“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” says Kahlil Gibran, but I don’t think he meant a whole state.
Nonetheless, my life partner of 22 years is about to drive north to follow his dream of living sustainably in a small country town in NSW. I love that vision, and we love each other deeply and are best friends, but I’m not drawn to go north at this time, so I’m staying here in Melbourne with our three teenagers.
It feels kind of bizarre, and people look at us strangely when we tell them what’s happening: ‘We’re not separating, just living apart for a while, and we don’t know what the outcome will be. Perhaps we’ll drift too far apart over time, perhaps we’ll become closer than ever – after all, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps he’ll come back, perhaps I’ll move up there. It all remains to be seen.’
But the process is compelling. In particular, the business of trusting one’s own impulses. We danced around this looming divergence of paths for quite some months before biting the bullet and agreeing that this was going to be the thing to do. After all, as he said at his Bon Voyage party, ‘you can’t live with a woman who’s written a book about acting on your dreams and not do it’. He’s right. I would have kicked him out rather than live with someone who has settled for less…
For me, it has been painful and poignant to find myself choosing to stay here rather than join him in his dream. He has supported me in realising my dreams. It seems so selfish. But my ‘energetic self’, for want of a better word, feels quite rooted here. I don’t feel any pull to move to NSW at the moment, much as I love the pictures of rolling green hills where he is going, and the names of towns like ‘Paradise’ and ‘Promised Land’.
I am choosing to trust that rootedness, even though my feeling to stay is ‘only a feeling’. It’s not comfortable to trust such a disloyal impulse, and yet trust it I must. I must keep reminding myself that feelings and impulses follow their own logic, a logic that often only makes sense in hindsight.
A counsellor we worked with at one point remarked that all couples today are moving into an era where relationships are not so much about loyalty as empowerment. I certainly see that trend alive and well in our couple-journey. Years ago, if one’s husband moved, the wife moved too, being one of his chattels. Today, it is a choice. It’s about doing what is right for each individual.
Much as I feel baffled and uncertain at times about this new dynamic in our lives, I also see that it is nudging both of us toward wholeness. My partner has always been prepared to do his share of house cleaning, but I’ve been the cook and shopper, the ‘main parent’ and manager of our social life – traditional ‘female’ roles. On the other side of things, even though I’ve dabbled out in the world marketing and selling my books, he has provided the reliable income, paid the bills, mowed the lawn, changed the light globes – all traditional ‘male’ roles. I suspect that we are now being asked to develop our ‘missing parts’.
Dr John Demartini says that we will attract someone or something to overpower us in whatever area of life we don’t empower. If we don’t attend to our health, we’ll eventually find ourselves sick enough that we make this area a higher priority. If we don’t manage our finances well, we’ll find ourselves losing money to scams and impulse buying. If we don’t value ourselves, someone will take advantage of us until we do.
Money management is an area of life that I’ve managed to overlook for years. My partner has paid the bills, tackled those complicated mobile phone deals, sorted out our tax affairs etc., while I’ve drifted along in his wake without paying too much attention. Right now, I get the feeling that the universe is shaking my tree! It’s time for me to get a handle on all that ‘male’ stuff.
He, on the other hand, has drifted along with very little mastery in the food department. He can boil an egg or some spuds but otherwise, it’s toast. Time to learn how to look after himself in the kitchen, it seems. It’s also time, after years of putting himself last in the process of being the dutiful bread-winner, to trust his own intuitions and allow himself to follow them. Time for him to honour some of that ‘female’ stuff.
Some years ago I consciously decided to test the universe on the old principle that if you follow your heart and do what you love, the universe will look after you. And it worked. I wrote my book, it quite rapidly sold its way into its (currently) fourth print run, and I was supported to act on my dreams. It always seemed a bit more scary to apply that principle to Mr Breadwinner, but now we are about to. Now we’re about to see what will happen when he stops being the main provider and heads off to do his dream; when he trusts the universe to look after him.
Which is what this current journey is about. Honouring ourselves. It’s time for my partner to honour his long-time desire to move north and create a simpler life for himself, even if it looks like he is abandoning me and our children. It’s also appropriate for me to honour the feeling that I am to stay here, even if that looks like I’m abandoning him.
And together, lovingly, we’ll enter the mystery and create a whole new chapter in our relationship.