If your partner took a magic truth potion, how would he or she describe you? What is it like to live with you, day after day? What are the joys and what are the challenges? How do you make life difficult? What habits create friction? What behaviors cause conflict? What tendencies take a toll on love?
The third day of the Naikan Retreat focuses primarily on intimate relationships. During the course of the day you’ll search through those relationships from all angles — from the front door and the back door, through holidays and seasons, vacations and celebrations . . .
You’ll scan your memory for answers to the Naikan questions, in your quest to better understand your partner’s experience (and to recognize the blessings you receive as well).
- What did I receive from my partner?
- What did I give to my partner?
- What troubles and difficulties did I cause to my partner?
In our everyday lives we often defend, rationalize, and explain our behaviors to others and to ourselves. We may explain the context and the extenuating circumstances so that others can understand the truth, as we see it, and can continue to regard us in as positive a light as possible.
But during the retreat, we pause from those efforts in an attempt to get real. We step out of our shoes and into our partner’s, as fully as possible, searching for the truth wherever we can find it. Ironically, our best chance to be a loving and accepting partner is to recognize our own failings, shortcomings and weaknesses. Then we know, once and for all, that we do not deserve a perfect partner. Then gratitude and acceptance can replace judgment and criticism. This is the Naikan recipe for love.
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 20 years.