Many people think that a happy, loving relationship descends upon them by conicidence, because they are lucky, or because they have been blessed by the Gods. Not true! The fact of the matter is that loving and being loved is intentional. It doesn’t happen to the lucky. It happens to the skilled!
When my partner and I got together, we gradually realized two basic things:
- We were soul mates, life partners, twin flames, or, to put it in language that I prefer, a Darn Good Match!
- If we didn’t learn and practice communication skills and new habits other than the ones that we had absorbed from this culture, if we didn’t stay committed to our personal healing processes and work consciously with whatever would be coming up in a self-responsible way, then #1 would be meaningless and this would be another relationship filled with drama and probably not a lasting one.
In other words, meeting the ‘right’ person is no insurance, and no substitute for the soul work of learning healthy, non-violent, intimate relating.
Of course, this wasn’t obvious when we were dating and everything felt like a honeymoon. But, for the first time in our relationship histories, we were both ready to do whatever it took to survive and thrive beyond the honeymoon stage.
We have found that robust intimacy and communication in this crazy world takes practice, practice, practice, and that you don’t need to wait until you meet the right person to start learning or deepening the skills. Here is a roadmap that you may find useful on your relationship journey…
From Here To Maturity
Relationship Stage One – Attraction – "I've gotten into Harvard! I’ve been accepted! I’m on the top of the world!" (and I blame my partner for my joy)
Relationship Stage Two – Friction – Classes begin, homework is assigned, egos bump heads (and I blame my partner for my pain).
Relationship Stage Three – Mature Love – Egos have been sandpapered smooth enough to begin to give our unique partnership gifts to the world. (and I blame God for our joy!)
Relationship Myths (Romantic Balloons And Bubbles That Must Be Busted For Class To Proceed)
- I can get all my needs met by one person…the right person will do that for me.
- The right person will make me happy.
- Having a partner will make my life easier.
- The ease and high of the honeymoon stage should last forever and if it doesn’t this person must not be the ‘one’ for me.
- Being in a relationship will increase my self-esteem and add meaning to my life.
- Being in a relationship will put an end to my loneliness, issues of rejection and feeling abandoned.
Healing Path off Relationships
Unavoidable Relationship Facts:
- Love flushes up anything unlike itself for the purpose of healing and release. Trust the colonic. A relationship will make the unconscious conscious so you can see (and smell) your crap and choose out of it.
- Your partner will tend to treat you the way you treat yourself. That’s a big ‘ouch’ for most of us and a big motivator to make loving and accepting yourself a top priority. James Taylor wrote “You’ve been better to me than I’ve been to myself.” That’s a honeymoon stage fairy tale. In reality, your partner is your mirror, not your savior.
- Conflicts will arise. Prepare for them. Expecting this is wise, not cynical. If you keep your feet on the ground, then relationship won’t bring you to your knees. Have tools to use and agreements in place for when buttons get pushed. Relationship will flush out issues of abandonment and entrapment, encouraging you to stop abandoning yourself, prompting you to drop your masks and outdated survival strategies, and assisting you to learn the delicate dance between autonomy and intimacy, taking care of yourself and caring for someone else.
- A conscious relationship is a spiritual path. The purpose of a spiritual path is to disillusion you (remove you from illusions). Embrace that and you grow into mature love. Resist that and you suffer deeply. Eckart Tolle reminds us that “The purpose of relationships is not to make you happy. It is to wake you up.”
RELATIONSHIP GROWTH IN FOUR CHAPTERS
Chapter 1 – You attract re-enactments of your childhood wounding, i.e. an unavailable alcoholic, a controlling mother, etc. You wonder why life is doing this to you. Where are all the available men? Where are all the good women? When will I be loved?
Chapter 2 – You continue to attract replicas of your history but you are starting to respond in other ways besides victim-hood. You recognize that the universe is out to heal you by helping to bring your unresolved feelings to the surface for resolution, and to give you the opportunity to complete with your past by learning to respond differently, i.e. instead of silently trembling in the dark or acting out in punitive ways (childhood responses), the adult learns to speak up directly and set boundaries or even to say no and walk away.
Chapter 3 – You attract someone who is mostly different from your past but has the potential to act the part if driven in that direction. They become an occasional replica of your history, giving you plenty of practice in responding in other ways besides the limited choices available in childhood.
Chapter 4 – Eventually, you attract someone who is not at all like your controlling mother or your absent father and you occasionally project your childhood story on to them and work through the feelings without full blown suffering and constant drama. What’s relationship about then? It’s about giving and receiving love, celebrating life together, and serving the earth with your feet on the ground.
The Gift of Grief: Fully mourning what you didn’t get in childhood moves you through the chapters and prepares you to be an adult who can bring adult needs and realistic expectations to a relationship.
The Gift of Relationship: It will bring you face to face with your unresolved childhood pain until your grief work is completed.
Stages of Need Fulfillment
- You try to get your needs met unconsciously, using strategies you absorbed from your ancestors and cultural programming, i.e. blaming, seducing, manipulating, and guilt-tripping others into giving to you.
- You practice choosing adult strategies to get your needs met, i.e. asking directly for what you want without demanding it. Also, you are willing to meet your own needs or get them met elsewhere when your partner isn't available. A child has limited choices, an adult always has plenty.
Some Things To Do While You Are Single
- Come to terms with the possibility that you may never have a partner and live life as if it's your complete responsibility to live out your dreams and make yourself happy. Practice the most difficult Yoga posture of all: Standing on your own two feet!
- Spend time upgrading your relationship with yourself, replacing the inner critic self-talk with a gentle, nurturing, loving inner parent. Learn to treat yourself the way you secretly dream of being treated by a soul mate.
- Immerse yourself in the study of communication skills, like Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication. When a relationship comes along and conflicts inevitably arise, you'll need them.
- Make loving yourself and giving your gifts your most important areas of focus. When you get into a relationship and you make it through the honeymoon stage these will remain the two most important ingredients for both your personal happiness and having a non-codependent, healthy relationship…LOVING YOURSELF & GIVING YOUR GIFTS!
- Get to know yourself, what you stand for and what you won't stand for. Learn when to stand firm, and when to be flexible. You'll need it in life, especially in an intimate relationship.
- Walk the path of being single with your head held high. You are learning lessons of self-determination, where you get to determine how you want to live, who you want to include in your life, and what you want to accomplish on this earth. You don’t have the excuse to blame anything on anyone else. You get to fully accept the responsibility for your state in life. Being single is a sacred and valid spiritual path. Walk it with self-respect and dignity.
Scott Kalechstein is an inspirational speaker, modern day troubadour and leader of workshops on relationships and other topics in the United States, Canada, Egypt and Germany. He lives in Marin and can be reached at