The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular, jaw-dropping, awe inspiring natural wonders. For those of you who have been – you know what I mean when I say it’s truly majestic.

And according to geologists it took the Colorado River roughly 5-6 million years to carve its way through the layers and layers of rock and sediment that the earth had laid. 5-6 million years to form the 2nd deepest canyon on earth. You can stand on one rim of the canyon and not even see what’s happening on the other rim. You cannot see or hear someone on the other rim or even hear their screams. It is massive. And to date, there is only one bridge that connects the two rims…the Navajo bridge which took nearly 2 years to build and cost 28 million US dollars.

What the Colorado River has done to this part of the earth is no different than what I see over and over and over and over in my work with individuals and relationships.

You see, individuals and couples usually come to me when the hurt, disappointment, despair and disillusionment they feel in their relationship has become more than they can ignore or bear. And in hearing their stories and witnessing their pain, something always stands out:

A big, deep, divisive canyon has formed in their relationship. Not unlike the Grand Canyon.

There has often been so much erosion, so much sediment forming on top of sediment…so many years of the river cutting through, that the size and depth of the canyon has become immense, you cannot even believe that the two parts were once one connected, unified being.

In our relationships, many rivers flow. There are rivers of appreciation, and rivers of emotional support. There are rivers of touch and affection. Rivers of time and talk. Rivers of truth and honesty. These are the flowing waters we want. But I worry about the rivers that have the potential to separate us, the ones that are difficult to enter into, that are cold and choppy, the ones that you can’t see the bottom of, that are cloudy and running fast. These are the ones to watch out for.

What is your river made of? Is yours a river of frustration, a river of disappointment, a river of unmet needs, a river of unspoken needs, a river of misunderstanding, a river of boredom, a river of no communication, a river of sadness or depression? A river of assumptions, a river of contempt? Has your river created such a familiar pathway that it’s difficult to imagine feeling connected again. After 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years of the river flowing, a canyon is inevitable. One where you cannot see what is happening on the other side. You cannot hear your partner on the other rim and don’t even notice their screams. Total, complete disconnect.

You see, when we don’t attend to or repair all of these “little things” – the hurt feelings, the misunderstandings and the miscommunications, the hurtful or passive-aggressive comments, the fractured sex life, the assumptions, the resentments -they build up, and they damage our connection. The river flows.

When we don’t make the time and give out energy to repair these things….we risk the canyon becoming even deeper and more divisive, and sometimes even fatal for our relationships.

But every time we take a moment to attend to our partners pain, their hurt, their preferences or needs, when we communicate, and communicate with respect and sensitivity, when we take the time to listen, when we employ effective problem-solving, when we ask questions instead of assuming, when we notice what we love about them and tell them, when we pause instead of reacting, when we are thoughtful and considerate of our partners sensitivities, we stop that river from flowing.

Attend to the little things, today, now. Don’t wait. It takes mere minutes to apologize. It takes seconds to answer a text. Have the conversation, initiate affection and touch, ask the question, stop the behavior, say the kind words, take the time. Now. Today.

If you are hesitant, I want you to compare the cost (time, energy, money) to you today, as compared to the cost (time, energy, money) it would require of you to attempt to build a bridge across your grand canyon after weeks, months, or decades of hurt and misunderstanding, years of assumptions, years of resentment, years of pent up disappointment and disillusionment.

Building a bridge over a massive canyon is so much more costly than never allowing a river to carve the canyon in the first place. Do the work now, you won’t regret it.

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