Love is NOT easy. Somebody WILL get hurt.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
I’m not talking about creating suffering for the sake of suffering, or inflicting our Shadows on others because we don’t know how else to bleed off a bit of the inner tension. I’m referring to the healthy kind of pain that squeezes your heart enough to point out your wounds and blind spots, but that ultimately lives in a safe container where it is welcome to be held and examined properly as a gift and learning tool, rather than an enemy.
I got dumped this afternoon, which was mostly a surprise for me. My wonderful (now ex) boyfriend and I have been experiencing some challenges lately, but I was fully prepared to gently and compassionately work through them together. I was under the impression that he was on board to do the same. In this case, no one is the bad guy. No one is the victim. Instead, we are two people who care deeply about each other, love spending time together and had some challenges come up, as they always do in relationship. I was ready to say yes to working through them. He was not.
Being told, “I don’t want to hurt you,” by a partner as part of a breakup speech feels simultaneously very sweet and completely clueless. I say that without judgement or pointing fingers, but as someone who has experienced my fair share of pain in relationship and knows the difference between healthy, constructive, growth-inducing pain and heart-splitting, destructive, damaging trauma. This relationship had already poked one of my deepest wounds and caused me some significant discomfort, but I was still willing to say yes to it because I knew that, by working through that pain with a compassionate partner, I was showing up in the world as the kind of person I want to be, and ultimately moving toward healing. I knew I was signing up for more painful teaching moments by continuing to say yes to being with this person, and I was still happy to do so because I know the richness that comes from such experiences. (Not to mention the sheer joy and beautiful connection that comprised the majority of our relationship.)
Pain is a great teacher—one of the most powerful and blatantly misunderstood allies for someone who seeks to truly know themselves. When we are children, we learn from pain. We learn that we can run, and when we fall and skin our knees, we learn to run more gracefully. As we grow, we learn all sorts of amazing skills that allow us to move us through life, and because of pain, we learn to do them well, respecting the potential for danger. We know that living in the world involves exposing ourselves to harm, but if we do not wish to let the potential pain dictate our actions, we learn how to move through our lives with awareness and grace and do those things anyway.
Relationship and the pain that comes with it is one of the most marvelous teachers and catalysts for unfolding the infinite beauty of one’s consciousness. Pain teaches us where our edges are so we can look at them, hold them with tenderness and gently lean into the wounding. When used with care and awareness, pain teaches us compassion, honesty, surrender, and how to love ourselves and our partners more deeply. Creating opportunities where pain can be welcomed as an honored teacher, rather than pushed away in fear, is what allows a relationship to build a solid foundation based in trust and the lived experience of working together through a challenge. Couples who hold each other’s pain lovingly and allow it to transmute into growth and learning cultivate a relationship dynamic that is much more likely to weather the storm of an unexpected life trauma (accident, sickness, family catastrophe) because they will have the tools ready to meet that pain with awareness, compassion and grace.
I cannot blame this man for wanting to avoid causing me harm, and for wanting to avoid being hurt, himself. None of us want to inflict suffering upon those whom we hold dear, and yet, love and pain are two sides of the same coin. Only through fully understanding and embracing both of these energies can we ever hope to know the true depth and beauty of our hearts.
As I shepherd myself through this process of closing a chapter with someone—a beautiful, compassionate man with whom I was just beginning to fall in love— I will gently examine my wounds and edges. I will say yes to this squeeze in my chest. I will invite pain in as a beloved ally to teach me the depth of my own heart and my capacity to love.
I will tenderly hold my own pain and know that it’s a beautiful thing.