In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Have you ever gotten into a fight or had the same conversation with someone you love repeatedly because you are talking past each other? You seem to agree. You both said, “Yes.” There is a clear plan of action and definite action steps. Only one of you does something impulsive or deviates from the agreement much to the vexation of the more methodical and deliberate partner. What’s going on here? Were things unclear, is someone being passive-aggressive, or perhaps inattentive? Why is this so difficult? In my marriage, I tend to play the role of that impulsive person.
Impulsiveness is the tendency to act without thinking or with very little forethought. It may be evidenced by a sudden urge to blurt something out (imagine Pippin before Lord Denethor in The Return of the King, doing exactly what Gandalf advised him against… speaking about Boromir to his bereaved father), or purchasing something on Amazon that you had no intention to buy or falling back into your default setting, which is comfortable and natural for you but may not be conducive to the situation or needs of others. My default setting is to act and learn as I go. I enjoy collaborating but also struggle to do it, especially when I have a strong inclination to think or act independently. My husband, on the other hand, is deliberate and slow. He likes to take his time and carefully think about everything and takes everyone and everything into consideration as far as possible. They say opposites attract but that can work for and against a couple.
Last spring, my husband and I began building and collaborating on Essential Spirituality, a website dedicated to Babuji (our late Sufi guide), which focuses on all things spiritual. It combines our respective interests and experiences while sharing what we’ve learned primarily from Babuji, but also from other spiritual teachers we had the good fortune to know. Working on it has been delightful and daunting because we’ve never worked on something like this together before. Uday felt confident that we’d work well as a team, while I was hesitant at first. So we’ve been slowly building this website to share for free all the wonderful teachings that have helped us spiritually, personally, professionally, and otherwise. To be sure, our different temperaments make it intriguing at times.
For instance, we came up with a social media plan that we intended to execute at the start of 2022 to promote the website. We hashed it out and discussed it at length. Then I was encouraged by a friend to get back onto Facebook, and before that, I began exploring Twitter. These are personal accounts, so I took it as a chance to experiment with the platform before our official launch. Uday was aware of all this. He was supportive, but also couldn’t understand why it seemed impossibly difficult for me to stick with the plan and wait. Then we had different perspectives on content, which was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and made me acutely aware that I could be a better team player.
Interestingly, a close friend reached out to me while we were working this out. It just so happened that she and her husband were facing a similar predicament over a different topic. She’s very much like Uday, while her husband is more spontaneous like me. So I found myself empathizing with her husband while feeling her frustration with equal concern. We helped each other better understand our partners, and explore our internal settings. Uday sometimes looks at life through a Vedic astrological lens, and he explained to me that he understood that part of my difficulty is due to my being a Leo, the quintessential leader. He then shared how Leo’s like Donald Trump can be headstrong, and I almost died. Kindly note that he did this objectively without any anger or spite. And it got me thinking.
I went for a long walk introspecting about how many times we’d discussed this topic, why I couldn’t or didn’t want to follow “the terms” of our agreement, and what I could do to change my internal settings and make a good thing better. At first, I resisted, and my internal dialogue was one of defiance, justification, and self-defense. (This is known as psychological resistance, which is an unconscious unwillingness to open one’s awareness.) Thankfully, that voice got off its soapbox and a higher voice began to speak: “Yes, you don’t need anyone’s permission. But you can’t work like this in a partnership or marriage.”
By the time I got home, I had resolved to work on myself and modify my approach. Uday was happy that this realization and desire to change came from within and not him. And we reached what Dr. Stephen Covey calls a “win-win” solution on the use of social media that included being more flexible on all sides. My focus moving forward will be on moving from independence to interdependence (the ability to work well with others), as I want to open up to new insights so that we are capable of inventing innovative approaches that will make an exponential difference to everyone we meet.
What impulses do you struggle with and how do you think win-win?
From one needy of your dua,
PS. Alhamdulillah, Uday and I had a lot of fun revising this newsletter together. He’s always a good sport and teammate!
PPS. Spiritually, the best way to change our internal settings is to become aware of psychological resistance, actively engage in introspection, and “seek first to understand, then be understood,” which comes from the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. This is a type of spiritual struggle (jihad) that if waged chivalrously will result in a win-win solution by His grace. Put differently, “here’s where the problem starts, no heart, because of that a lot of groups fell apart” (I’m Still #1 by Boogie Down Productions c/o Cheikh Sufi’s Instagram).