Archive for October, 2010

Heart Disease of Relationships

October 19, 2010

Flickr / Carbon NYC

What hardens the arteries of a relationship?

What an amazing question.

Just a few weeks ago at our most recent Getting the Love You Want weekend workshop, Lawrence, Maureen’s partner, asked us this question: WHAT IS THE HEART DISEASE OF RELATIONSHIPS?

Many people had thoughtful answers, ranging from feelings of hurt to frustration at not being listened to, being betrayed and lied to.

Lawrence responded, “Good answers but not the one I was looking for”. He continued, “You know what the real killer is, the real thing that clogs the arteries of a relationship…RESENTMENT.”

The room fell silent. You could have heard a pin drop. People were listening and nodding their heads. We all knew he was right.

This has really stayed with me and started me thinking…

First of all, what does resentment mean and where does the word come from?

Resentment comes from the word sentire which means to feel. When we put the “re” in front, it means to feel again and again. Consider this for a moment. When we resent we put negative beliefs and feelings about someone (in this case our partners) in front of them and we no longer see them. Then we feel the bad feelings over and over until they turn into… dis-ease in our hearts. Pretty soon, it is all we experience.

What happens when resentment builds in our relationships? I think you already know that people usually do one of two things.

  1. Stay in an angry state with either resentment seeping out all over the space between you or exploding in anger. This happens when we criticize, blame and stay angry. What is most dangerous is when we think we have the right to feel this way and then express it whenever and however we wish. We start to feel righteous about it.
  2. Or, we hold it all in. We tighten and seethe anger much of the time. We obsess and build up negative scenarios in our minds and the resentment grows. Just like morning glory in the garden, it takes over. Nobody likes morning glory; soon all the beautiful plants die and all that’s left is the morning glory.

What happens next? Not a pretty picture…

It only gets worse. We begin to live more and more in our heads and we create stories which we believe are true. We make our partner the villain and soon we have created bestsellers. This is when heart disease affects our health, occupies much of our thoughts and generally runs our day to day lives.

At this point we project a myriad of assumptions and interpretations onto our partners and the dance of distance and disconnection become a way of life.


Flickr / Mykl Roventine

What is  the remedy for heart disease in relationships? There is only one answer. Forgiveness. You must forgive to get well. You must let go. You must see your partner for who they really are. See their struggles and limitations, their lack of perfection and their humanness. They must see the same in you and together you must accept and move forward. When you forgive you are able to truly let go and be free. You must dig deep and find the place within you where your compassion lies. This is the single most important factor if you are to cure this type of heart disease. Have you ever tried to get rid of morning glory? I have and let me tell you it is possible but the key is to dig deep.

The Skill (Dare ya):

The good news is that since most of you have experienced the Getting the Love You Want weekend you know what to do…now you must do it. Sit down, face to face, calm your soul, cross over the bridge to your partner’s world and LISTEN with an open heart. Mirror them. You have just begun the process of curing the clogged arteries of your relationship. Begin to dialogue and make sure you validate and empathize and do it again and again and again.  I promise something will shift. It will get better.

I would like to end this blog by quoting a passage from John O’Donohue from his blessing, “After A Destructive Encounter” (page 174) from his beautiful book, “To Bless the Space Between Us”.  I hope it will help to ignite an opening in your heart…

”Now that you have entered with an open heart
Into a complex and fragile situation,
Hoping patience and respect
To tread softly over sore ground in order
That somewhere beneath the raw estrangement
Some fresh spring of healing might be coaxed
To release the grace for a new journey…”

With love and support to all of you and much appreciation to Lawrence for inspiring me,