Bishop Michael Curry celebrated the power of love in his royal sermon, reminding us that love is the source of our lives for joy and for healing. He identified the source of love as God Himself, a message that is uncommon in our public square for at least a generation. As our western world has turned secular, we have largely turned away from respectful conversation. Our language with each other sounds more like entitlement and resentment whether it is in the media or in private.
As a marriage and family counselor, I can attest to how widespread anger is amongst all relationships, whether it be romantic couples, parents and children, between siblings and amongst neighbors. It is not that anger is unreasonable. In fact, it is inevitable in any relationship. What happens for many people is that resentment gets stuck and unresolved.
Without a perspective that we all come from the same infinite, loving source, we have no reason to hear the anguished heart of our brother, partner, child or parent as equal to our own heart. For some, it is hard to speak up and value our own voice as equal. These are the conversations that are underneath emotional pain and accusations of unfairness.
Sharing our vulnerability and hearing the other is how we discover and solve our problems together. Bishop Curry's words, "When we love we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook."
We have forgotten as a culture how to do this. We do not talk to each other about our differences and seek common ground. We seek people who are like-minded and reinforce our point of view. Our leaders do the same. There is no spirit of community where we trust that we can be heard and that our needs will be respected.
I see this in couples who have every intention of being loving partners but withhold their grievances year in and year out. They may try to express themselves but they do not feel heard either because their conversation is not clear or it is too bold and attacking. So feelings are stored away and reappear later with more intensity.
It is a skill to stay current with your feelings and concerns and a skill to listen to another. It amounts to saying your truth and hearing your partner's truth and finding a solution that works for all concerned. There is an old expression, "in good faith," that represents an attitude of common good in a conversation, or in Bishop Curry's words, a common source of love. This faith can help us find love and solution together rather than the fear that if you win, I lose.
The skills of listening and sharing are not pre-programmed in our human nature. We need to learn and practice calm listening and speaking with each other. That is one of the most important skills we teach in our Falling in Love Forever course. We find that couples need to see it modeled, and they need specific directions; then they need to practice the skills and they need mentoring. It is much harder than it sounds, but it is profoundly worth it. It makes the difference between feeling connected to each other and feeling disrespected and neglected.
There will be times when you do not understand each other, for example, during a conflict where you have vastly different points of view. This is a time to be centered and wait for the process of thinking your position through and communicating it carefully and hearing the other. Some issues take days, even weeks. During this time it is important to be calm and trust that seeing each other's point of view and resolving the crucial differences is possible. This means relaxing into a trust that harmony among differences is possible. What can be the source of this trust?
If you are dependent on your relationship and that is your highest source of meaning and value, when these conflicts come up, you will feel threatened as if your security in life depends on agreement with your partner. This will disable you from participating in the quality of conversation necessary to hear each other and understand and negotiate what you want. Your fear will elevate your tone, the threat will show in your resistance to hearing a different point of view, and you will argue instead of listen.
Where, then, can you rest, while you wait for the issue to work out? We say that each individual needs to find a connection to a Source of life that supports us. Call that source God, if you want, or Being, or Spirit. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you grow this spiritual connection so that you can have someplace to rest calmly in the midst of chaos. This ultimately will allow you to experience a deeper connection with yourself and Life, and it also gives you a centered position while you patiently resolve conflicts. You can love your partner, or any person you have differences with, and not lose perspective about the value you place on the relationship.
With a spiritual perspective, you know everyone matters. This is the respect you give to others as well as yourself. This is where we find justice. This spiritual dimension makes a difference to romantic relationships and to community. It makes a difference in all relationships. We are committed to supporting couples to find this kind of love for each other so that their journey through life brings them connection and joy as they grow together. Our development and maturity depends on our growing as individuals as well as in partnership.