Here is a tough conflict:
In my teaching, I often share the key principle: Need ≠ Strategy, which is a key in how to connect in conflict.
In September a conflict that was hidden between Nadine (my girlfriend) and me, came to the surface with full power- a tough conflict between 2 central life strategies:
Nadine realized that she really wants a baby. She is 36 and time is ticking. And me, since I was a teenager, I had the clarity: Having children will not be part of my life. My life is about something else. Here is how we navigated it:
Having a baby- Yes or No?
Before sharing this story, I’d like to say that this subject seems to be a very delicate and a controversial one. I am scared of being judged for this very fine exploration we are in. And, I am open to hear your judgments (positive and negative ones) to learn and enlarge my sensitivity and my knowledge about this subject. So:
Each of us had strong reasons behind our wishes, and we saw no way how we can continue together as a couple. It came to the point that one Monday in October, Nadine in a wave of deep pain and despair started packing her stuff, planning to head back to Berlin. It was only a deep cry bursting out of me that held her back (temporarily) in that moment from actually leaving.
So we decided to ask friends to support us in this dialogue. I had a weekend free of teaching in October, so we made some Mediation appointments and we were anxiously looking to it as a final resort.
To tell you the truth, we were both not very hopeful that there would be a way for us to stay together. It was clear- she REALLY wanted a baby. And for me, having a baby symbolized the end of the life I choose to live.
Key: Being in the unknown together:
Starting the Mediation, we declared: we have no attachment to any specific results out of these Mediations. We only knew that we want to meet in honesty, we want to connect and explore the depth of each of us behind wanting/not wanting a child.
We were aware that the conflict is between strategies, and we know (theoretically…) that on the level of needs there are no conflicts, but truly- we didn’t have much hope that a possible new path could appear.
The life projects behind a conflict (=the gift of a conflict):
If a conflict appears between people, it is a sign that something is REALLY important to both of them. ‘Conflict’ is an OPPORTUNITY to meet on those levels of what is most dear to us in life:
Mediation created a space to listen deeply to one another. Each of us in their own turn got the opportunity to dive deep inside with the help of the Mediator to discover: What is in me behind not wanting a child, and what is in her behind wanting a child.
Relatively quickly, we connected to 2 ‘life projects’ (I refer to ‘Life Projects’ as certain core needs that carry an importance as if my whole life is about them):
Mine: I got in touch with how deeply and profoundly important it is to me to live a life I choose (I don’t want to find myself living a life I didn’t choose). My life is an experiment- to follow my body’s choices- what my body says YES to, as different to following any ‘should/have to’ that comes from my mind.
There is not a YES in me for having a child. I love the life I am having, and I do not want to change it.
Nadine: Nadine got in touch with how important it is for her to honor nature. There is a life energy, a movement that wants to pass through her. She didn’t choose to feel this longing.
And she loves Nurturing so deeply. For her, this ‘life movement’ is bigger than ‘wanting it with me’, it is a life movement that is simply happening, and she doesn’t want to betray life by suppressing it. She doesn’t want to kill a part of herself.
When I heard it, I got touched. Especially when I heard that it’s much bigger than wanting it with me- that IT wants to happen. Something shifted in me: Wow it is hers, it is in her. I wish for this movement to happen in her. It has actually little to do with me, it is bigger than me- she would love it if I join this life movement, but it is much bigger, it is HERS.
And more- Sometimes I see Nadine feeling frustrated and searching for her life’s meaning. It is hard for me to see her struggle. Seeing the big smile on her face and the deep relaxation in her body when she spoke about it, gave me hope- hope to see her happy. It is beautiful and relaxing to me. It frees me.
And in amazement, I heard myself saying: “I am open to it!!”
We are both dedicated to care for both of our life projects. So how I can say YES to a baby while being secured that I have the life I choose to live?
Soon, ideas started to come. Ideas that are scary, and that we could not think of before:
It is her life movement, it is her child. One idea to make it official and that gives security to my life project is that the baby will have Nadine’s family name. I am excited to accompanying it in certain parts, and clearly- I am not officially the father!
This brings millions of questions, as this is not ‘the normal way to go’: Will it hurt the child?
Growing up I had this exact same experience- my father was there but he was not there, and it hurt me- I thought I am not interesting for him, and deeper- that I am not an interesting person- it stimulated a deep believe in me and I struggled years with finding my sense of self-value. It scares the shit out of me to repeat this same experience and to hurt a child. I much prefer not having a child than hurting a child.
At the same time, I do clearly remember that my father never explained it to me (only years later I heard it from my Mom that before giving birth to us, he said to her that children are her project, and she chose it). I do have a certain confidence that I can offer clarity, honesty and transparency to the child in a way that will not leave her/him with painful stories as if s/he is not welcome/not wanted/not valued. That me not being her/his father, is not in anyway because of who s/he is, but was a clear choice before s/he came into being. Can I be sure that I will manage? No.
And I trust deeply that the child of Nadine will be highly fortunate to have her as a mother.
It seems to be quite complicated- to live together while I am not the official father and while the baby has my genes…: Can we hold it like that? What does it mean for Nadine to be a mother by herself while having a partner who carries the same genes as the baby but might chose to be involved very little or not at all? Will there be hidden expectations and blame in her or will she be happy?
Will this work for me or will I feel pressure or guilt?
There are many details to reflect upon, to feel into, to get clear about. we want it to be caring for all of us- caring for Nadine and her life project, caring for me and my life project and caring for a human being that we both want to be deeply welcomed into this world with love.
It is a completely unknown territory to us and there is no map to follow. We find ourselves in the lab of life experimenting and we are still not sure if we want to proceed. We are taking the time it needs and
I have no idea where we are going to.
However, it feels exciting, honest and connecting. And both of us are in full integrity, and, with a sigh of relief we continue walking together.
With care for life, and for life projects,