Apr 23, 2013

    Dear Heidi,

    Over time in working with couples and in my own life, I see that making your intimate relationship the most important thing is not a contribution to the health of that relationship or yourself. You being whole and healthy allows for a synergy and true intimacy in relationship. This isn't to say that intimate relationship isn't an essential part of life, I certainly believe it is.

  6. Apr 23, 2013
    Ilene L.

    The quality of our intimate relationship is very important to me, and I think all women, and I don't think you are saying, LaShelle, that it should not be important. What I am hearing is more along the lines of what they tell you when you're taking off in an airplane - put your own oxygen mask on first before taking care of others. That may be an overstatement, but over time I, and a group of women I discuss these issues with, have found that self-care and personal 'wholeness' is our main focus in life. In turn, that enhances our relationships, as well as everything else. The close partnership you describe, Heidi, is what I think we all want. But when I depend EXCESSIVELY on my intimate relationship to make me feel whole or to 'complete' me and meet ALL my needs, that backfires for me. I become more demanding, impatient, and easily triggered by my partner. I am not suggesting that our partner's behavior or attitude or commitment isn't a key factor in all this - it certainly is.

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