The degree to which we are present in a relationship may vary. You are technically “there” whenever you’re in the same room with your partner. However, sometimes you are “more there” than other times. The card PRESENCE encourages you to reflect on this subtle yet vital dimension of relating.

When was the last time you were in a situation where you felt less than fully present? Various things can induce an urge to withdraw. Do you try to avoid getting upset? Do you find it hard to handle certain feelings expressed by others – say, anger, pain, fear, sadness, or resentment? Do you become less present if you are holding something back from a partner?

These questions point to a few situations where we may become less available to our partner. We withdraw – either emotionally or physically. We may wait for that “right time” to talk, which never comes. In essence, we are waiting for the problem to go away by itself!

This card suggests that if you reduce your presence in such situations, it may increase your problems. Whenever you are less present, you are less able to deal with a situation. If you are trying to avoid something, it has control over you. Only when you are willing to show up – and be fully present – can you start to truly deal with what is happening.

This doesn’t mean that you must always stay present. It is okay to leave a situation to gain some perspective or to better deal with your own feelings. But at a certain point, if you want to constructively resolve things, you will need to return and be present.

The first step in being present is to simply accept that a given situation does exist – whatever it is. Accepting it does not mean that you have to like it or feel good about it. Simply accept the fact that it is happening – and that no amount of blame, criticism, judgment, or figuring it out is going to change that fact. Just start where things actually are in the here and now.

Next, ask yourself, “Do I truly have to withdraw from this situation?” We often try to avoid things that we learned to avoid in childhood. We do this out of habit. But it may not be necessary for us to react the same way now, as adults. We now have far more resources than we did in childhood. If we want, we can learn to expand beyond our immediate reactions in any situation – and find new ways to respond.

The card PRESENCE questions whether you really need to withdraw today. Granted, it takes courage to remain present around feelings we tend to avoid in others. It can take courage to feel certain feelings ourselves. To discuss with a partner what is deeply true for us can be exceedingly difficult. To hear them share something can be just as hard. Respect the courage it takes to overcome a long habit of withdrawing.

Learning to be more present is like giving birth – never an easy thing to do! But in learning to be more available when you would normally withdraw, you do give birth. You give birth to new and previously unseen options. You give birth to increased resourcefulness and richer aliveness. You give birth to the sharing of deeper trust, fulfillment, and joy in all your relationships.