Written by: Christianna Burkee & Peter Harrison
I was raised to be incredibly independent and strong willed. At fourteen, I had my first job, and at six, I wanted to be a world-renowned percussionist. I am eternally grateful for the drive and passion I grew up with. However, years later in the context of relationship, it more than less held me back. I always found myself to be the “fixer.” Just doing things myself because if I did, it’d be done the right way, and if I’m in control nothing bad can happen…right? Wrong.
Years later, and 9 months into a sweet relationship with a charming Irishman named Peter, we kept finding ourselves wondering why we seemed stuck walking in circles on a path of disconnection. We’d be incredible one month, battling the next. Head over heels one week, desperate for help the following. We never could quite pin-point the reason we fell into these patterns, until the anxiety and stress of my Miss Independence had a melt down, and I broke completely.
It turns out, I was leading the relationship... and the pain and stress of carrying it welled up inside of me, to the point where my body physically couldn’t handle the anxiety any longer. I collapsed, and began to weep uncontrollably. Peter came over and held me on the floor as I released what I had been holding onto for 9 months…the control. I cried out, “I can’t lead this relationship any more! I can’t do this!”
He cradled me and whispered hushes and I love you’s into my ear. It all came to a dead silence when he said, “It’s okay, honey, you weren’t supposed to carry the weight of this.”
Right then it hit us. The entire time we had been in a role-play that needed a drastic reversal. I was leading the ship and he was co-captain…having a voice, but never having a say. We were doing relationship in one another’s shoes and the walk was just too clumsy.
As we sat in utter shock of one another and in awe of the revelation, it was as if an entirely new relationship fell into our laps and we began afresh. I learned how to step back and respect, while he was liberated to lead and love well.
Since the role reversal, and after many more discussions...we've compiled some bullets on our insight of how to love each other well. Peter, from his side, and myself from mine. We are desperate to share these nuggets with you, and hope you'll feel the love. So here we are now, on the other side of the fence, and we must admit, the grass is quite green here.
FOR MEN: LOVE YOUR WOMAN
Written by: Peter Harrison
Giving her chocolates and flowers is quite thoughtful. But if that is the only thing a woman wanted or needed, then it would be easy for guys to do, right? In my relationship, the goals are connection, love and growth. When we have a deep connection we feel like we can overcome anything together. Christianna always wants to be close, not necessarily in the sense of proximity, but emotionally. She needs to feel safe in my willingness to draw near to her and open up with what is really going on inside me. I’ve discovered she doesn’t want to be fixed by my problem solving capabilities… no matter how right I am. I’ve learned to listen up and understand her heart, because that’s how she feels secure in my ability to let her be herself, and it provides a clear channel for more openness and communication between the two of us. Whenever I tell my girl that I choose her, she gets all funny on the inside. She needs to know my loyalty to her. It wasn’t enough for me to show Christianna how much I love her. I learned to break out of my box and tell her how much I love her, adore her, cherish her, choose her, and want to be with her. Honor shows women their value. So, if I want to have a thriving relationship, I must choose to honor and cherish her. She’s my woman and it’s my responsibility to love her. I’ve learned to play my role as the man who leads, challenges, and uplifts my girlfriend with loving communication.
FOR WOMEN: RESPECT YOUR MAN
Written by: Christianna Burkee
Notice I didn’t say, “love” your man? Love is a part of the equation and a necessary part that is. But what I have found, and what may come as a shock to you, is that the key to making your man feel loved is:
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (just a little bit)
In the scenario of relationships, respect a lot of the time looks like allowing him to lead. Now, allowing your man to “lead” can be more terrifying a thought to some women than jumping out of a flying airplane. But trust me, coming from a highly independent, do it yourself, fixer…sí se puede, girlfriend. I have discovered that it’s not weak to step behind your man and allow him to lead. It’s incredibly powerful and loving to submit to a position of respect, that allows Peter the freedom to guide me. I still have a say and I still have a voice, but if I don’t give my man the space to be my man, he will shut down out of fear of being stomped on, and in turn, I’ll have no space to be loved. Consequently, the disconnection begins.
To respect is to admire someone deeply for their qualities, abilities and achievements. When I tell Peter how great he’s doing, how kind he treats people, and how proud I am of him, there’s a wall that breaks down around his heart that compels him to bring me closer. When I call out the good stuff, and when I respect what he does to provide for me (big or small), it feeds that tiny part of him that is often overlooked by others. What I choose to do in respecting him points toward him being powerful. Respect disarms question and invites trust, naturally inspiring him to love me, which in turn, reignites my desire to respect him.
We’ve been through alot and we look forward to more, because when you’re a team, obstacles become your greatest opportunities. Our prayer is that love can be love, and relationships can be a place of freedom, not confinement. We want you to be free; we want you to be loved…and in the midst of it all, to feel the peace of knowing how you’re meant to fit together.
“It’s good to feel safe in the role that we were made for.”– Peter