Try This Expansive View of Partnership. (It Could Come In Handy.)
In an intimate relationship, partners do certain things for each other. There’s an exchange, a flow unique to that relationship.
In business, team members have roles. When those roles are are well-suited, the business works better and the partnerships within the business grow stronger.
In families, mom does this, dad does that, grandma and pa do these things, and the children do what the children do. There is a pattern of interaction, again, unique to that group.
We have partnerships with pets, too. We feed, walk and play with our dog. He adores us and is devoted to us, makes us laugh, lifts our hearts. It works. Cats? We are honored to enjoy the privilege of their royal company.
Roles in intimate relationships can be astonishingly specific.
Eric was my hair wrangler. Wet or dry. In drains. Vacuums. Wherever.
Some people don’t do rodents. Others don’t do snakes. Or the dark. Or peanut butter. Or morning.
I don’t do hair. Especially wet hair.
SILENT AND SMART
Eric was also my machine wrangler. If something didn’t work, I’d simply hand it to him. If it was large, I’d point, and he seemed to know exactly what to do. He knew about electricity, garbage disposals, broken furniture, audio gear, appliances, cars and a little about computers. He knew how to make things run again.
(And the irony of that doesn’t escape me. I dearly wish he could have made his own body work again. Sigh.)
I loved the feeling of Eric evaluating a situation, the feeling of his intelligence going to work in a silent, focused way. If it was a teeny tiny thing, like a necklace in a tangle (I was in a hurry to get dressed and get out the door to an appointment) he’d put on his glasses to get a better look. I loved how it felt when he put on his glasses. There was a calming feeling in the room, an “all things are possible” feeling.
He could often fix a thing while I stood there, but sometimes he’d tell me it would be a while and I should go do something else. In practically no time at all, the thing would be all better. He’d hand it back to me, looking very cool and nonchalant, and sometimes he’d say, “smarter than your average bear…” which made me smile.
AND HE DID THIS, TOO…
He also made life feel safer for me. It’s a simple thing, this idea of safety, but it’s important, and “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
Yes, I’m the person in charge of my own feelings of safety. Nobody can do that for me. However, I must say it was easier to put safety on slow simmer when Eric was around. I never cared a whit about locking doors. Now I do.
I spent 17 years with Eric and I can tell you for sure that living with him allowed me to relax more deeply. No need to be on high alert about serious weather galloping our way ’cause I had a knight in my house. Eric’s presence made potential danger feel like no big deal.
He could also lift anything, anything, anything. He never went to the gym. He was naturally well-built, top to bottom, with a strong back, and thighs of steel. (And yes, I liked those very much.)
He made short work of physical projects that overwhelmed me. If I was carrying one box at a time, he’d pile them all on top of each other, pick up the whole darn batch, carry them to the car and that would be that. Done.
He also provided emotional safety. If something stressful was going on with me, he noticed. I didn’t have to announce it and ask for help, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing…
He’d come over and put one arm around me and say, “do you want to sit a minute?” (that was his phrase). His presence calmed me, and I breathed better in a (real or imagined) crisis. His support helped me feel like everything was going to turn out hunky dory even when things were surely going to hell in a hand basket.
When sunshine poured from his soul all over mine, my inner pilot light re-lit. Simple as that. Mysterious creatures hovering in dark and scary corners scurried away.
YOU HAVE MANY PARTNERS AND THEY ARE EVERYWHERE
But now he’s not here — my safety guy, my hair wrangler, my fixer, my strong man. He has moved on to other things…
I doesn’t matter if you’ve been with a partner for 50 years, 17 years or a few months. Or if you don’t have an intimate partner — still — we don’t have one partner, we have many.
Knowing my intimate partner is one in my sea of partners helps me when thoughts come up:
- o where o where has my Eric gone?
- I need him now, how do I get through this?
- Eric would know just what to do, I wish I could ask him a question…
…it’s clear things have changed in my life.
But if I know he’s not my only partner, then I don’t feel as if I’m drifting on the empty sea without my captain, o captain.
Here’s what I mean.
Being in partnership is an orientation, not a state. Partnership is a much larger idea than having a relationship with one person. Partnership is a container with ever-moving contents. Each of us has many kinds of partners, for different needs or reasons.
Partnership bowls hold all changes, great or small. Many kinds of partners come and go — it’s part of life.
If I lose my intimate partner, but truly feel in partnership with my big earth family, that puts loneliness — which might otherwise take up residence in the house of my heart — out of a full-time job for sure. Holding hands with many people (both virtually and truly) makes me feel connected to the world, even when my love partner dies or meets another person and goes down the road into another relationship.
Think about it.
Life partners are everywhere.
My favorite grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and even my very own garden — all of these are food partners. I have family partners. I have friend partners in the organizations to which I belong. My tax adviser, doctors and health practitioners, and home improvement helpers are all partners, too.
This variety of partners ebbs and flows. One door closes, another opens. Gardens come and gardens go. People and pets come and go.
You get the idea. Partners abound. Partners change over time.
YOU LEAD, PARTNERSHIPS FOLLOW
Women sometimes tell me they can’t practice partnership principals because they don’t have an intimate partner. No boyfriend or partner in the house, no dates, no possibilities on the horizon.
This is a sign of believing that partnership is a state, not an orientation. So we start there, with developing a deeper understanding of partnership seen through a bigger window.
Imagine this visual (which I adore because it’s fuzzy). You’re the mama duck, and all your partnerships waddle happily behind you, following your every lead. Relationships follow you everywhere you go. If you believe you don’t have many little ducks following you across the road to the pond, look again. And notice the traffic guy with the blue coat and whistle. He’s your partner, too.
There are also relationships that don’t follow us around, but are nevertheless there. I’m in a relationship with my desk. My computer. My kitchen. The trees around me. My garden. The stargazers outside my front door busy building blooms.
(But OK, you’re right. They don’t “talk” and you can’t invite them for a cup of tea. Fair enough.)
THE WALKING TALKING TYPE
What about these partners?
When I go food shopping, I’m in a relationship with a beautiful older woman passing me in the soup aisle who seems wistful. She looks directly at me. I look directly back. We say nothing, yet it’s a profound exchange. It’s a heart to heart relationship for a few seconds, and lasts into my day. I think about her as I walk through the store to finish my shopping. I wonder about her. I’m gently curious about her.
At Lowe’s I’m in a relationship with the paint guy who is a little impatient that I don’t know the difference between satin and semi-gloss. But I smile at him and tell him I’m a novice and I thank him for taking time for such basic paint questions. He softens. He slows down. He becomes more helpful and present and kind. Communication and appreciation improves our paint partnership.
As I head to the checkout counter with my paint, I encounter a woman struggling to get five large, flat moving boxes into her cart. I help her. She smiles and says, “That’s better, thank you so much.” That’s a partnership.
Partners, partners everywhere I go.
DO IT NOW
Notice what your partners do for you. Reach out and thank them. They may not know how valuable they are to you. Also, receive thanks for what you do for others. When someone says, “thank you, that’s better” take a moment to let it into your heart.
If you’re in an intimate relationship, it’s a sweet exercise for the two of you to put occasional words around this ongoing exchange you have. What your partner says about you may surprise you. Take it in. Appreciate it.
Eric and I talked about this sort of thing off and on throughout our time together. There is one discussion a number of years ago that made such an impression on me. I think it began with me apologizing to him for looking like the Wreck of the Hesperus.
He told me never to apologize to him again for my appearance, no matter what the conditions. He said it was entirely unnecessary because to him, I always looked beautiful no matter what I was doing or how I was dressed. He told me I had his favorite face. He said I was equally beautiful whether I was spreading horse manure on my garden or wearing an evening gown. He made sure I got the point. This changed me and changed us.
That’s how it works.
He helped me remember a truth about myself, and I thanked him for that. When you tell each other these things, it settles something in the heart of the relationship.
You have many love partners. They are everywhere. You live in love. You swim in love, breathe love. You plant seeds of love and they grow and nurture you and others around you. You speak love and it flows through your heart and mind to the entire Universe.
Your partnerships offer bouquets of “this and that” love. A sprinkle of this. A dollop of that. A bucket of this. A cascade of that.
You have three easy assignments.
First, notice your partnerships. They are everywhere.
Then, open your arms and receive them. Take in the generous spirit of the Fed Ex person who just now handed you a package.
And then tell your partners why they are wonderful. Don’t keep secrets. Let your love and appreciation tumble out of you. This makes you and the world truly more beautiful.