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Lions Roar : May 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2011 21 or feel. We’ve been together for ten years and I can count on one hand the times I have felt you really wanted to know my experience or point of view.” Kent shrank back in his chair and replied softly, “You always say that. I do my best. It hasn’t been easy being in a relationship with you because you have all these standards for how you want me to talk with you and what you think I should say and do with our kids. I just feel really hemmed in and unable to be myself.” Muriel is thirty-eight and Kent is thirty-six. They’ve been married for eight years and a couple for ten. They have two children: their six-year-old son and Muriel’s thirteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. They both meditate. Muriel has taken refuge as a Buddhist and belongs to a local Vipassana sangha; she attends at least one weeklong retreat a year and has a daily practice. Kent considers himself to be “Buddhist-oriented” but hasn’t taken refuge and doesn’t go on retreat. He watches the children while Muriel is on retreat and during the Sunday morn- ing sittings that she attends. Both try to practice “nonviolent communication,” a skill Muriel brought into their relationship. Muriel is a school counselor and Kent is a carpenter. They each like their work, but Kent makes less money than Muriel and feels LoVe aLWaYS TaKeS pLace In coupLeS. We come into life as a couple, in the sense of being inside someone else, and we are sustained in our earliest form by a parent–child bond. The first gaze of the newborn infant is into the eyes of its caregiver, and forever after we want to find ourselves in the eyes of some- one else. Regardless of whether we know it or admit it, we are paired up. We get started in an imperfect pair and we continue to make imperfect relationships for the remainder of our lives. For these reasons and more, all couples should study the Bud- dha’s first noble truth—life is inherently unsatisfactory—so they know, from the start, that their relationship will be stressful and it’s not their fault. consider a couple we’ll call Muriel and Kent. They sat facing one another in their first therapy meeting with me, and Muriel said, “You don’t really know me. You have ideas about who I am, but you don’t seem interested in finding out what I really think Polly young-EisEndrath, a Jungian psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at university of Vermont Medical College, has written fourteen books, including The Self-esteem Trap: Raising con- fident and compassionate Kids in an age of Self-Importance. You Don’t See Me Polly young-EisEndrath explains why our earliest relationships set us up to fail as couples, and how standing by each other with mindfulness and equanimity can help us find not only each other but true love. “LeSaManTS[THeLoVeRS]”1928,BYRenéMagRITTe.naTIonaLgaLLeRY,canBeRRa,auSTRaLIa.©eSTaTeoFRenéMagRITTe/SoDRac(2011).pHoTo©aRS,nY.BanqueD’IMageS,aDagp/aRTReSouRce,nY.