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Elizabeth & Gordon Get Ready for Bed
by Marlena Field

Connection is simply our personal participation in truth. 
We call this experience...intimacy.
–  Malone and Malone, The Art of Intimacy

A couple who we will call Gordon and Elizabeth had enjoyed a relaxing mid-week evening and were leisurely getting ready for bed.  As Gordon got into bed Elizabeth was sitting on her side with her back to him.  He noticed that she was busy with something although he didn’t know with what.  He slid over and began to cuddle and attempted to reach around to embrace her in a playful way.   Elizabeth gently blocked him with her elbow along with an attempted cheery,  “Hey, don’t do that.  Can’t you see I’m busy?”  Gordon hesitated and then pulled away and moved to his side of the bed.  He turned his back and picked up a book from his bedside table.  Inside, Gordon was experiencing self-justifying hurt and anger.  He had only wanted to playfully ‘bug’ his wife and cuddle with her and he wondered, ‘besides why was she taking so long to do whatever?’

The bedroom became noticeably very quiet while Gordon’s silent body language spoke loudly.  After a couple of long minutes Elizabeth broke the silence.  “Gordon, I’m wondering if you are trying to punish me by turning your back and starting to read your book.  All I wanted was to take a minute to fix a hangnail.  I wasn’t pushing you away.”  Her voice sounded calm, although inside Elizabeth was frustrated with Gordon and she had some conflicting thoughts.  She was critical of Gordon’s behavior and at the same time she wanted to do something to re-connect with him.  She was also afraid of further rejection.  Her speaking out was a mixture of both defensiveness and open-hearted risk. 

Gordon was now presented with a dilemma.  He could keep his ‘cold shoulder’ or he could try to get out of the box he had put himself into.  He went back and forth between thoughts of wanting to re-connect with Elizabeth and being stalled by not wanting to be the one ‘to give in’ and in the process feel too vulnerable.  He had a choice to either remain ‘right’ or attempt to re-establish connection.  After a couple of long minutes Gordon closed his book and took a few easy breaths to ease the tightness in his chest and the jitters in his stomach.  He wanted to take some time so that he could respond as open-heartedly as possible and not get reactive and blow it.  He was also aware that his righteous resentment was diminishing.   

Gordon then rolled over, reached out and took Elizabeth’s hand.  Elizabeth experienced an immediate relief and felt her frustration and judgments fading away.  She realized she had been somewhat petty and, in truth, her heart wanted to re-connect with Gordon.  Their hands squeezed in a familiar tell-tale way and they both felt a renewed connection.  They lay quietly together for a while because they each wanted some time to mull over what they had just experienced.  They then kissed ‘good night’. 

Elizabeth and Gordon had actually experienced an intimate encounter.  The experience was intimate because they had each responded to their conflict by making choices to be in personal integrity as well as by making choices to risk moving to re-connect with each other.  They each risked losing face in order to give up their ‘righteous victim’ positions.  They were able to make open-hearted choices because they understood that in any situation they choose their  responses to their feelings.  They each came to their truth and, in addition, they showed more of themselves to the other.  Truth generates intimate connection.     

Gordon and Elizabeth waited until the next day to speak about the previous evening. They had experienced painful times in the past by being quick to react during their conflicts.  They had each experienced the painful alienation of maintaining the ‘righteous victim’ stance and the quagmire of reacting out of defensiveness.   They had learned over the years to respect their partner’s timing and abilities to look after their respective emotional challenges.  They knew it often takes time to respond with an open heart.  They had come to realize that reacting in the moment was often defensive and fear-based.  Elizabeth and Gordon each were able to share their truth and hear their partner’s experience.  Coming from a place of love, their conversation felt effortless and it turned out to be quite brief. 

This story contains elements of relating which we call ‘masterful’.  The extent of this couple’s commitment to relationship and the depth of their connection on body, mind and emotional levels encompasses a spiritual dimension.  

The central question and challenge in an intimate relationship is: ‘How can I be increasingly true to myself and at the same time be in open-hearted connection with another?

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Marlena Field, PCC, CPCC, CBCC
Professional Certified Coach

Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada

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