Steering a Relationship on the Rocks

Steering a Relationship on the Rocks

Relationship on the rocks? If your relationship is a ship, the ego acts as a lookout. But it’s the spirit that captains it.

I like to describe the ego’s job as the protector. Employing a nautical metaphor, this part of us is the lookout who stands on the bow of our relationship and frantically yells, “Iceberg!” when it sees trouble ahead. An alert to anything that threatens to dash our love boat is useful information, for sure. However, when the Iceberg Guy is scared, he becomes erratic and impulsive and wants to grab the wheel. But he isn’t trained in navigation and not the guy you want haphazardly steering the ship.

A Job for Captain Spirit

That should be left to Captain Spirit—the wise one who strategizes the best course of action in alignment with the ship’s circumstances, capabilities, and destination. This captain is creative, calm, responsible, steadfast, and quite capable of steering a relationship on the rocks out of harms' way.

The problem is that the ego—Iceberg Guy—thinks it knows how to protect the ship best. After all, he’s the one who saw the iceberg (or rocky shore, or any number of other hazards). The ego’s strategy is always to blame the iceberg for being in the way and to expect the iceberg to move. So, it typically steers right toward it and angrily blames the iceberg when the collision happens.

[Read "Signs of an Ego Battleship Instead of a Relationship."]

The Spirit, on the other hand, accepts that the iceberg is where it is; it realizes that the only way to save a relationship on the rocks is a course correction and takes responsibility to make one.

In addition, the ego often waits to react until the iceberg looms large right in front of the ship. Consequently, this requires a monumental effort to steer the ship out of harms' way, limiting the ability to do so unscathed.

Captain Spirit’s course of action is to look ahead, plot a course, see potential icebergs in the distance, and strategize with wisdom. Thus, with the slightest advance adjustment to the course, the Spirit can avoid the problems entirely with little or no drama.

Who’s in Charge of Steering Your Ship?

I invite you to consider which part of yourself you’re allowing to run your relationships. Notice if you wait until your situation is desperate before you seek help or decide to change course. Notice if you blame others for being the way they are and expect them to change rather than altering your responses to them in order to bring about different results. Notice if you blame, control, or yell, act in a passive-aggressive manner, or are withdrawn, revengeful, desperate, jealous, possessive, distrusting, dishonest, or judgmental. These are all the erratic behaviors of the ego in a misguided attempt to steer the ship. Then, notice how well that is (or isn’t) working for you.

Mindfulness and responsibility are what moves the locus of control from the Iceberg Guy to Captain Spirit.

In order to lead your relationships to safer and smoother waters, begin to be mindful of these two distinct parts of your crew.

  • Notice. Stop to remember what your destination is and which way you are actually heading. What do you truly want? What are you doing, saying, and thinking? Are those choices leading you toward the destination of a healthy, harmonious relationship? Are you expecting others to move or change in order for you to get where you want to go, or do you see that you’re the one responsible for making changes?
  • Take a deep breath and put your Captain Spirit in charge. Your spirit is wise, intuitive, creative, responsible, compassionate, understanding, discerning, and present. A mere intention, along with a deep breath, can switch the control from ego to spirit.
  • Then choose your next thoughts, words, and actions in alignment with your destination.

Once I read a passage in a spiritual book and I loved it. It said, “Hold fast to the pillar of God.” I meditated on that metaphor.

Later that day, I was down at the harbor waiting for my boat captain husband to come in from his charter (yes, now you see why I was drawn to the nautical metaphor!). I was leaning against a pole by the dock when I remembered the passage I had read. I reached up and grabbed onto the pole as a symbolic gesture of holding onto the “pillar of God.” I then wondered what the sign said at the top of it and couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I read: “Never Leave Your Vessel Unattended.” Indeed, sage advice for steering relationships in the right direction.

Rocky relationship? Learn how couples can secure attachment by thinking like anchors.

Enjoying this content?

Get this article and many more delivered straight to your inbox weekly.