Of all the things we do, relationships vex us the most. They cause us no end of pain and frustration. We want them, yet we’re afraid to be vulnerable. Sooner or later every relationship we have will either fall apart or test us, and when this happens it hurts a great deal. Sometimes we are wiser for the experience, sometimes not. But the important question is, why do relationships fall apart and fail? There is nothing inherent in the concept of relationship that requires them to periodically self-destruct, or is there?
If we were to define a good relationship we would use words like compassion, caring, sharing, openness, etc. And actually a good relationship doesn’t ask a lot of us – really little more than to show up with integrity, to listen, and to be compassionate. And that is the critical difference between Good and Not-So-Good relationships. Relationships don’t fall apart because of those qualities.
A Good relationship is like crystalline water: pure, uncontaminated and free from the crass considerations that affect things outside of it. A Good relationship transcends emotional issues (this is important). You probably have a really good relationship that will always be there. Not a lot needs to be said and if you separate from this person for a while, you’ll pick up right where you left off. A good relationship will not present problems because a good one, by definition, precludes self-centered motives.
Relationships fail because the people involved sacrifice the relationship for their personal ends. The truth is, relationships don’t fail, we fail our relationships. Few people come into relationship with clean hands. We come sincerely wanting the connection but most often also needing something. Our neediness makes us willing to trade intimacy or friendship to be accepted or taken care of. Part of us is not there for the relationship. This part of us is afraid to be alone. It needs to feel loved, to feel accepted, and to validated or blot out inner pain and loneliness.
A need (as opposed to a want) burdens a relationship. And it is a burden that no healthy relationship will carry for very long. When we come into a relationship from need, we are operating from the fear we are not good enough and we are not lovable or worthy. We also carry the fear of being hurt or rejected. In a relationship built on need, instead of opening to the other person, we step in only partway and manipulate the relationship to get what we need. Guess what happens?
Being in a relationship with someone like that is like dealing with a ghost. You feel as though you are constantly walking on marbles. They hold back, they do not commit freely and openly to the mutual space. It is what is called a “high maintenance” relationship. And the worst part of all is that no one receives true intimacy. We get a manufactured, tinny substitute.
I want to make an important distinction at this juncture. From time to time, we all use our relationships as emotional crutches. They are invaluable for helping us get through the pain and difficulties of life that sometimes overwhelm us. But when the dependency continues beyond a certain period, the relationship becomes unhealthy. It makes life much harder than it needs to be, and it hurts everyone. Semi-permanent neediness is what defines an unhealthy relationship. The neediness in us is like the submerged part of an iceberg. Like a relationship, the iceberg can be beautiful on the surface, but the hidden part can sink even a great ship like the Titanic.
Just like a drug, a relationship can make you feel good for a time; but, regardless of what you desire, a relationship cannot make you feel lovable, it cannot emotionally protect you and it cannot touch your feelings of inadequacy. However, people spend entire lifetimes trying to get those things from their relationships. It’s exhausting! And, a relationship that is burdened by individual needs will end up hurting everyone involved: you for doing it and them for letting you do it. This is because you both have something to work on.
Bumps in relationship are not accidental. Relationships are our greatest teachers. When you enter a relationship with a manipulative or needy agenda, The Universe cannot permit that to go unnoticed. It is obliged to make you aware of what you are doing – we call these events “problems.” This is how The Universe reflects back to you what you need to work on. Your heart is not open, you are living in some aspect of fear and The Universe’s job is to make you aware of what you are doing. This is the mechanism of unworthiness at work. It guarantees that the relationship will bump. If you withhold love (from self or others), which is what fear and neediness are, you guarantee that the Universe will bring what you are doing to your attention. Actually, it isn’t a reflection of personal failure at all, it is just The Universe’s way of showing you that your beliefs need some attention. And the simple truth is, if it didn’t hurt, you wouldn’t likely pay attention to it – admit it.
You can either view this situation as an adversary or as a learning opportunity. When most people hit a bump in relationship, they immediately assume it is a reflection of their personal inadequacy and move into a defensive posture. No one likes being reminded of the places where they contract and hold back from others, so we naturally resist. That’s when the self-recrimination and the downward spiral begins. For some people, the shame is too great and they withdraw to lick their wounds. Others seek to control the situation by manipulating the other, or lash out in rage filled self-defense. When the defensive pattern is mutual, we call this an argument. I ask you to consider the difference between a discussion, even a heated one, and an argument. In a discussion, information and points of view are shared. There is a flow of information. The focus is on the issues.
Arguments have none of that. It’s one person versus the other. The focus is on creating leverage and on defense. It is really my scared kid against your scared kid, each one terrified of being hurt (again). Ever notice how little gets accomplished by an argument? Arguments can blow off steam and diffuse built-up resentments, but it’s a kind of brinksmanship that exacts a heavy price. It’s a way to see if the other will accept our inadequacies without our having to expose them, but it’s a hell of a way to handle a life. Unfortunately it’s what most of us know, because that’s what we grew up with.
An alternative that you might try is to refuse to argue. Since it takes two, what would happen if you said, “I love you, but I am not going to do this with you. What you are feeling is important and I don’t want to try and deal with it when we are both upset.” I know that can be difficult to do in the midst of a heated moment, but try this mantra: “I am not here to fight with you.”
As far as your own stuff is concerned, recognize is that you are in this situation because you haven’t wanted to look at your fear. Otherwise you would not be having a relationship “problem”. So take your focus off of “them.” Even though you want to feel like a martyr and maybe what they did to you was terrible, let it go. You are not ever going to like what they did, and there is little that you can do about their behavior at the moment, anyway. The pain you feel is not from them, it is your resistance to seeing something in yourself. The Universe has just caused the other person to go through a great deal of trouble to bring this to your attention, so don’t shut it down. The other person needs to work on their side of this issue, and that is the perfection of the process, but that’s a discussion for another time. This is about you. You are being given an opportunity to work on the core reason you came to earth. If you don’t take this opportunity, it will just come around again with more force – it must.
Sometimes it is necessary to deconstruct the issue and work through originating causes and supporting issues. It can be a long and involved process and it’s the subject of my book, Healing The Shadow and the accompanying Shamanic Journey CD. There is a more direct method that works sometimes for some people. It shortcuts the long process, but you must practice it religiously and dedicate your life to the Universal Principle to:
Good, bad, scary, sweet, disruptive or harmonious, the goal is to learn to love the process. No ifs, ands or butts, just simply love everything and everyone. You don’t have to like what they did, in fact you won’t. The process can’t work if you feel good about what happened! But if you work at it, you can learn to appreciate the powerful opportunity for change contained in even the most difficult and trying of circumstances. If you will conscientiously practice Loving Everything, you will make major steps toward your journey home. By the way, we generally think of closing our hearts in relation to other people, but the person you close your heart the most to is yourself. It is your worst relationship and it is the one most in need of repair. Once you get it re-established, it is likely that your relationship with God will be next.
So here’s the practice: As you sit there, get in touch with your feelings about either the person who hurt you, or you can just feel your damaged self. Either will work. Recognize that the reason it hurts is that you are hanging on to an old fear. What they did wasn’t OK, but the hurt is yours. It is from your past. Go inside and find the wounding or the feelings of unworthiness that this situation brought to the surface. Don’t think about them; don’t get involved in some internal discussion about the situation. Just find the place where you feel unworthy – that is what this whole business was about anyway – and bring your love, bring God’s love, to that place. Don’t think about your feelings, don’t judge yourself, just find the spot and bring love to it. You don’t have to understand what’s happening, it’s not logical in the first place. Just hold love for that wounded, hurt part of yourself. Try and stay with it until you feel a shift. If you do this practice several times each day, and do this earnestly, your life will change.
If you have trouble doing this exercise, then you will want to do the longer Shamanic Journey Process explained in Healing The Shadow to disentangle the old pain and move it our of your system. It’s not fun, but healing never is. The benefit is that for the first time in your life you begin to live in the light and that’s a welcome change, no matter what else is going on.
copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2016