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(Part 2 of 10)
CONVERSING AT LAST
"So, much of my thought process has been centered on the kind of
relationship we can have together. I've gone back and looked at where
we started. I've read and reread every letter, every poem, every promise
and significant conversation we shared. And, do you know what? I really
believe we began our life together on some very solid principles. Putting
our love for each other as our number one priority-I still believe in
that and I'm totally committed to it. God held a central place in our
lives, and we knew that we had come together to share a life purpose.
These are the parts of our marriage that I don't want to lose. But somewhere
along the way, we lost our focus."
"That's a big problem," Mark said sternly.
"But one that, with awareness and both of us in agreement, we can
regain. When I get away from the stress, it is so easy for me to see why
I fell in love with you. I want to see the very core of you beyond the
angry outbursts. I'm blocking out the negative aspects and focusing on
what I love about you: your generous spirit and the openness you once
had to make me a part of everything in your life; your humor and, uh,
the way you used to love me. You see, what I've come to understand from
the reading I've done is that, at first, our personalities fell in love
with each other. Not so much you and me, but our most superficial parts
fell in love. Then we got married and, after a while, our egos went into
battle with each other. Again not the real you or the real me, but the
part of each of us that needs to be right was in combat with the other.
What I'm making my primary self-work is trying to get my spirit to dominate
my words and my actions. That is the true reflection of me."
Mark didn't say anything. This was unusual. It may have been disinterest
but I chose to believe it was out of a desire to hear more. So I continued:
"You know what I've begun to realize? What I've just described is
so easy for me to do when I'm teaching or coaching someone. It's second
nature. In that setting, I don't have to think about it. I am just sharing
from the very center of my soul without asking for anything in return.
I give all that I have to give and, in the process, receive so much in
return. It becomes far more difficult in my day-to-day activities when
it comes to business or certain social or political scenes, but most especially
when I'm interacting with you. I have a need to be right and for others
to confirm that I am right. I don't like that part of myself. I have relived
again and again how I wish I had handled my communication with Larry Brady.
I still believe in the message I was delivering, but it would have been
so much better if someone else had said it. And I wish I could have found
a better way to deal with my frustration with Mike. It is so easy for
me to see when I step back, like I've been doing, and really look at myself."
"That's good that you can admit that. It sounds like you are doing
some really good work on yourself."
"I am." I looked away for a moment. I could feel the lump in
my throat. When it subsided, I continued. "Where all this fits, as
far as our relationship is concerned, is this. You gave me the most beautiful
courtship any woman could hope to have. It couldn't have been more wonderful,
and it was you who made it happen. I responded to you, but you took all
the initiatives. Like I tried to say in the letter you inadvertently just
received, the power of you and me together is that, while you create things
and give them life, I am good at tenaciously nurturing and sustaining
their life. So, after many miles of walking on the beach, I started asking
myself why our relationship should be any different. You loved me enough
to begin this marriage right. Now that I understand, I want to give this
same intense energy back by paying closer attention to our love when times
are tough. I don't know what form it will take-I am open about that-but
I want to find a way to continue our marriage, and I'm here to find out
if you do too. And if so, can we refocus ourselves on those things that
really matter? It isn't the externals that I am concerned about. I want
to look within so that we can both rediscover our authentic power. What
changes do we want to make in our relationship? And how can we redefine
it so that the needs of both of us are respected and we are again able
to support each other in pursuing our personal and spiritual growth? What
I'm really asking is whether we can pull ourselves back together primarily
for us but also for our kids, for our parents, for the sake of those who
look up to us, and for the good of our company and everyone joining us?
That's where I am. I feel like I should stop there because I really want
to know what you're feeling and want to hear what you have to say."
He got up and went to the bathroom, found some matches, and lit a cigarette.
Daylight had come, and the lake was beautiful. So blue and clean. Finally,
he sat back down and was ready to talk. "Well, I can't argue with
anything you said. I mean, frankly, I'm surprised that we are as much
in sync as we are, I mean about the part of marriage changing and not
being able to meet all of each other's needs. I think I've gone farther
in my thinking than you, but we are moving in the same general direction.
What I've come to realize is that I loved the newness of our love, and
it's gone. I've talked to Bandura about this. I went back and reread C.S.
Lewis on the "Four Loves," and I now understand that there is
no way to get that back. It's gone, and it will never be again. I don't
like that. I deserve to have that. It was a big part of our life for me."
"Falling in love with you was one of the highlights for me too.
But just because it changed doesn't mean it wasn't real. We weren't deluded.
Maybe we just haven't evolved enough yet to know how to transform new
love into the next phase. As wonderful as it was, I think it is nothing
in comparison to what we could have long-term. You know, the stable, reliable
kind of love that stays together by choice." Although I hadn't read
Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled in years, I remember him defining
love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing
one's own or another's spiritual growth." He then went on to explain
that falling in love is not really love because it is emotional and not
an act of the will. It is not an extension of one's limits because this
requires effort; falling in love does not. Real love permanently expands
us as persons; falling in love does not. As I recalled this, I resumed
expressing my thoughts out loud to Mark. "It almost seems to me that
real love may best be experienced once we fall out of the first phase
of love and graduate to the second stage, that is, when we act lovingly
toward each other because we choose to do so and not just because it feels
good. This is our chance to show real love for each other like never before."