Relational Heroism

Many relationships are one moment away from getting unstuck and coming back to connection. But it’s a moment, as Bruce Springsteen sings, “that just don’t come.” What keeps people paralyzed?

Often, it’s waiting for your partner to go first. To smile before you smile. To apologize before you forgive. To get closer before you’ll have sex, or to have sex before you’ll get closer.

Why can’t you make that first move? It could be resentment–holding on to anger because it feels like strength. Or maybe it’s the fear of seeing yourself as pathetic, desperate, unlovable. And there’s always pride, that most divisive of emotions.

Well, this is a time for . . . relational heroism. The phrase comes from couples therapist Terry Real, and refers to the moment when every fiber of your being aches to do the hurtful thing (yell, sulk, walk away), and instead you find the grace to soften. You gently place your hand on his arm. You turn in bed and gather her in.

Easier said than done, right? Right. So here are some ways to find the will:

  • Count the blessings that make up your beloved.
  • Imagine looking back on this moment in years to come; what do you wish you’d done?
  • Pray for courage and a tender heart.
  • Ask yourself what your children would like you to do.
  • Understand that when the Buddha recommended compassion for “all sentient beings,” he was, surprising as it may seem, including your partner.
  • See yourself laughing, loving, and living again, and know that no one (including you) will care who went first.

Don’t waste your time waiting. Be a hero.

About Eric Albert

Eric Albert, LMHC is a counselor in the Boston area who can help you deepen the emotional and physical intimacy of your relationship.
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