Finding our partners in the midst of family life
– by Naomi Chunilal
When we have a child and start a family, we begin a whole new chapter in our lives. Our sense of adult identity gets tossed up in the air, leaving us to catch and rearrange the old pieces of our lives as they fall back down again to earth again. Our lifestyle has to shift and adjust to our new parenting responsibilities as we make space for our children’s presence in our relationships with those we love. We may find that we no longer know or recognise ourselves, let alone each other, as we learn to integrate our new parenting role of looking after a child, alongside being a partner, friend, lover and companion.
After we become parents, we suddenly find that we are caught up in looking after our children around the clock. And however much we said before, that we wouldn’t put our children before our relationship, we may find that there just isn’t enough time, space or energy in the day to enjoy our partner’s company, as we might want to. We may not manage to do much more than look up briefly to notice our partner in our vicinity, amidst endless rounds of nappy changes, feeding upon demand, nights of broken sleep, and the general upheaval that comes with caring for a small baby or child. And alas, we may not always like what we see!
It’s easy to be gentle, kind and forgiving to those we love when life is flowing smoothly. We feel more able to cultivate empathy and consideration and spread this out into our family dynamics. Yet it’s far more difficult to accept and like ourselves, let alone those around us, when our baby is crying, the children arguing and all our reserves are down. When family dramas and histrionics get in the way, we may not always respond to our partner’s presence with genuine empathy and awareness. Instead, we forget to accept and recognise the validity of their feelings, comparing or judging these against our own. We think we are listening to what our partner is telling us, but our mind may actually be caught up in imagining a future, or hanging onto the past with them, where they conform to a mental impression of who you think they are. Something that may be very different from who they are. We often start to see our partners as a reflection of ourselves, only existing in relation to our own thoughts and emotions. We are no longer receptive to being present to our partner in each moment, and building a living connection with them.
We may think that we know ourselves inside out, also those around us. So we behave like a puppet pulled about on strings; our emotions directed here and there, by an automatic reaction to our partner’s presence. We fill in the gaps between what our partners say and do, before they even enter the room, or open their mouths to speak to us. We get into a habit of being only half-alive in our relationships, tightly bound within our mental conditioning that defines our behaviour in relation to others. We forget to be spontaneous, free and intuitive, letting go of our preconceptions about how we think life is. When did we last let ourselves be surprised, delighted and find out something new that we never knew about this person with whom we choose to share our lives.
The greatest gift we can give to those with whom we share our lives, is to be present – to truly get to know and see ourselves, both together and apart, in each moment passing. To be aware of the nature of what we are bringing to our relationships. Standing tall, honest, open and vulnerable so we express and can listen to what our heart and intuition tell us, rather than getting pushed and pulled by the ebb and flow of our shifting thoughts and emotions passing through us.
Be aware of your breath moving through your body. Notice how your breath flow connects you to a living sense of your vitality, each breath, moment by moment. Breathe into your heart and notice how your life energy rises up within you, bringing you back home inside yourself. Your breath is like a compass, that guides you into clear, open space, untouched by words, thoughts and ideas. In this place, you can explore the true nature of who you are. As you connect to your heart’s essence with each breath, you are led to express yourself with sincerity, compassion and genuine attention – to witness and communicate with those you love as if for the first time.
So stop! Look up and take time to see your partner standing there in front of you. You might think they are like this or that, yet you are only aware of a small part about them. And don’t know what they may yet become. What are you choosing to observe about them, and does this say more about you or them. It’s easy to typecast those we love, saying that they are like this or that, only seeing them as a reflection of ourselves. Yet following our heart inwards we can bridge the gap between our partner’s reality and our own, finding a living connection in our shared lives. Together.
About the author: Naomi Chunilal is the author of The Mindful Mother: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Enjoying Pregnancy, Childbirth and Beyond with Mindfulness, published by Watkins Publishing in May 2015.
Naomi is a British Wheel of Yoga and meditation teacher in the South West. She teaches heart yoga classes and workshops, leading you into mindfulness of what is. Also a complementary therapist and healer, she works at North Devon Hospice and runs a private practice. For more information, contact Naomi at www.yogadevon.com