Conserving the water in our life is crucial to our survival. This is true not only for our larger ecological systems but also for our emotional lives and relationships. We need to begin to appreciate that being in relationship, having a family and history with someone is a precious resource. If we could understand that the huge amounts of trust, time and loving intention that we invest in our early relationships are actually renewable resources, the currency of our future health and well being we may be motivated to create new strategies to maintain them... Sustaining your relationship with loving words and actions not only keeps your own relationships vibrant, it becomes a living education of what love is for future generations.
In my work of helping people to build and sustain a healthy Ecology of Love, I often refer to the metaphor of water to describe how people “show up” and care for one another. Just like the actual resource of water itself, our time and energy is a finite resource. And just as water is needed to grow everything, our time and loving attention is a basic building block to keeping your relationships well. Yet with our culture moving at the speed of technology and not of wisdom, learning how to be together is still difficult for many families.
In relationships, like the ocean, there is an ebb and flow to how we are present for each other, but if the water in the relationship is always out, then both people feel alone more often than they feel like there is someone at their back. Many people go through years in partnerships where the experience of loneliness is profound. It is something that I struggle with in my own marriage, each of us having a different sense of what togetherness means and how much of it we need.
Showing up for someone doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with long and deep conversations, in fact, it is usually about the small details of life where showing up makes the most difference. The day I got a flat tire and my husband came and changed it in his nice work clothes, or the time when he needed a shirt washed and ironed, or the zillions of times when the kid juggling doesn’t quite work and he is willing to stop what he is doing to pick up the slack. It communicates volumes of love when you are able to give up your own agenda to show up for someone else’s needs. It is at the heart of what it means to feel safe and loved in a relationship.
It is easy to confuse co-existing and showing up. They can look almost the same when we grow accustomed to not allowing ourselves to need and be needed. Co-existing doesn’t have the stickiness factor that showing up does, because it happens as a matter of course, not choice. Showing up or not translates into all the dynamics of a relationship including how and what you communicate and whether you share a passionate physical love. It isn’t possible to really open yourself up with either spoken language or one’s body if you don’t feel safe. And so little by little, we say less and less of what we really need to say and in our most intimate times we cover ourselves through distancing and not really being present.
Two other important points on showing up - don’t keep score. It doesn’t equal out like other human equations might and only serves to cut at the backbone of the relationship that you are trying to build. The point here is that each person shows up as they can and that both people know when it happens. And last, be grateful for however it happens and whenever it does, you are one of the lucky ones. Keeping the water flowing between you and your loved ones is bound to make the other daily choices of conserving for the planet that much easier.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA