Romantic relationships can be wonderful to experience, but they also have a way of putting us through hell. What makes them so painful? And how can we heal a relationship and find them less challenging?
Ultimately, I think most of the pain in romantic relationships comes from the battle of living with attachment to one’s painful deep wounds of trying to be someone worthy of love, versus just loving what is. We really run into problems when we sacrifice our authentic expression for the sake of not creating a rift with a loved one.
We feel a pressure inside ourselves — sometimes very low grade, sometimes very intense — to present ourselves as “easy,” “loving,” or exactly what our partner wants us to be, so we can be loved and not rejected. But the truth is that we cannot shape ourselves in a way that is uniformly awesome to our mates.
Understanding the Masculine-Feminine spectrum
We are all very different, and the old “Mars vs. Venus” challenges affect us all. We each inhabit a spot along the masculine-feminine spectrum. Sexual magnetism comes from the polarity between where you are on that spectrum and where your mate is. And your particular position on that spectrum defines the way you speak, think, and interact within a relationship.
In general, over on the masculine side of the spectrum, people tend to let their actions speak –– they are motor-skills based. Moving around space is their basic fluency, and therefore action speaks volumes to them. But over on the feminine side of the spectrum, people are relationship-based. Their fluency is in reading all that a person communicates, regardless of the conscious or unconscious nature of the communication.
The mismatch between these two communication styles leads to problems. For example, take the typical “he didn’t call me” scenario. From a masculine perspective, not calling might seem like a very clear action, wordlessly stating; “I am not available, so go on with your plans without me.” But from a feminine perspective, not actually calling communicates many things:
“Is he not calling me because he thinks I am mad?
“Is he not calling because he doesn’t think much of me?”
“Did he forgot the time? Did he lose his phone?”
“Maybe he’s having a spiritual awakening?”
“Do I need to try and reach him?”
Now we’re at the root reason why the feminine becomes hooked on the potential of a mate. Clearing away potential communicating energy is particularly difficult for them, as is focusing on the real-time actions of the person.
On the other hand, the masculine tends to get very easily hooked on image, or the surface-level first impression of a person. Their challenge is in noticing the deeper aspects of personality and values.
And so, we tend to miss what really counts at least some of the time, no matter which side of the spectrum we inhabit.
In the “no phone call” example, the feminine will wait for more communication and continue to project all kinds of various meanings if there isn’t simple, clear communication. Importantly, she will be somewhat occupied by this, instead of moving on with her desired action. And the actions of the feminine, therefore, remain rather unclear to the masculine.
Here’s where the trouble really sets in. Because down the line, the feminine starts to get very depleted and feels like her needs are not being met. Down that same line, the masculine starts to feel like there is no pleasing anyone. He’ll decide to just look after himself and begin to shut down connection with his loved one.
Thus, the feminine in a relationship will do well to try to interpret the actions of the situation. This means facing the facts, looking at reality (the right-now, present moment actions), considering her own actions and the actions of others, and just being aware of the pure act in itself without the filter of communication.
By the same token, the masculine will do well to actually communicate –– to put words to their actions. The difficilty lies in exposing actions with words continually, but it’s needed. Just say what you feel and need and want, without the filter of the action.
Baring our authentic self
Both sides require stepping up, but most of us have very immature relationship skills. Most humans have all kinds of fear in the way of resolving to change, because it exposes our authentic self.
Secretly, we all fear our authentic self is not worthy or lovable.
Irony abounds in the truth that this very fear creates dysfunctional, toxic relationships. In this space, we have very little communication around personal boundaries and very little personal freedom within our relationships. This fear also blocks our access to even knowing what we feel, want and need. Or knowing what profoundly unconditional, ever-present love feels like.
In my practice, as a non-dual spiritual teacher, I tend to focus on community as much as I focus on specific tools for transformation. I do this because I think we heal more quickly and thoroughly if we do it alongside others. But community works best when we learn how to be alone, together. You must figure out how to be authentic, revel in your own flow, in your own space, coming and going as you please, in your own rhythm… All the while being with others. And they will be moving to their authentic rhythm. That is really the only thing that supports the act of relinquishing all of the hiding, distracting, and repressing that habitually comes up when you connect with others.
What a relationship shouldn’t be
I’m sure you sense what I am building to here:
Relationships don’t have to be an endless challenge, where you are learning all the time. Instead, they can be a refuge of peace.
Relationships don’t require compromise, lessons, and constant growth to work. Instead, they can be places where opposing values are awesome.
Relationships don’t have to really be about high levels of trust and attachment. Instead, they can be places where it’s spacious enough to hate one another, or get all involved in something or someone your loved one hates, or even at times be uninterested in one another.
How to have an authentic relationship
Our intimate relationships can be the perfect ground to express authentic boundaries and be loved and honored for them. Couples can learn to base decisions on consensus. For example, what is totally right for you is what we want. What is totally right for me is what we want. Even if these are diametrically opposed.
But shifts such as this don’t happen overnight, because unless your childhood home mirrored this dynamic, you are not wired for it. The shift only comes once you start stepping up for it.
First, you need to be willing to actually hear yourself — to listen for what is true for you, to your gut feeling or intuition. We need to stop ignoring and muting these feelings in ourselves. Then, you can start seeing the facts, seeing what is true in the present moment. That doesn’t mean what is true in your head –– the mental rant. And it doesn’t mean youur emotions are always true. Instead, learning to sense the present reality of the situation is key.
For example, let’s say you’re angry. The story in your head might be that your lover is making you angry, that he/she is crazy, and that you need to get away from them now. None of that is true.
What is true?
Anger warns you when someone’s crossing your boundaries. And if you look at the reality of the moment, you can see that you didn’t do what you wanted. You didn’t make the best choice for yourself. Or maybe you didn’t speak for what you truly wanted. Perhaps you might not have even listened to what it was you really wanted.
Communication isn’t the full solution here, although that is part of it –– I feel like we all need to be improving our conscious communication skills anyway! But your anger’s source comes from losing your authenticity in the moment –– exposing the gap between what you really want and what you are actualizing.
Three ways that you can lose your authenticity:
- Being less than totally honest with yourself
- Being less than totally authentic in the world
- Not allowing others to be totally honest and authentic.
So how can we create a conscious relationship? The first step is just to be aware of when we are not being totally honest with ourselves. (Note: I said ourselves, not others. Lying is sometimes the best course of action. This feels especially true with parents, the law, and so on. Of course, you can also lie to others while still being totally honest with yourself.)
Just being aware is plenty. To be totally conscious that you are being less than authentic with yourself is a major step. Be mindful with no need to change or be different, and no expectation to do better.
The second step encourages you to become aware of why you weren’t being authentic.
And finally, the third step allows you to figure out if and how you could have approached the situation differently. Primary, the work here lies in time spent alone with a journal.
Just these three beginning steps will give you a very helpful new perspective on how to heal a relationship. Need some support with the rest of the steps? Seek out the course: Fear Your Mind to find your authentic Self.
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