Linda: Loving someone doesn’t mean that we always have warm and wonderful feelings toward them. Love is a stew flavored by a variety of ingredients — sometimes sweetness, spice, bitterness, or saltiness, and sometimes “the works.” Our ever-changing feelings, whether they are pleasurable or painful, do not reflect the underlying nature of our relationship. In a marriage, strong emotions are inevitable. If we can accept them without judgment of our partner or ourselves, they can float freely and open us to yet unawakened parts of ourselves. The presence of so-called negative feelings is not the problem. It is how we respond to them within ourselves and in reaction to each other that determines whether they will deepen or diminish our love. Accepting all of the feelings that arise in a committed partnership allows us to learn to love more fully and deeply.
I remember a time in our relationship when Charlie broke an agreement that was very important to me. At the time, our children were small and we had agreed to share in their care. Charlie’s new job required that he be out of town more than he was home. I had supported him in accepting the job, but his absences had become longer and more frequent than either of us had expected. I found myself in the position of being our children’s sole caregiver. I was furious! How could he be so selfish and inconsiderate? What kind of a jerk had I gotten involved with, anyway? Did I really want to stay with him?
This was more than simple anger; it was hatred. At least that’s how I felt at the time. And yet even in the midst of my “in-burst” (in those days I kept most of my angry feelings to myself), I remember distinctly hearing another voice within me saying, “and you love this guy.” I can remember the confusion I felt when I realized that right along with the burning hatred was the very same love I was familiar with. My customary simplistic thinking — good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, either/or — was challenged. Somehow it seemed wrong for hate and love to occur simultaneously, but there they both were. I was challenged to learn how to hold the tension of the opposites.
Although my mind couldn’t make sense of this paradox, my heart knew that it was reality. While in this moment of extreme anger, even rage, toward Charlie, I knew that the intensity of my emotions was due to the depth of my love and passion for him. Although I still get angry with Charlie sometimes, it usually moves through me very quickly, and then once again I’m assured of the vast love that underlies all of my feelings.