“Every relationship is destined for destruction.”
When he said this to me, I flinched. You see, I believe in love and commitment and happily ever after. At least that is what I was taught to believe. So you can imagine that telling me that every relationship is doomed to fail is traumatic. Especially when it comes from the person I chose as my life partner.
But now I see how it is absolutely true. As a culture we have an idealized and romanticized version of love. (Picture a young, beautiful couple riding horseback through a meadow. Yes, that is a real television commercial.)
We are a culture that runs from discomfort, hides from our deepest truths and rationalizes our feelings.
Little wonder that love - messy, wonderful, unpredictable and true love - eludes us. We sign up for love online, search it out in bars and join meet up groups forever hopeful that we will find our one and only “soul mate”.
WHY WE FAIL AT LOVE
Sorry, it’s not going to happen that way. Why? What keeps us in these spirals of crashing relationships is our misunderstanding of the essential nature of love. We only know the kind of love that we have been sold.
We have an option of two love stories. First, the one where the prince finds the princess and they live happily ever after. Or we can choose the tragic love story where lovers die together in an eternal embrace. Yes, there are variations in between but our mythology on love drives us toward one version or the other – repeatedly.
This kind of human love is based on need, wanting and lack.
It’s the silent message that we are not enough and therefore undeserving of love.
Our need to have someone, the need to love or be loved, is what compromises true love. When based on need there is always a void to fill. We ask our partner, no, we demand from our partner, that they fill this void. We are not even aware that this is what we are asking of the other. If there is an emptiness it is our own responsibility to make ourselves whole, not the other person’s responsibility.
We don’t recognize our own void so we keep searching out there for relief, not for love.
True love has its origin in the Self. This kind of Self Love connects us to our divine origin. Self Love is a recognition that not only are we enough, but we are more than our human condition. We are unlimited beings born of the stardust of the universe. There is no void to fill, no emptiness to frighten us into the arms of another. When we recognize our own divine origin we are able to see the same in others who reflect back to us our essence. That reflection in another tells us that we are alive and present in life, a vital, creative force that is beyond our mental limitations.
So what causes us to fail at love?
We seek to become one with our divine origin and that is singular, very personal and an individual lifelong process. As each person strives for wholeness conflict inevitably arises. It may show up as not feeling valued by the other partner or feeling resentful that the other is not present to us in some way. It has less to do with the other person than our feelings about ourselves.
This resentment of not being valued originates in not valuing ourselves enough to get our needs met so we can continue growing and evolving toward wholeness. It means we must address those issues hiding in the shadows. We must shift to interpreting our discomfort as a learning edge.
A lack of awareness about our own shadow projection may pull a couple apart if left unaddressed or misunderstood. Knowing that every relationship has the imminent potential for destruction makes us pay attention to the quality of that relationship and thoughtfully and purposefully serve the relationship to avoid that destruction.
It may seem like I am saying that the fear of the potential destruction of the relationship holds the relationship intact. That is not what I mean.
It is the awareness that the individual drive for unity and wholeness puts us in a position to destroy the very thing we love if we do not understand that our impulse for individuation is at play.
Understanding this keeps us from blaming our partner as we see in him/her the projection of what we are seeking to gain that wholeness. The outside world also imposes its influences on us pulling us away from our essential selves and from each other. We must recognize the pull of these inner and outer forces. To be in a true relationship means to respect each person’s individuation process, to serve as a mirror for one another’s process and to nurture the connection that is a partnership of two people. This lack of awareness of our own individuation process is the root cause of countless failed relationships.
“Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music… And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.” ~ Kahlil Gibran, On Marriage, The Prophet
THE KEY TO TRANSFORMATIVE RELATIONSHIPS
In The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects Our Relationships the author, John B. Sanford, writes about an ancient Greek myth where the original human beings were round and spherical with two faces looking opposite ways. The gods acting out of fear split the spheres in order to reduce their power. The spheres fell apart into two halves, the masculine and feminine.
“Ever since then, so the story goes, the two severed parts of the original human being have been striving to unite.“ He goes on saying, “…each man contains the reflection of a woman, and vice versa…"
Carl Jung referred to this quest for wholeness in his writings on individuation. He refers to these opposites as anima (feminine) and animus (masculine). These are the invisible partners in a love-based relationship. They reside within each individual, reflected back to us by our partners. This reconciliation of opposites assists us in our personal quest for wholeness, a quest to return to unity and our divine nature.
When we begin to see each other as a reflection of ourselves, we acknowledge both our feminine and masculine aspects regardless of our gender.
We are able to be in relationship with another supporting each other towards wholeness. We no longer blame one another instead we begin to see our conflicts as projections of our shadow in the other. We can engage an inner dialogue with ourselves to evolve and transform and an outer dialogue with our partner for understanding and support.
This transformation moves us out of a desperate need to be loved back to our path of personal evolution towards wholeness. We can begin to experience a deeper love based on Self Love – together. Through our relationship with our partner we can engage the conversation with our true nature, bringing sacredness into the partnership as a foundation for our mutual conscious evolution.
FINDING THE RIGHT PARTNER
How do we find the right partner to help us evolve? Essentially, we must first learn to partner with our opposite within. If I am a woman, I must first engage a conversation with my masculine aspect. If I am a man, I must engage a conversation with my feminine aspect. To find the right partner we must get acquainted with the opposite aspect, nurturing and loving that aspect of ourselves that has been diminished when spirit becomes embodied in a human being with a particular gender. We must seek the strength that is found in creating harmony within.
One way to think about this is to view this as an energetic exchange. The masculine energy can be interpreted as an active, forward moving energy. We see this in our culture as a bias for action, decisiveness, and assertiveness. The feminine energy can be interpreted as a receptive, inviting energy. In our culture this shows up as listening, nurturing, and empathy. Men can nurture their feminine aspect by practicing empathy. Women can nurture their masculine aspect by standing up for themselves confidently.
To find the partner that can support you on your quest for wholeness, look for someone who is in touch with their opposite aspect and can engage the outer dialogue that supports you on your journey. You’ll notice if they are comfortable with their opposite aspect in their language and in their actions. If you have done the inner work on reconciling your own masculine/feminine aspect you will energetically attract someone who senses this in you.
Self Love is generated by this inner harmony. You are enough. There is no need, wanting or deficiency. You are ready to invite a relationship based on love, not relief.
“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth ‘You owe me'. Look what happens with a love like that.” ~ Hafiz
FIVE PRACTICES TO EVOLVE TOGETHER IN LOVE
1. Continue on your quest for wholeness, seeking the harmony between the masculine and feminine and human and spiritual being. Take a stand for your personal evolution and ask for your partner to support you in your quest as you commit to supporting your partner.
2. When conflict arises, change your questions. Ask, “What disowned part of myself am I projecting on my partner?” “Where am I not being compassionate with myself?” “What do I need to accept and transform within me?” “What do I need from my partner to support me in my individuation process?” Express your feelings and questions openly with your partner, without blame of judgment, and make a specific request for support.
3. Strengthen the qualities associated with the masculine and feminine. Find ways of being more loving without being controlling or dependent. Find ways of being more assertive without arrogance and dominance. Everything is on a spectrum. Finding your place within that spectrum supports your journey towards wholeness.
4. On a daily basis practice Self Love. This may take the form of self-care, maintaining your wellness and health. You can practice being less critical of yourself and more compassionate. Put yourself at the center of your Universe, committing to your well-being first before committing to others. On a daily basis, allow time for meditation or reflection or solitude. This creates the space for your spirit to whisper its wisdom to you. I find that being in nature is a spiritual practice for me, healing me and inviting me into deeper conversations with my soul.
5. My partner and I have a practice that has made a huge difference in our relationship. Every morning we ask each other, “What can I do today to support you on your journey?” Sometimes we have an answer and most days, just asking the question generates a high quality of attention to our individual needs and to our needs as a couple. Most days, the question is received with a kiss and embrace of appreciation and that is enough. Sometimes the most simple, tender moments are the ones that carry the greatest weight.
As I recall how far I have come from the day I was told that relationships are doomed I have to smile. The most important lesson you or I will ever learn is the lesson of Love.
If there is a purpose to our lives on earth, this must be it, for grace, courage and compassion for self and others originates in a Love that transcends anything the human condition can destroy.