Heart Sharing For Couples
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be cleaning you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
Relationship is a guest house with room for two… a place to welcome all of us… and all of our partner.
When we hold back from our partner part of our humanity, we limit relationship. As we risk bringing more of ourselves to the “guest house” of relationship, we have more relatedness, more intimacy, more connection.
We want to pay particular attention to those aspects of ourselves to which we have aversion, which we tend to treat as unwanted visitors to the temple of our idealized self. Many of us tend to hide our “less-enlightened” feelings. We may feel awkward or embarrassed about some of the visitors that appear in our consciousness. It’s actually our aversion to our thoughts and feelings that can make them more “sticky,” more problematic. Invite everything into the temple of relationship. Allow your partner the opportunity to love you where you least love yourself. We welcome all the guests.
But we are also learning to remember that we are the guest house… not all the visitors who come and go. Rather than avoiding, some of us tend toward being compulsive sharers. We may romanticize and over-indulge our emotionality. Our visitors seem to become squatters who take up permanent residence. In other words, while we may sometimes tend internally towards denial or externally towards withdrawal in relationship; we may also go out of balance internally towards over-identification with mental/emotional states.
So we are drawing a clear distinction between heart-sharing and melodrama; between offering the gift of our innermost feelings and dumping our emotions on our partner. We stay present with the receiver of our words when we share our innermost feelings. We don’t withhold—but we do stay aware of our impact. Our intent to build the fabric of relationship, not tear it down. We speak of our experience; we don’t blame or criticize.
In conscious relationship, we are learning how to witness all the comings and goings of thought, of emotions, of beliefs and judgments. Our own, and our partner’s. We welcome it all… But increasingly, we are also not identified with that which comes and goes. Here comes this anxious thought… this feeling hurt… this judgment. All have been sent as guides from beyond.
All are welcome—but the thoughts and feelings that pass though are not all of who we are. We have no choice about what arises in our heart and our mind. To a large degree, these are the product of our conditioning. But there is also an aspect of being that witnesses, that is aware of these thoughts and feelings that arise and pass away. We have thoughts, but we are not our thoughts. We have emotions, but we are not our emotions. Like clouds that pass across the sky and temporarily obscure the sun.
We want to create an environment that promotes deep listening, and deep speaking. We want to slow down the pace, and do everything possible to limit interrupting, repartee, debate where rather than deep listening, we are preparing our rebuttal.
To help clarify the roles of speaker and listener and best shepherd the flow of heart sharing, many couples find it helpful to use a talking object—something that reminds you of your commitment to relationship. Only the person with the talking object speaks. It may be useful to time segments, or at least be mindful of the listener’s capacity to receive.
In times of challenging communications, active listening remains one of the simplest— and most effective-tools.
Instructions for listeners
We can invite our partner to speak with the words, “Show me your heart.” Then, all our attention goes to receive the gift of their words.
It’s all about presence. And remembering your love for and commitment to each other. Bring an attitude of curiosity—you really want to know who your partner is. Create a field of love and non-judgment that makes it inviting for your partner to
reveal who they are.
We could call the role of listener the “compassionate welcomer.” Build your guest house. Make it warm. inviting and spacious. We never know who might show up, so build a crucible of relationship that can hold it all.
Keep breathing. Stay open, receptive, attentive, present, curious…
Remember—your partner’s words are only air molecules vibrating.
Remember—your partner is not their feelings and thoughts—these expressions are not ultimately who they are
You are caretaker of the Sacred Third—that being which is the collective soul of the two of you; that place which is beyond “I love you” and “you love me; that essential Oneness that is Love. In conscious relationship, at those moments when our partner forgets that their feelings and thoughts are not who they are… we can be the temple guardian that remembers even when they do not.
In the role of deep listener, we speak little or not at all. We hold the space for our partner to bring forth their truths.
Two helpful hints:
- If you’re having trouble with defensive reactions, try imagining your partner is someone else—(we often would not be reactive if this were someone other than our partner).
- Keep breathing. (highly recommended)
Instructions for speaker
- Speak the truth of your experience.
- Be willing to especially name those things that left unspoken, seem to create distance.
- When speaking about difficulties in relationship, speak about your own feelings.
- Others do not cause our feelings.
- Their behavior may trigger our emotions.
- It’s fine to mention the behavior that you find challenging.
- But heart sharing is more a time to speak of your own inner experience and less a time to focus on your story about what your partner does or doesn’t do that triggers your feelings (as we so often seem to “enjoy” doing.)
- When speaking authentically, we are still the holders of the Sacred Third.
- It is still our responsibility to stay present so we can feel the impact of our words on your beloved.
- Heart sharing is about building related-ness, not tearing it down.
- This is the distinction between heart sharing and projectile vomiting.
- When expressing a difficult truth or a powerful emotion, there will likely be moments where we do feel identified with these visitors to our guest house.
- But it is help in a larger context of understanding these are truths of the moment, not Truth.
- We are experimenting with learning ways of communicating that help free us from the hold of our karmic patterns, and bring us closer together.
- When our heart sharing drifts over into blame or self-judgment, we want to call a pause as quickly as possible…
Remember who we are, and who our partner is.
Remember our commitment to relationship, to kindness and compassion, our vows.
And begin again.
Show me your heart!