Over the past few months we’ve noticed how challenging it’s been to carve out time for our relationship, our coupleship, time which is engaging and uplifting, rather than time devoted to tedious conversations or logistical, problem-solving discussions. Between friends, family, work, children, finances, medical needs and pets, space for fluid, spontaneous and relaxed connection has been difficult to find. The commitment to coupleship takes time, takes energy, and takes stepping forward when some days all you want to do is step back, run away, jump off the cliff. The edge is near though so is the field of opportunity…
On a recent Friday morning, as it had for the past four days, the alarm woke me at 5:30 a.m. It had already been a grueling week, not to mention month, and the prospect of facing another day of navigating work politics and project details caused despondency. An implementation project I was managing at the bank was fraught with roadblocks and issues at every turn, and I was devoting most of my energy to remaining positive and effective as I led the team toward the goal. As if my work wasn’t providing ample opportunity to deepen my ability to remain patient, kind and gracious under pressure, my entering-senior-year teenage son needed a fair amount of coaching toward job and college searches. To top it all off, my ninety year-old mother passed away in mid-August after a long, slow, steady decline that had spanned the better part of two years. Needless to say, life was demanding much of my attention, causing me to be less available to Kelli and our coupleship.
That morning, as I thought about the weekend ahead, I fantasized about having time alone to review medical bills and reimbursements, organize my closet (which in its shambled state is driving me crazy!), write a chapter for my memoir and work a bit on the implementation project, the launch date of which was rapidly approaching. I was looking forward to two social outings Kelli and I had planned, and also wanted some connected time with Kelli that didn’t involve discussing logistics or processing about recent kid/work/family events. I wondered how I’d balance the alone time I craved to attend to details I find impossible to attend to during the work week, with the time I wanted to spend with Kelli and our relationship.
I woke up that same morning to the sounds of doors opening and slamming shut, cars starting and speeding off in the street below me. I took a few deep breaths and then prompted by Zoe the cat meowing for attention, and likely food, I rolled myself out into the world.
I began my morning making coffee, remembering Dorothy kissing my cheeks earlier before she left to begin her busy day at work. The smell of fresh coffee brewing and her kisses were a good start to a packed day full of projects. I thought about planning some date time for us over the weekend, alongside plans with friends and the usual obligations. My intentions felt truly clear in those moments.
While waiting for my coffee, I noticed how stiff my back and body felt and it occurred to me to do a short yoga sequence to start my day and increase my flexibility, body and mind. As I moved through the yoga video, I realized how hard it was to focus only on yoga, only on my body bending through the motions, only on the sound of the instructor’s voice…even for 15 minutes. I was practicing downstairs in my office area and my phone was beeping as texts steadily arrived, my computer was pinging the receipt of new emails, the cat was running in and out the back door, and my mind was drifting to the day ahead. How much time do I have to work in my quiet space and finish what needs to be completed before school is out and the teenager, his career coach, and Dorothy, come home for an afternoon meeting at our house? It took a lot of effort but for the fifteen minutes, I ignored everything else and completely focused on my yoga poses.
After yoga, I thought back to my intention for weekend date-time and felt more determined to make it happen. Connecting with each other, putting all other things and thoughts aside, in the same way that I connected with myself during yoga was key to strengthening the core of our relationship, to centering us, and to expanding intimacy in our coupleship.
Dorothy and Kelli speak
On the way to plans with friends that Friday evening, we discussed Kelli’s intention for focused couple time separate from social engagements and life’s details, and we agreed to keep Sunday unscheduled, just for us. We spontaneously had a conversation Saturday morning about our coupleship’s need for connected time, the recent obstacles to that, and how to return to the closeness we wanted after being apart from it for a while. The conversation in and of itself deepened our connection, and we realized that acknowledging the reality of our disconnection and our mutual desire for something different was the beginning of the path back to deeper intimacy. It’s not easy in the midst of life’s complexities to devote time and energy to us, and only us. However, our relationship grows and deepens when we commit time to and for our coupleship exclusively, as the world outside spins and turns and churns.
Our Relationship speaks
Kelli and Dorothy practice staying awake and aware and when they notice they’re starting to spin out (or have spun out!); they step toward each other, refocus, and reconnect. The dance of intimacy requires continual awareness. There are no shortcuts. Kelli and Dorothy know that deep intimacy requires the ability to be vulnerable, kind, trusting and trustworthy. Sometimes the conversations are difficult in their honesty, yet it is their willingness and ability to have the conversation and recognize the path back that provides the experience and gift of being intimately known.
Kelli Williamson holds a Master of Arts degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from The School of Leadership and Education at the University of San Diego. Kelli has extensive experience working with couples, children and families. She has worked in private practice and held leadership positions in non-profit organizations directing counseling services, supervising staff and interns, and providing training in child and family therapy. In addition, she consults with non-profit agencies providing organizational development and leadership training.
Dorothy (Bosteder) Emerson graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Economics. She is a Senior Product Manager in the banking industry and has served on the board of directors for non-profit agencies serving women and children. Dorothy has expertise in building relationships by facilitating communication and collaboration while navigating complex systems. Dorothy is also the mother of two teenagers and she offers clarity and focus on listening to and following one’s heart as a parent.
Dorothy and Kelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.