By Arielle Ford
While I don't sport any initials after my name or have any advanced degrees hanging from my office walls, there is one thing I know: Relationships take that certain kind of love that walks on water. Don't get me wrong. We are not talking about perfection here. We're talking about love despite the absence of perfection. Relationships based on the premise of loving each other despite our flaws is the stuff that Wabi Sabi Love is made of.
Wabi Sabi Love is devoted to exploring the simple, fun and effective ways to apply this concept to our love relationships. It is possible to attain groundbreaking shifts in perception so that you can embrace and find the beauty and perfection in each other's imperfections. In a phrase, Wabi Sabi Love is about going from annoyed to enjoyed in your relationships.
What Exactly is Wabi Sabi?
Wabi Sabi is an ancient Japanese art form that honors all things old, weathered, worn, imperfect and impermanent by finding the beauty in the imperfections. Let's say you have a large vase with a big crack down the middle of it. While you might toss it, a Japanese art museum would put the vase on a pedestal and shine a light on the crack. Or it might even fill the crack with 24k gold!
Imagine what it would be like to actually celebrate imperfection instead of considering it to be abnormal. Modern day society has conditioned us to seek perfection, which leads to an ongoing state of frustration and dissatisfaction. In truth, we all know that perfection is not possible. I believe the word perfection needs to be changed to pure fiction. It's an impossible goal.
When applied to relationships, the demand for perfection almost always leads to disaster and heartache. Unfortunately, most of us have grown up with a fairytale understanding of love relationships. Somehow our partner needs to stem from Disney-like royalty, behave a certain way at all times and be responsible for our happiness.
Life isn't based on fiction, yet oftentimes we live as if the above-mentioned guidelines were real. Truly fulfilling relationships, however, are not based on false beliefs. They are based on the belief that imperfection is a given. What we do with that imperfection is what matters.
With the help of Wabi Sabi Love, we can come to appreciate our own and the other's imperfection, and can actually experience a more natural state of grace than we thought possible.
That's what happened for Brian and me.
How Brian and I Used this Technique - Accidentally
At the very beginning of our marriage, my husband and I decided that our union would be our #1 priority. We promised that our choices would be based not on what I wanted, or what Brian wanted, but on what was ultimately best for our relationship. This shared commitment meant that when there were disagreements and upsets, no one threatened to walk out and both of us would take responsibility for finding a solution.
One of the ways Brian and I learned to add Wabi Sabi to our relationship happened by accident.
One day I found myself ragging him out about God knows what. With my right index finger pointed in his face and my left hand on my hip, I caught myself acting in away I'd always sworn to myself I would never behave. Appalled at myself, I said to him, "The next time I get like this (and unfortunately there will be a next time), you have my permission to gently say to me, 'When did Sheila enter the room'?"
Sheila is my gorgeous, brilliant mother who sometimes can be a bit overbearing. Much to my surprise, Brian said, "OK and when I get a bit too paternalistic, you can call me Wayne (his much beloved father)." In an instant we had found a Wabi Sabi way to diffuse what could have spiraled into an ugly argument.
In the moment of noticing my "overbearingness," I was able to have empathy for what it was like for Brian and he quickly did the same for me. So, rather than let things escalate to World War III, we found a fun, humorous and beautiful way to be together with these code names. To this day we still use "Sheila" and "Wayne" whenever one of us is getting a bit pushy or difficult.
Wabi Sabi Love requires empathy and an ability to turn something that you are judging as bad, wrong or upsetting into a nugget of beauty. As with everything, however, there are a few areas where it doesn't work.
Wabi Sabi should never be used as an excuse for unkind, unloving or bad behavior and it doesn't work when there is addiction or abuse in the relationship. I am not suggesting that we go into denial; getting professional help where needed is essential to break toxic patterns of behavior. Having said that, I believe it's crucial for everyone to learn effective ways to communicate bad feelings in a relationship.
It May Not Be Automatic
Arguments, hurt and frustration are a part of every relationship. Working through core issues is critical and at the beginning, you may not instantly find the "Wabi Sabiness" of certain behavior. None of us is, or ever will be, perfect; however, striving to find Wabi Sabi brings more balance and joy to every relationship. A big dose of humor always helps!
No matter what crazy-making thing your partner is doing, he or she did not intentionally awaken with the thought of wishing to drive you insane today. Just like you, your partner wants to be loved for who he or she is, in spite of his or her shortcomings. Make an effort to let the person know how loveable he or she is, even if some of the behavior is not. Work toward co-creative solutions.
Another great thing about practicing Wabi Sabi Love is that it only takes one person to make a difference. Even if your partner isn't willing to change, that doesn't mean all is lost. By taking personal responsibility for your own happiness, and making space for your partner to be who he or she is, magic can -- and often does -- happen. It's when we are blaming and shaming that no progress can be made.
Periodically Wayne and Sheila still surface, but seventeen years later Brian and I have been able to create a life together that far exceeds my wildest imagination. Despite the times when you vie for the remote and wonder how two seemingly opposite people could ever find long-term bliss, married life does indeed have its fairytale moments. Wabi Sabi Love can help you sustain those moments longer.
Ultimately our willingness to keep communicating our truth, our ongoing commitment to have our relationship be our #1 priority and the openness to try new things has resulted in a giant leap forward in our intimate communion. As Sam Keen so rightly says, "We come to love not by finding a perfect person but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly."
About the Author:
Arielle Ford is a gifted writer and the author of eight books including Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships and the international bestseller, The Soulmate Secret: Manifest The Love of Your Life With The Law of Attraction.
She has been called "The Cupid of Consciousness" and "The Fairy Godmother of Love." She lives in La Jolla, CA with her husband/soulmate, Brian Hilliard and their feline friends.