Tara and I were talking about our partnership and one of the biggest reasons why it is working so well.
And that reason is that we both take responsibility for each other’s emotional state.
We don’t tell each other to go deal with anything on their own.
We don’t say, “what you’re feeling, that’s yours to deal with, that’s not mine. That’s for you to process on your own”.
We believe that whatever is arising for one of us, is the responsibility of both of us.
We take attachment theory seriously, and its recommendation that the best way to create a flourishing relationship is to cultivate the qualities of a ‘secure functioning relationship’.
And this is a central quality of a secure functioning relationship: making taking care of each other’s emotional state a top priority, and recognizing that we have a duty to hold each other through pain and discomfort, even when we don’t feel like it; even when we are at our own limits, that means the situation is demanding us to grow and expand our capacity.
A secure relationship is NOT about two individuals just coexisting, sleeping together and trying to tiptoe around their partners’ weakness, hidden feelings or triggers, because one person feels like they can’t handle them if they came out…
A secure relationship is about embracing EVERYTHING about your partner, recognizing that for the partnership to truly work, two people must MERGE their identities, and create a new Whole that is greater than the sum of its Parts.
A secure relationship is about two people coming together and birthing a new third entity — a new identity that envelopes them both, where the individual identity is still there but the new identity of the Relationship is more Significant than the individual’s separate autonomous identities — like a a large sphere with two smaller spheres inside of it. You are both the small sphere and the large sphere, but the large sphere becomes more important.[[And for my polyamorous friends this model is just as relevant, if not more relevant, only instead of 2 small spheres inside the large sphere there are now 3 or more small spheres inside the large sphere. But there has to be a large sphere, *securely containing* all the small spheres otherwise it won’t work. (Analysis of Why and a description of all the failure states is a different post).]]
From this vantage point, of course you prioritize taking care of your partner’s emotional state, whatever it is, because you have a MERGED identity state, and their emotional state IS your emotional state. They are you and you are them.
And this points to a deeper timeless, spiritual truth:
Identity isn’t a tangible, solid thing. Identity is just a construction. It’s just a software program. It’s just a map we have about “what is us” and “what is not us”. And that map can change and be re-written.
Phantom Limb experiments by V.S. Ramachandran are one the anomalies that evidence this profound truth. Some amputee patients would feel like their removed limb was hurting them even though it was no longer there. Why? Their identity pattern still believed the limb was a part of them, even though it was not, but they felt pain in their non-existent limb nonetheless. In other words their software dictated their reality and felt experience of pain more than their hardware. To remedy this ailment, Ramachandran came up with a therapy using a box and two mirrors that would give the appearance of re-animating the cut off limb that would enable the patient to interact with the limb, get rid of the chronic pain by re-patterning this faulty software program.
So the first order of this deep spiritual truth is that Identity is changeable. The second order is that Identity can evolve to include you and your partner, so that you and your partner are One. The third order spiritual truth is that there is no limit to how far you can expand your identity, once you’ve realized it’s changeable. You can expand your identity to include the entire world and kosmos, so that it is all You.
This is what all the great sages and mystics point to, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, when they say, “We’re All One. Love your self. Love your neighbor as yourself. Because your neighbor is yourself. It’s all Love.”
You can have a taste of that identity expansion through merging your identity with your partner. This begins with taking full responsibility for their emotional state.
…And then maybe sometime, in many years or lifetimes, you’ll be ready to take responsibility for the emotional state of all sentient beings.