In the last 12 months, the world has turned upside down. (Some would say, right –side up, but we’re not going to debate that at this juncture.) With the economy and all that it affects, falling apart, I could be justified in expecting that our perspectives on relationships would also be changing. After all, at times like these, the value and meaning we give our relationships should be so much greater.—Instead, I’m finding it’s just more of the same old stuff. Women complain, as usual, about what their guy did or didn’t do, and how hurt they are; and the men, well, they suppress their feelings and act as if everything is just fine, especially when it isn’t.
It leaves me to wonder: as fundamental as relationships are to our lives, how is it that we haven’t come close to really figuring it out? Why can’t we get them to work the way we want them to work? It seems we haven’t made any real progress at all. We are still hooking up with and marrying the wrong people. Or when we do have the “right” person, it doesn’t quite work the way we want it to.
This amazing woman that I know – she’s highly regarded in her field, a kind and caring friend, great mom, good inside and out – recently, told me about the challenges she was facing with her (equally remarkable) boyfriend. “He doesn’t give me the attention I deserve. It’s always all about him. He just doesn’t know how to treat a woman.” – Sound familiar? She keeps threatening to end things. I’ve seen them together, and it’s clear to me - their souls match beautifully. I pray she does not give up on him and instead gives the relationship a chance to work out for them.
Another friend, married nearly twenty years to a man she does not love or truly respect, routinely laments the lack of fulfillment in her marriage. While she admits that he is a perfectly good and loyal man, he’s not been a “true” husband – not in spirit, nor in everyday matters. They haven’t slept together in many, many months, and even when they have, it is merely mechanics. She’s miserable (and surely so is he), but she said to me, she’s just not willing to make any changes. “It’s going to cost me too much. And it’ll be the same income for two households? And then what will people say, I’d be a total failure?” I pray she finds the courage to be true to her higher self, and take the leap to a better life.
And of course, there are the couples we all know. The ones who don’t really talk any more – there isn’t anything to talk about. The ones who married because they were doing the right (fits the rule book) thing, but who never stopped to think or didn’t know that they would be better off doing the true (fits their souls) thing. They thought they looked good together – their parents and friends may have said so. They may have even thought they were soulmates – though how could they possibly have known, then, what a soulmate felt like. The marriage is not really working, but it’s not bad enough for them to leave, or good enough for them to fix. Tragic! I think. What a waste of life. And what on earth are they modeling for their kids? Oy!
What is it with relationships, we so often get them wrong! And how is it that we have a propensity to give up on the good ones and stick with the crappy ones? I think it’s about control… It’s easier to stay in an unfulfilling, unchallenging, empty relationship if it means we feel in control, and safe, than it is to get out and find something true. And the really good relationships – the ones where the souls match up - those often challenge us to grow. And that doesn’t feel safe, now, does it? No, self growth is hard.
My relationships have been challenging to say the least. And while I sometimes wonder, “Why couldn’t I simply have that perfect guy who would be loving and supportive?” – I know that, at least, my relationships have always ensured that I grow. I think the key for me has been to recognize that relationships are part of my growth mechanism. And they have pushed me into being a stronger, more authentic version of myself.
I am convinced that our relationships with the main players in our lives are almost invariably a mirror of our relationship with ourselves.
Very recently, I was faced with a painful encounter with a dear friend. I was hurt and saddened by what seemed to be a significant insensitivity in response to my very open-hearted position. I couldn’t understand it. How could anyone be so cruel? Why was this happening to me? I didn’t deserve to be hurt like this. As I pondered the situation, it became clear that my pain was directly the result of my un-met expectations. And they were entirely entitled to their position – harsh as it was. So how did I need to change (grow) in order to heal the pain? As I looked deeper into myself, it became clear: the way my friend responded to me was a direct mirror of how I was treating myself. I was hurt because my friend was not being true and honest with me, and when I looked deeper I could see that I was the first culprit. I needed to be truer to myself. I wanted to be acknowledged by my friend, but I needed first to be acknowledging myself. Immediately, as I gave my whole being over to taking proper care of my inner self, sending myself thoughts of love and care, the pain receded. Within hours, something that could have hurt for a very long time was gone.
It’s time for us to come up with new ways to view relationships – ways that really work.
Here are some thoughts:
• Relationships are not only for love, support and enjoyment. Relationships are for growth. They can challenge and beckon us forward to become the person we’re meant to be;
• If we are willing to grow, we can take our relationships to new levels of meaning and love;
• To heal relationships, we must first heal ourselves;
• Empty, un-connected, unfulfilling relationships are for growth too – the growth is to find the courage to get out, and to claim from life a relationship that is true and meaningful.
Everyone’s situation is different, of course, and you may be thinking that I couldn’t possibly understand what you face. But some truths are fairly universal: If you are staying in a relationship out of fear (fear that you may lose face, lose financial security, lose anything) then you should probably get out. If you feel deeply connected to the person but are avoiding or wanting to run away from a relationship because of fear (fear of the unknown) you should probably get in and get fully committed to it.
Yes, the world is falling apart, the financial security blanket has been ripped out of our hands, the rug has been pulled up from under us, and a great opportunity presents itself. This is the perfect time to take a look into the dark corners of our hearts and begin to heal ourselves. It is time, finally, to value yourself, care for yourself, honor yourself, and be true to yourself. Our significant relationships can help us to do this. Pain in these relationships points us back to ourselves and the inner healing we need to do. If we begin to look at our relationships in this new way, instead of being a constant source of discomfort or even trauma, they can be a wonderful support for us on our journey to wholeness.
At the very least, I hope I have provoked you into thinking deeply about your relationships, and perhaps into opening up for some new possibilities in your life. If you would like your questions answered, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers will be anonymously posted to the blog.
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