Some years ago I read Peter Caddy’s autobiography, ‘In Perfect Timing’, and was struck by a passage where he describes a train journey in India in the 1950’s to meet up with some colleagues:
… the colourful panorama pass by the window: green fields, young wheat, yellow mustard, rustic dwellings ad attractive wells, all set off against a beautiful sky that gave way to sunset.
When we stopped at a station I was captivated by the kaleidoscopic scene, full of interest and excitement – crowds of different races, pedlars, gurus with their chelas, fakirs with huge snakes around their necks, vendors selling sweetmeats, brahmins, beggars, betel-but sellers – the whole sub-continent it seemed represented in a single journey.
When we met at the hotel in Puri, I asked my friend Bill what kind of journey he’d had. ‘A bloody awful one’ he replied. ‘There was so much rattling and yelling, the noise was unbearable; the flies were awful and the people smelt almost as badly as the shit – ‘ he went on and on about it.
I then discovered that we had both been on the same train.
Objectively the same journey yet subjectively two completely different journeys.
I believe the same applies to my relationship journey and how I experience my partner.
The Choice of Negativity
One set of choices is about looking for the improvements I would like to make in my partner that will bring us closer to couple nirvana. These may be serious character faults where I set myself up as judge and educator in an attempt to mould her into some vision I have of perfection. Or they may be day to day things where she doesn’t quite live up to my standards or ways of doing things.
Pointless and damaging arguments become the norm and I start to be on the lookout for faults to complain about and correct. I once had a huge fight with my ex-wife about whether to cut potatoes across the short or the long section. (The question on my mind now is … why did I even notice how she cut potatoes?)
And the path this leads to might be one where I started to doubt if she cared about me. After all, if she did care then she would cut potatoes my way, wouldn’t she? Along this path I might eventually reach the place where she cuts potatoes her way purely to annoy me. I started assuming negative intent in things she did.
And in this place, love withers and dies. It cannot thrive in negativity.
The Choice of Positivity
An alternative is to choose to look for the beautiful and the pure and the myriad ways this person makes my life more wonderful. It is about enjoying the differences between us and how we bring variety to our experience of the world. It is about seeing perfection in imperfection. It is about focusing on what I like and not what I don’t.
And it is about assuming she has positive intent, even in those things she does or says that I’m not enjoying. It is a path of growth and deepening of relationship and of myself.
This path leads to noticing and expressing frequent appreciation and gratitude, allowing love to thrive and blossom.
Which path do you choose?