Embrace the idea of daytight compartments! I'll tell you why it is important, urgent and, even, essential if you want to have a healthy, happy relationship.
Twenty years ago, my practice was filled with people with life-threatening diagnoses and their families. It was wonderful to share the journey with them and watch the amazing healing in their lives even in the few cases where "curing" wasn't possible. Relationship help is just what we need to support us in healing, in every way.
A man came in one day with a large tumor on his neck, making it impossible to turn his head. It was his first visit with me. I asked him why he was seeking help. He told me that he had really wanted to die so had left his cancer untreated. His story was filled with pain. He and his wife had been married a very long time, however, their marriage was the result of an unwanted pregnancy during their youthful experimentation stage. Being Catholics, they married and proceeded to have four children and several grandchildren. He said that he and his wife had never loved each other, they simply did their duty. He resented his lack of education and blamed it on his early marriage, which, as I was about to uncover, he blamed on his wife. His children ignored him and his grandchildren were afraid of him and he didn't see a reason for living.
That was a very sad story, and yet, it was also an interesting choice. And, that's all because he did not embrace the idea of "daytight compartments!" After he told me his personal story in-depth, I asked him why, if he had been so sure that he wanted to die and leave his miserable life behind, was he seeking my help now. He had a very compelling answer:
"What if I'm throwing my life away and it does have value? What if I could have a different life? I simply did not consider this before."
Great insight for a new beginning, even though his cancer had progressed so far that he had almost bled to death five times before he arrived at my door. Yes, it is always possible to have a different life, if we are willing to open ourselves to the possibilities. And, it certainly gives us relationship help. A great start!
As he told me the details of his life, it became so clear that he was ready to die to avoid repeating his past. If life was going to be the same old way, he'd had enough. But, the thought that he could heal his relationship with his wife and with his children and grandchildren was a new one.
After hearing his story, I shared my view with him.
"Lucian, you have one foot in the past. You have one foot in the future. You are simply never in the present. It is always what has happened and what could happen, but not what is happening. You need to be present in your own life. That is where we will start."
He argued a little but he saw the value of at least trying. And, that's when I told him he had to embrace the idea of "daytight compartments." Thomas Carlyle once wrote:
"Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance but to do what lies clearly at hand."
That's important to the concept of daytight compartments. When an ocean-going ship is in high seas, the person at the helm can choose to create watertight compartments. We need to be able to use our internal machinery to create daytight compartments. It's an idea that came from an essay by the Canadian scientist and physician, Sir William Osler, called "A Way of Life." in 1918. We need to be able and willing to choose to neither look forward nor backward beyond this day. We can choose to live this day as best we can in alignment with our values, vision, beliefs and purpose, in every word, behavior and relationship. By living today well, we are doing the most that is within our power to make tomorrow a little better. (And, no, this is not knocking financial planning. This is the emotional economy I'm talking about!)
How does this apply to our relationships?
First, it applies directly to our relationship with ourselves. If we are not wallowing in the past, nor fearing the future, we have the opportunity to focus on making this moment, this day, the best it can be inside ourselves. We can focus on what we want rather than what we don't want and make sure we are not standing in our own way. We can forgive ourselves for things we've done that we're not proud of and focus on what we can do that will create a positive outlook.
Then, it applies directly to our relationships, particularly our relationship with our partner or spouse. If we are not reaching into the past to find some past mistake to hurl in his or her face, we are in danger of healing of our relationship. If we can appreciate who s/he is in this moment, just as they are right here and now, we can actually see and hear them as they are, not as they may have been. Wouldn't you feel good if someone stopped reminding you of your past errors? Sure, you would. Go first. Give away your stock of "ways to be right" and "times you were wrong." Life will be very different then.
Today is all we have. Let's do all we can to live today fully awake, aware, alert and alive in the moment. Embrace those daylight compartments!
If you want some relationship help to create and sustain your daytight compartments, I'm always here for you. We can meet through Skype from wherever you are in the world. You can make your own appointment by visiting this link: CLICK HERE. I look forward to meeting you and offering the relationship help you need. Partner sessions are also available through Zoom video.