I Need Space: Finding the Yoga Sutras in Dating

"I need space"

Those words are like a one-two punch to my ego. Especially from someone new I’m dating. Especially when the honeymoon phase is over and we’ve been having some friction and I don’t really know where we stand. All my brain wants to do is talk it out at nauseum until we come to some sort of conclusion so we can get back to that euphoric, connected feeling that we once had...even though I knew while experiencing it that it wouldn’t last. I’ve been married before. I know how the passion oscillates and you get sick of each other from time to time. I know what it’s like to have communication breakdowns and hurt feelings within an intimate relationship. I know that partnership takes work, even the dysfunctional kind...which is what my previous partnership was.

I keep reminding myself that I don’t want what I had before. I left that relationship for a reason. I don’t want fighting that goes on for hours with no resolution other than exhaustion. I want something different. I want maturity and emotional intelligence and respect for one another’s autonomy.  I want what I thought was developing with this new guy.

However I’m realizing that that sort of relationship requires the one thing I’m terrified of:  Space.

It’s one of the reasons I really like this new guy. He’s got boundaries. He can see when things are getting funky from too much close contact, and that space is necessary to reconnect with oneself and find clarity. He’s really good at being his own advocate and kindly asserting himself.

I respect it. I really do. But my ego f*#king hates it.

The other night, after I got the “I’m going to need a few days to process before we talk” text from said new guy, I went outside to smoke some weed and check out. I haven’t been sleeping very well for various reasons, and thought that maybe the best thing to do in that moment was to escape my ruminating thoughts and feelings, sedate myself, and hopefully pass out. Unfortunately that’s not what happened. Instead, my ego proceeded to have an all out hissy fit. It was pretty interesting to watch:

First it tried playing the victim - “How dare he pull away like that?! Doesn’t he know that HURTS MY FEELINGS?!”.

Then it tried negotiating - “OK, what if we just give him a day then we’ll text him something light and funny to show how cool we are.”.

Then it went into complete despair - “This is it! He’s done with me! I’m such an idiot for thinking this would work out. Maybe I should just text him back and tell him it’s over. I’m going to be alone FOREVER!”.

This went on for quite some time. 

Then at some point during this tirade I heard a voice inside me say - “You realize you’re creating your own suffering by resisting this, right? And that this is what you wanted.”.

It was like a slap upside the head.

I mean, seriously! I chose change in my life because I wanted to grow. I don’t want to be a slave to my conditioning and behavioral patterns within relationship anymore. I want to own my shit and be able to show up to partnership with an open heart and a grounded mind, knowing who I am and what my values are. Yet this thing happens when I start to “fall in love” - I lose myself a little. I start to put my self worth into whether or not this other person reciprocates my feelings. I stop cultivating my own life, and start making that one relationship the center of my universe. My brain starts to get a little obsessive about it. And this is a pattern that has been around for most of my life. It’s how I survived my childhood - by disappearing and putting other people’s needs before my own. It’s what helped perpetuate dysfunctional patterns in my previous marriage. It’s also something that keeps me from reaching my full potential in a lot of different aspects of my life.

So there I was in my backyard, kinda high, watching my ego freak out, oblivious to the fact that life was giving me an opportunity to change. To transcend stuff that I so long to be done with. I was resisting it because it’s hard, scary, and unknown. Not to mention the fact that I was completely disregarding this guy’s right to work through his stuff in whatever way he needed to. I was not being very compassionate to myself or to him.

Now I wanna be clear that I’m not beating myself up here. I’m just sharing my human-ness. I spend a lot of time reminding others that it’s OK to experience life just as they are. That we do all this work through meditation, mindfulness, yoga, counseling, etc, to get to a place where we can see ourselves as we truly are. To look at our human-ness with love and compassion (even when we’re a little high and feeling like shit). It’s from this place of acceptance that we are truly able to evolve. It’s kind of tough to do if we don’t know what we’re working with.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the fundamental texts for Yoga, there is a niyama (personal observance) called Svadhyaya. This is a Sanskrit term that basically means self-reflection. It is one of the many aspects of Yoga intended to help us remember our true nature, which is love and trust, and to reduce suffering. There are many ways of practicing this, from more traditional routes like reading sacred texts, meditation, and mantra recitation, to more "modern" methods like sitting in your backyard kinda high while watching your ego freak out. The point is to get to know yourself and your conditioning, and to realize that you are not that conditioning.  You are the loving observer of that conditioning. It's to sit with your stuff and learn to understand the cuing from your innate wisdom so that you can evolve. It's not always comfortable or easy, but it's paramount if we want to grow.

There isn’t really a set formula on how to work with this stuff. We don’t get step-by-step instructions on how to overcome our conditioning from some instructional manual in the sky.  There certainly are lots of great teachers and texts (like the Yoga Sutras) that you can refer to for inspiration and guidance, however what I’m realizing is that only I know the best way for me to grow. Just like only you know the best way for you to grow. Which is a pretty liberating and terrifying concept.

It’s up to me. I’m responsible for my own evolution, which comes from being able to be with what is, accept life as it comes, and with as much compassion as I can muster, trust myself to do my best with it. It requires a lot of self awareness that can only be cultivated by...well...space.

I have no idea how things will work out with this new guy. I could tell you what my ego wants, but that ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is that I'm growing and doing my best to stay open to what life is trying to teach me. What matters is that I never stop working on myself. Because through that work I become a more loving, patient, understanding and compassionate person. Through that work I will be able to show up in relationship exactly as I long to.

The rest will work itself out.

I encourage you to stick with the uncomfortable stuff. Find a method of Svadhyaya that works for you and trust that you will know what's best. Because you do.

Jennifer Noble