How to Make Relationships Less Draining
This week’s blog is inspired by a question that Angus and I received about Episode 7 of our Rewilding Love podcast.
I have paraphrased it here:
We can bring ourselves into a place where we enjoy every one, but what if it takes a lot of energy to be that way with certain people and circumstances? Does that leave you with less energy for other things? If Angus was to keep shocking you with an air horn, wouldn’t that be draining?
It is important to recognize that what Angus and I are pointing to in our work is not about increasing internal effort to be with our partner. It is actually the opposite of that.
When I had an insight about my own peace of mind and wellbeing getting created from within and available to me regardless of Angus or anyone else, I was able to be with Angus in a way that didn’t require any extra internal effort. It actually required much less.
One of our clients described themselves as fiery f$@#ers and felt Angus and fell into this category too. Angus and I definitely have our sparks that fly in both fun and challenging ways.
Part of this fieriness is that Angus has a tendency to verbalize his frustration, and he can at times be quite vocal about it. In the past, and sometimes in the present, when I am in a more vulnerable state, I take this personally and find it intolerable. I judge him and think he needs to change this behavior in order for me to be happy with him.
And in the past, woe betide the times when he would actually express his anger directed toward me. That would have definitely had me running for the exit plan and considering the “D” word!
If I had to use internal effort and energy to be with Angus, we would not be together now.
So that is the opposite direction we were pointing in the podcast.
What helped was me having an insight that allowed me to not take Angus’s behavior personally and to consequently stop judging him.
It wasn’t his behavior that was draining to me. It was my judgment of his behavior. That was the energy suck.
The insight of recognizing that Angus’s behavior was not creating my experience and that he had no power to take away my peace of mind came after I had dropped into a more peaceful and quiet state within myself. This is what allowed me to be less judgmental. I was able to genuinely see him through the eyes of compassion.
Previously I had not been able to do this. It really looked to me like Angus’s anger took away my peace of mind and created suffering for me, and I judged him for it.
From a more centered state within myself, I was able to see that Angus’s upset was a reflection of his state of mind and his suffering. I even felt compassion for him while he was expressing anger toward me.
This rocked my world. It wasn’t something I was trying to do. There was no extra effort involved. In fact, there was much less effort required and considerably less suffering.
That is the direction we are looking in for our clients and for ourselves. How do we have a deeper experience of our true nature so that less in the world of form disturbs our peace?
This does not mean that we can’t take action and make changes in the world of form, but it is so much easier to take action from clarity and understanding versus from reactivity and againstness.
And it is absolutely okay that we all have our bandwidth.
I don’t expect myself to be able to keep my peace no matter what, but it was important for me to be able to experience more peace of mind so I could enjoy my relationship. Given that it was not going to be a relationship in which I would minimize my contact time, it was important to me to have an easier time. Even though I thought about leaving Angus, I didn’t want to. And it was so freeing to see that my judgment was what was making the relationship feel untenable, not him. He wasn’t making the relationship a draining experience. I was. This was very humbling.
And even with things like the airhorn, when we don’t have any judgment on it we can acclimate. Angus told me the story of staying at a friend’s flat in London. The friend lived next to a hospital and a fire department. Angus did not sleep a wink that night because of the constant sirens. His friend who had been living there for a while slept just fine.
Now I see where my suffering comes from, I am committed to not taking things personally and to be less judgmental. I am committed to remembering that peace of mind lies within me and cannot be taken away. The only thing that disturbs my inner peace is my identifying with judgments.
That does not mean I condone hurtful behavior. I may even choose to leave a relationship because that is a loving choice for me.
But in the case of the podcast, Mateo and Alicia do love each other. They want to be together, but just don’t know how. Letting go of the judgments they have against each other is key. They can’t do that intellectually. All they can do is drop more deeply into the experience of their natural state of love so they can see things from a new vantage point. With the perspective of an open-heart, judgments fall away, and when that perspective is not available to us, it makes sense to limit our time with the people we judge. But it is important to see where the limitation lies if you want to shift it. There is no requirement to shift it. But if you do want to, understanding where suffering comes from is essential.
I remember being so shocked when I was slapped across the face by a family member as an adult. There was physical pain, but there was no suffering. I didn’t take it personally. The heightened state of the crisis helped me to see things very clearly. I could see how much the person was suffering. I am not condoning being slapped. But I am grateful that I had the vantage point of love. My beloved family member (not Angus) was suffering immensely to behave that way. I knew that and that understanding helped me navigate the situation so it did not escalate further and there is no ill will between us.
I’m not saying I would be able to have this vantage point all the time. I am grateful for the grace at that moment. But I know that my commitment is to live more in love and less in judgment.
From a place of inner peace, I don’t expend energy. I am not drained. I am filled up, and I can take clear action in the world. From a place of inner peace, Mateo may choose to end the marriage. From a place of inner peace, I could have realized I didn’t want to be with Angus. From a place of inner peace, I can stand for justice. From a place of inner peace, I naturally love more and judge less. Inner peace is the direction to look in — a deeper experience of our loving nature.
And we may not choose to take make the effort in all relationships, but I believe in the hopefulness of Desmond Tutu’s quote:
There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.
If you would like to listen to the Rewilding Love Podcast, it comes out in serial format. Start with Episode 1 for context. Click here to listen. And, if you would like to dive deeper into the understanding I share along with additional support please check out the Rewilding Community.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples’ intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.