You know how we all receive emails forwarded by someone who received it from someone who received it from someone else…? Some of these emails I delete right away, or I give up halfway through reading them. The article I am using for this newsletter is one of the email gems that I occasionally receive and do read. I wanted to share this one with you because I love the message it puts forth. Although it’s written with the theme of parenting, I think the underlying message is applicable to relationships with our significant other. This article, originally titled, The Necessary White Spaces, was written by Sarah Anderson for a publication called Orange Parents.
‘In Judaism, they teach the idea when it comes to the text of Scripture, that the words are black fire on white fire. From what I understand, the concept suggests the actual words on the page say something—but so does the white space between the words. There is as much to learn from the black ink as the white gaps. There is the study of God’s holy word–and there is the study of God’s holy silence. It is the background. It is the stuff that you can’t put words to, but exists and is necessary to make the visible words more poignant and rich.
There are days when it feels like I am the white space in my kids’ lives. They can’t name what I do. They can’t put words to the ways I am making their days run smoothly, their night times happen effectively, their worlds comfortable. My role is so often defined by the things that can’t be defined. For this reason, the hazard in parenting is to wake up one day wondering where we went. We end up feeling invisible. Overlooked. Like the background to a story we once felt central to, but no longer matter in.
This is the risk in parenting.
That we begin to believe our selfless acts are for nothing.
That the load of laundry being started just shy of midnight is unappreciated.
That the lunches packed to each child’s preference is not valued.
That the driving to and from school, and then to and from practice, and then to and from whatever next, is insignificant.
That the routine becomes so commonplace to the ones it is for, they will come to value what we do more than who we are.
That is the risk.
But I think the Jewish tradition is on to something. The white space, though un-definable, though boundless and intangible, is so very necessary for the black ink. Jewish tradition suggests that the words tell us something, but the space between gives meaning. In the details and monotony, in the routine and habit of parenting, is the backbone to the families we are raising. We may sometimes get lost in the sprouting out and growing up of our children, but our quiet work behind them, around them, for them is what is allowing them to grow into who they were meant to be.’
So if you think about this in relation to your partner, this is often what is in the background of a successful relationship. The white space, not just the words, that hums away in the background and that gives meaning to our relationships. The little and big things we do to keep our partner’s life running smoothly, our relationship running smoothly, and that don’t always get noticed by your partner.
A truly healthy relationship is one which supports and inspires the growth of each partner. As the article says, that allows each partner to grow into who they are meant to be. The gift of a healthy relationship is to be able to achieve this with the support of a partner, both outward support and the support that occurs in the white space between words.
This article helps to remind us to be mindful of this unspoken support and thankful for its presence.