Is It Possible To Feel Open and Closed In The Same Moment?

I just had a pretty good fight with my wife.

It’s always fascinating to me when I’m still “in it,” how I can look at my wife and feel my closed heart and hurt, then in the same exact moment turn two feet to my right and face my son or daughter and feel open, soft, and loving. Two feet apart and have a completely different experience occurring in the same heart in the same moment. What’s going on here? Is my wife just mean or cold? Does my heart or love have a bias?

It’s more like my heart has a stored memory of unhealed pain that my wife’s “way” triggers. Because I have a lengthy history with her (and my parents before her), it makes sense that I can contract during a fight with her. My kids haven’t hurt me in the same way so my heart is more resilient and open as I turn toward them.

And, I could continue this observation by “pointing” my heart to anyone who’s behavior hurt me and notice the same sensitivity going on. Open here, closed over there. Unsafe here, safe over there.

If I took this information literally without inquiry, I’d pursue “safe” people and avoid “unsafe” people. But if I got married, the “safest” person on the planet would pretty soon become the most “unsafe.” Meaning, the person I fell in love with, after a couple of years together, would trigger the deepest hurts still hiding inside my body. If I didn’t have tools, I’d run way (which is what I did for years) and blame them for making me feel the way I’m feeling.

Notice how that might be true in your life. If you are married longer than a few years, certainly you will confront this feeling inside of you. That the person you love the most, will become the person you hate the most in an instant. And, again, it’s normal and just right. Long-term relationship is designed this way to help you overcome the internal hatred (projected outward) and embrace more of yourself. It’s beautiful and wise.

This is the intelligence and precision of the human heart. Showing me where I’m still partial, where I have yet to embrace, where I’m still hurt, where there’s pain that needs love. Our fights invite me to embrace another piece of shrapnel from my past, rusty and neglected from an old hurt, ready to be noticed, healed, and integrated.

After sitting in tears this morning with kindred strangers at my side, I relax in gratitude for my smart, vulnerable, and tender human heart.

I now turn toward my wife as my nervous system chills out and a slow smile forms on my face. I feel that whisper of gratitude emerge for who she is and “how” she is…


  • Annette

    Reply Reply November 6, 2014

    do i wonder how this happens??? you bet i do….every day of my life. but, since my participation in the 8 week workshop, this is making a little more sense.

  • Renee Wade

    Reply Reply December 11, 2014

    Hi Jayson.

    Lovely and thoughtful post.

    I guess opening despite our past hurts is a great gift we can give to ourselves and to our man or woman.

    In moments of stress and conflict, I say to myself: “the past doesn’t matter”. And I hold my husband’s gaze and feel his presence. Instantly, the flow of connection can begin – instead of the stress and closure. There’s strength in that.

    And other days, I forget. Entirely. 🙂

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply December 27, 2014

      I like that approach Renee. And, my guess is sometimes the sensation and story get the best of you as you say….

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