Is it just me, or does this happen to everyone?
You’re cruising along with life – practising yoga; living in the moment; letting stuff go; keeping calm; meditating not medicating; being grateful for what you have; not worrying about what you haven’t; dropping the kids to school / parties / swimming lessons; paying bills; preparing meals; working; doing the washing; taking the dog to the vet; doing the shopping; picking up the dry-cleaning; reading books; putting the bins out; baking biscuits; watching TV; making play dough; doing kinder duty; attending committee meetings; sorting out sibling squabbles; trying to get the kids to eat more vegies and watch less TV; and catching up with friends and family – when suddenly – KERBLAMMO!
From way out of left field you realize that apart from “What time will you be home tonight?”; “Have a great day”; “How was your day?”; “Dinner’s ready” and / or “I’m off to bed” – you haven’t spoken to your partner for days or weeks …or even, months?
It just happened to me. Unfortunately, this realization didn’t come as a gentle whisper; it slapped me in the back of the head and poked me in the eyeballs on the way down. It was painful stuff and without getting into the various ridiculous topics that peppered our weekend-long argument I’ll share with you the issue it all boiled down to.
Three months ago, on his 40th birthday, my husband and I gave up smoking. We have been going mind-bogglingly well. Not one craving, nor a single moment of weakness under normally tempting scenarios – I could be so bold as to say we have kicked the habit. When I first started yoga, Annemaree told me not to worry about the smoking – one day it would just go. And poof! It has just gone. No stress, no fuss.
What we hadn’t realized is that we were also giving up what connected us. We had smoked together our entire relationship. After the kids came along, our favourite way to come together was to sit down at the table outside, have a few drinks, a few smokes, a cosy chat and a jolly good laugh. It was us against the world, we had something so special and a bond no-one could put asunder.
Intellectually, we knew we had to give up smoking for the sake of our respective health and for the kids – but for now it was a little bit naughty, lots of fun and ours, ALL OURS [insert evil genius laugh here] – and then we gave it away. And poof! What connected us had just gone. They don’t tell you that on the QUIT commercials. Where is the “GIVING UP SMOKING WILL KILL YOUR RELATIONSHIP” warning on the packets?
We gradually became like Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog from the Looney Tunes cartoons. We clocked in and clocked out with one another and went about our respective days with little interaction and virtually no conversation at all. Early in our quit campaign we avoided talking about “quitting” by watching TV to take our minds off, well, ANYTHING. This gradually became our new routine and we basically stopped communicating altogether.
Whilst this past weekend has been painful for both of us, this I can share with you. Since practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis I was able to argue much “cleaner”, to fight “the good fight”, to take a noble path – the high road. Apart from a few (alcohol-induced) outlandish and dramatic accusations I never once lost sight of how deeply I love my husband. I knew that we were both hurting. I understood that no-one was at fault. I felt deep sadness throughout the weekend and I allowed myself to feel it fully – all the while a deep inner voice assured me “feel this fully, it will pass. Everything will be alright”.
In the depths of my sorrow, I was able to practise compassion and empathy towards my partner. I sat with my feelings and was mindful not to speak without thinking – which led to lots of thinking and almost comical stretches of wordless silence. I simply refused to let things escalate. I was also gentle on myself in the hours of darkness (why oh why did it have to be a long weekend?). Not once did I feel guilty or drag the cat-o-nine tails out and flagellate myself Da Vinci Code-style for what a dreadful wife / mother / human being I am. No tightness in the chest, not a single twinge of anxiety.
Rather than buy a packet of Benson & Hedges to get our relationship back on track and see all of our good work go up in smoke, we’re going to try a relationship re-boot. Like the I.T. help desk cure-all, we are simply going to stop what we are currently doing, switch off and switch back on again. The television is the first thing we have agreed to switch off. A good connection does not necessarily lead to meaningful connection.
It might take a little while to re-start again, but we will make sure to save our changes so we don’t lose everything.
Until next time we meet,
Om & out.
This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.