Showing Up

September 25th, 2007

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When I teach about the Ecology of Love and talk about the water that lives between people I often use the term “showing up” to describe the flow that happens in relationships. In relationships, like the ocean, there is an ebb and tide to how we are present for each other, but if the water in the relationship is always out, then both people feel alone more often than they feel like there is someone at their back. Many people go through years in partnerships where the experience of loneliness is profound. It is something that I struggle with in my own marriage, each of us having a different sense of what togetherness means and how much of it we need.

Showing up for someone doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with long and deep conversations, in fact usually it is about the small details of life where showing up makes the most difference. The day I got a flat tire and my husband came and changed it in his nice work clothes, or the time when he needed a shirt washed and ironed, or the zillions of times when the kid juggling doesn’t quite work and he is willing to stop what he is doing to pick up. It communicates volumes of love when you are able to give up your own agenda to show up for someone else’s needs. It is at the heart of what it means to feel safe and loved in a relationship.

Lately I have been witnessing the demise of several relationships with close personal friends. Affairs and divorces always catch you off guard, even when you can see the breakdown of showing up for years before. It is easy to confuse co-existing and showing up- they can almost look the same when we grow accustomed to not allowing ourselves to need and be needed. Co-existing doesn’t have the stickiness factor that showing up for someone does, because it happens as a matter of course- not choice.

Showing up or not translates into all the dynamics of a relationship including how and what you communicate and whether you share a passionate physical love. It isn’t possible to really open yourself up with either the spoken language or one’s body if you don’t feel safe. And so little by little, we say less and less of what we really need to say and in our most intimate times we cover ourselves through distancing and not really being present.

Real passion in intimacy is the product of people who can take risks. It is very different than relying on and replicating how we did it before and it is the biggest way to show up for someone you love. Human sexuality is a mystery of epic proportions- there is no other single act which can so deeply fuse and connect two people so as to transform them and how they relate so completely. Which is why, whether my husband realizes it or not, every time he puts down his evening newspaper to join me in the daily grind of putting another dinner on the table he is scoring big in my ability to show up later that night.

Two other important points on showing up- don’t keep score. It doesn’t equal out like other human equations might and only serves to cut at the backbone of the relationship that you are trying to build. The point here is that each person shows up as they can and that both people know when it happens. And last, be grateful for however it happens and whenever it does, you are one of the lucky ones.

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