The Bible uses the phrase "He knew her" to describe sexual relations between two people. Since translators had so many terms they could have used that would have been inoffensive to most people, it is interesting to consider why they chose these particular words. One view might be that sexual intimacy is the closest one human being can come to actually knowing another. Two people open up to each other in a way that reveals more of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally than in any other of life's experiences. In this joyful giving of self, in this passionate loving of each other, we willingly allow ourselves to be most vulnerable. When this union exists between two people who have entered into a monogamous relationship, it is reverential and an expression of the deepest trust one being can have in another.
When we live under the same roof with another, all the rough edges and unfinished corners that are part of our humanness become revealed. There are an infinite number of reasons why we might become impatient with our partner/wife/husband, but when it comes to what matters most, we all want the same thing. All sentient beings want to be happy; no one wants to suffer. Notwithstanding that, we each experience life from an individual perspective, with our own thoughts, feelings and sensations continually arising and fading away. One partner may squeeze the toothpaste tube from the top while the other leaves the bed unmade; one rolls up yesterday's clothes and tosses them in a corner and the other leaves the dirty dishes in the sink; he forgets to take out the garbage and she doesn't close the garage door, and on and on. Each of these (in)actions can be a source of annoyance for the other partner and, since they may have asked many times that one or more of the above (not) be done, these can become the cause of irritation and subsequent loss of patience.
While some of these activities may seem trivial, they can grow into issues for conflict when one party feels they have patiently asked many times that they be done differently. The issue can then become about a sense of not being heard or feelings not being honored. If the other partner, perhaps feeling defensive, then retaliates and points out how his or her requests have also not been met, the heat gets turned up. A mountain grows from what could have been a simple molehill.
Over time, most of us come to realize that to be in a joyful and meaningful relationship, particularly an intimate one, we must learn to speak skillfully, listen attentively, and practice patience. We must learn to listen objectively not only to the words of our partner, but also to the underlying messages as well. Watch their expression; open your heart, especially when you are disagreeing. Remember that the person with whom you are angry is also the person you love.
The first step to becoming a skillful listener is remembering that you care about the other. You may have to negotiate and you want to do so fairly. If you are always winning, the chances are you are losing. Listen, listen, listen. Don't keep explaining your point and expect your loved one to remain patient. Just like you, they want a fair chance.
Life is amazing, mysterious, miraculous and extraordinarily complex. Joining two lives together can enhance the joys and multiply the complexities. Being part of a meaningful relationship is an ongoing, and at times, challenging adventure.
A few hints from Cupid:
- When in disagreement with your loved one, don't side with yourself.
- Remember, she thinks Valentine's Day is one of the most important days of the year.
- Remember, he doesn't understand why.
- Oddly enough, he likes chocolates also.
- If there is a Valentine in your life, you are one of the most fortunate people on earth.
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Allan Lokos is the founder and guiding teacher of The Community Meditation Center in New York City. He is the author of Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living and Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Tricycle magazine, Beliefnet, and the anthology Audacious Creativity.