Once upon a time there was a woman named Anna who was very happily in love with her beloved, Robert. It was clear to all their friends that Robert would be by Anna’s side until the end of his life.
But, he could not promise her that he would be with her forever. He had made that promise to his first wife and now they were divorced. His pain during the divorce was doubled because he had broken his promise that he would never leave her.
However, Anna thought this must mean that he didn’t really love her if he couldn’t make a commitment. So she left the wonderful love she had with Robert and found someone who wanted to marry her and she was so happy. After the first year, she realized her husband was very controlling and wanted her to cut out her friendships and outside activities. She realized he didn’t love her for her, but for the person he wanted her to be for him. They grew apart until they finally divorced.
When Anna realized that a commitment wouldn’t guarantee life-long love, she wept with grief because she had left Robert’s love for empty-handed promises. She realized she had to find Robert again because he truly did love her so much, that he would rather lose her, than lie to her.
She rushed to contact him. But it was too late, he was happily married to someone else. When she asked him how he could marry this other woman when he wouldn’t marry her, he responded, “because she would have loved me whether I married her or not and that’s when I knew this was a love that was real - a love that I could trust.” The only commitment she asked of me was that we stay together as long as we can be in more love and truth together, than being single.” It was Anna’s sorrow for the rest of her life that she never found a man who loved her as much as her beloved Robert.
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There is a secret to being happy in relationships and it isn’t so much about finding the “right person” as it is being “all right” with your partner, as they are. This doesn’t mean that if you and your partner are clearly incompatible, that you should stay with them. What it does mean, is that most of us were conditioned that love is what our partner does for us. Sadly, the stereotype of newly weds fighting over how to squeeze the toothpaste, exemplifies how we’ve been taught that getting our way means we are loved. Consequently, when we don’t get our way, we can feel insecure and not very good about our partner or ourselves.
The biggest destroyer of relationships is the programming that most of us have that people must treat us in specific ways if they love us. We think our partners are the cause of our grief, because we experience pain when we don’t get our expectations met by them. But often, the problem isn’t what others won’t give us, it is what we are bringing to the relationship.
Our conditioned beliefs, which surface in relationship, are like ants that show up at a picnic. As it seems a picnic makes ants show up, it seems our partner not giving us what we want, causes our pain. The truth is, that just as the ants were always there, but didn’t surface until there was food, so our deep programming about how a mate should treat us, don’t show up until we are in a relationship. In many cases it is going beyond our faulty programming that will make us happy in relationship, regardless of what our partner does.
Many single people think they are unhappy because they don’t have a romantic partner in their life. Couples are often unhappy because they feel they have the wrong partner. Usually the problem isn’t either of these, but the conditioning we received that we can’t be happy unless people and life show up in a particular way.
If we believe that our expectations are valid and that others should met them, it can keep us trapped in a prison of fear and “love-deals.” Most people spend their lives trying to control their world instead of discovering that happiness isn’t dependent on people and situations.
People “in love” can have a car cut in front of them in traffic and they just smile, when normally they would be upset. Most of us have experienced being at peace even when life circumstances didn’t seem to warrant it.
The capacity to be in a state of love, that isn’t dependent on people or situations, is the liberation the Buddha speaks of. What makes us suffer is believing that we must get others to give us what we have been conditioned we need to be happy.
Valentine’s day is a great example. A woman may believe if her partner doesn’t bring flowers he doesn’t really love her. A man may believe if he doesn’t bring flowers, then his partner won’t love him or think he loves her. Flowers aren’t the issue; it’s the beliefs around flowers and love that cause pain.
I have a friend who likes everything about a woman he has been dating. But they may break up because he doesn’t want to make a commitment. He told me, “I won’t be able to spend time at my home alone.”
This is a common perception that commitment mean I’ll have to give up being me to be with you. Maybe it is better to examine our beliefs about how relationships must work, rather than give up the joy of being deeply involved.
When a couple can support each other to only give as they authentically want to, a relationship becomes a powerful vehicle for self-actualization. It is great to give to someone, as long as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or depriving yourself of what you need to thrive.
Many people are so afraid of being alone that they never stop seeking a partner long enough to discover the security and love that lays inside their own being. When your happiness isn’t dependent on your partner, relationships can move from being security-based landmines into a fun and exciting adventure.
It is so empowering when a couple dedicates their relationship to serving the realization of truth. One way to discover truth, is to be like two curious scientists who explore the expectations and programming that live in both of you, without taking what arises personally. You can move beyond blame, shaming and guilt, into helping each other release programming you no longer want to express through you.
There is so much living inside of us that didn’t get our conscious permission to take up residence. The more you can consciously hold issues that bring up negative emotions, the quicker they will dissolve into a lighter, more joyful way of being.
How to Work Through Negative Emotions
What would our relationships be like if we could say to our partner, “I am feeling angry and need to sit with it. Would you sit in silence with me while I hold this anger?”
Then let yourself just feel the emotion without letting it take you over. Feel the sensation without listening to the story of why you are mad. Also ignore any thoughts that judge you as wrong for getting mad. Let your partner just hold a space of loving presence for you, while you sit with your emotion. The emotion will run it’s course and you will experience the greater truth underneath it.
This is where it gets exciting, when we realize we have a choice. When we pause and don’t let our reaction run, it gives us time to discover the truth underneath our hurt. We discover that it is often our own history or projections, and not our partner that are causing our pain. Underneath, is usually a fear that our partner is preventing us from having what we want or being who we really are.
Give yourself and your partner time to explore your patterns without taking positions about what you should feel. This will help you act from loving choice, instead of the automatic responses that were programmed into you during childhood.
While it is important to not let patterns we don’t like run us, it is also important to nurture ourselves and be compassionate and gentle with our own and our partner’s hurts and limits.
Harville Hendrix, the author of Getting the Love You Want, writes about a couple who were financially scrapping by. They were arguing because they needed a new dryer and the wife wouldn’t buy the cheapest brand. She only wanted to buy Maytag appliances, which upset her husband who didn’t want to spend so much money.
The husband decided to use Harville’s technique to really listen to his wife and try to understand how she could be perfectly right to feel as she did. Supported by her husband’s love and openness, the wife shared a story about her father who sold Maytag appliances. Her father’s company went out of business because he didn’t have enough customers. This led to him becoming an alcoholic and his eventual suicide. She felt such a loyalty to her father that she imagined all Maytag dealers were like her father and she couldn’t bear to buy other brands.
Her husband was touched by his wife’s love for her father and understanding her pain, he was able to let go of his financial concern. He held his wife while she cried. The wife, finally being able to share the story without being told she was wrong to feel as she did, was able to release a lot of pain that kept her locked in her pattern of behavior.
Her husband accepting how she felt without trying to change her, gave her the safety to go underneath her defensiveness to see what was really causing her pain. Her emotions were able to update and understand that other Maytag salesman weren’t in her father’s situation. The outcome was that the happy couple went shopping and were both excited to buy a dryer at a great price.
Some Reasons Why People Stay in Painful Relationships
Relationships can get into trouble because people are addicted to drama and negative emotions. People can get addicted to the strong energy that runs through them when they feel anxiety, anger or depression. It has been their identity and in a sense, a drug, all of their life.
People who had a lot of conflict growing up can feel uneasy in a peaceful relationship. Something feels wrong. Their upbringing causes them to associate love as feeling anxious or upset. This causes them to be attracted to people who will keep them off-balance and insecure.
Also, being in a loving relationship gives our past hurts the space to surface and be felt. This can be terrifying for people who haven’t learned that they aren’t stuck with the pain and that pain can be released in a constructive and uplifting way.
People also stay in negative patterns because the painful pattern seems preferable to being happy. Often the disapproval or punishment we experienced in childhood was so traumatizing, that we associate being happy with getting hurt.
There was a TV show called Ally McBeal. The star of the show yearns to be in a relationship, yet relationships don’t seem to work out for her. In one episode, she flashes back to childhood where the pain of her parents fighting was unbearable to her. We learn that what is scarier for her than being painfully lonely all of her life, is being involved! She would rather feel all that agonizing loneliness and “pine for love” rather than risk getting involved. Because Ally’s “inner child” has more power than her “adult self,” it sabotages Ally’s chances to be in a happy relationship. Ally’s core belief or subconscious fear is: if she gets into a relationship, she will be in the same helpless and terrifying position she was in as a child.
Some Ways Out
A way to find out what lies beyond our fear or dysfunctional patterns is to ask yourself some questions like:
- what is worse than not being with an abusive partner?
- what is worse than being single all my life?
- what am I afraid will happen if I don’t get my partner to do what I want? What will I think it says about the type of person I am?
See what the pattern as painful as it is, protects you from.
Many people’s lives are run by the five-year old inside who doesn’t know that they are an adult and have choices they didn’t have as a child.
Once we learn that we can revisit our past, heal it and move forward without being devastated by our emotions as we were in childhood, healing becomes a joyful experience. Old patterns surfacing are a chance to update our inner child and help it release its “fearful brake” on our lives.
If we are in a relationship that is dedicated to supporting our healing, integration and coming into our power, it will be amazing how fast we can move into expressing our greater self in all areas of our life.
If You Aren’t Changing, Your Relationship May Be Dying
Everything we really need is present at all times, if we are present with what is true inside of us. Many people let the fear of losing their partner stop them from being who they really are. Ironically, trying to not rock the boat of our relationship, is the very thing that causes them to sink.
We can’t expect to survive long-term in a rowboat on the high seas. Sometimes we have to risk leaving that older and smaller, form of our “relation-ship” so we can move to a larger “relation-ship” that will support who we are growing into being.
If we don’t share what is true for us with our partner, we deny ourselves of any chance of our partner giving us what we need. Usually, if we are denying ourselves, our partner has most likely been giving up things for us as well. Sadly, people often find out that what they were giving up for their partner, wasn’t what their partner really wanted.
If we cling to a form of relationship above being with what is true for us, we will be living in a stagnant pool of water that doesn’t nourish us. If you let truth continue to change you and let the relationship be the chalice that holds this living water of truth and love, you will find your relationship is a great joy and an exciting adventure.
As truth flows through you and changes the relationship, you will have the freedom plus the security humans need to happily evolve. In this type of partnership, you will be more radiant, alive and in love than you could ever be in a traditionally “secure” relationship defined by the roles each person plays.
Your inner essence and connection with all of life is your source, not your partner. Your partner (and your life) is a reflection of your state of consciousness, fears, desires, limiting beliefs and your ability to be in love. Be careful not to clamp down on the hose (your partner) that is bringing you water (love) because you are afraid if you don't control it, it will stop giving you what you want. That is exactly how we do kill love.
It is important that while we cherish our partner, that we also keep letting them go. If we can feel on one level, as if our partner is not ours, it will keep us from falling into controlling and demanding patterns that can destroy a relationship.
It is important to go beyond your conditioned thoughts of what you could, should or shouldn't do, and keep coming back to the present and feeling the truth in the moment. Stay in the life-giving flow of the energy that is between you and respond from there.
We are not truly loving others, if their giving us what we want, takes precedence over our being in a state of love with them. It is important to ask for what we want, but when we see others as wrong to not give it to us, we may be crossing the line. Things can get sticky, controlling and manipulative very quickly, if we succumb to our ego’s need to get people to respond to us in a certain way so our illusion of who we think we are, can survive.
The ego is a conglomeration of identities and erroneous self-perceptions enmeshed with a self- preservation mechanism. The ego believes, if it doesn’t run the show, it will die. What runs most of us, are patterns that were formed by a child’s intellect and limited understanding of the world.
Realization of the greater truth of who you are happens, when you stand in the fire that appears to be killing you. You may find out that the you that appears to be dying isn’t who you really are at all, but is an illusionary self, that has kept you in a prison of fear, lies and living on crusts of love. Sometimes the thing that our partner is doing which seems to be causing us pain, actually holds the key to our liberation.
There was a woman who didn’t like to dance much, who didn't allow her husband to dance with other woman because it made her feel awful. Her husband gave up his joy of dancing with other women, so he wouldn’t have to deal with her emotional outbursts and his own guilt for causing her pain.
Their counselor suggested that the wife’s pain stemmed from childhood, when her father left her mother for another woman. The counselor suggested the man start dancing with other women and she would work with the wife.
Even though it was painful for the wife to watch her husband dance with other women, she had breakthrough when she saw how much happier and freer he was. She learned that her husband dancing with other women didn’t mean he would have an affair or leave her. In fact, he would be more likely to stay with her, because now his life was no longer a prison of her fears. She also realized she felt less guilty because she wasn't holding him back. Another benefit was, that she could enjoy talking to other people more knowing her husband wasn't at her side itching to dance.
If the husband had let his wife’s pain stop him from being himself, not only would he suffer, but his wife wouldn’t have discovered that her security wasn’t dependent on controlling her husband’s behavior. This one change they made, rippled out into the rest of their relationship and they found greater freedom, security and joy than they ever thought was possible.
Sometimes lovingly going ahead with what feels right and true for us, while being respectful and honoring our partner’s feelings, will help break our relationship out of stifling constraints. This moves our relationship into greater levels of freedom and happiness.It’s important to not succumb to your ego, which can create awful feelings to get you to back down from getting free.
Sitting with the feelings and letting them wash through you, without controlling the outer situation, can help you live from your true self and freedom. The solution to our pain, usually isn’t our first impulse.
It is important to share your feelings with your beloved for the sake of sharing what appears in you, not with the main agenda to get what you want. Be wary of any tendency to do anything to gain power in the relationship. Strive to only do things because they are a reflection of your love and what you know is true.
Many people think they have to choose between their freedom or being in a relationship. Maybe what has been wrong with relationships is how we’ve been conditioned to be in them. What if we can be deeply involved and be who we really are? Our relationships will be happier, if we focus less on what people should do for us. Happiness comes from supporting our self and our partner to live from the truth of our authentic self. Then the relationship becomes a sanctuary of love.
Maybe it’s not only the expectations we have of our partner that need examination, but our expectation that the only successful relationships are those that last a long time. Maybe fairy tales of the future will end with, “they were happily married for five years and then after divorcing, spent the rest of their lives as loving friends.” Maybe the word of this millennium will be “and.” We can have material success and be good to the planet. We can be deeply committed and be free. We can be true to ourselves and be very happy in relationship.
I believe one of the greatest things we can do to live in a loving world, is to support each other to stop living our lives from fear, pretense and habit. If we support the people in our life to create relationships that are an authentic expression of who they really are, then we will find ourselves in an incredible adventure that will be far grander than any fairy tale.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Valerie Stuart offers sessions in Presence, a direct connection to the truth of who you are. Go beyond problem-solving into living from your true being. She specializes in healing, lifework, relationship, spiritual issues and working with diet to heal disease. More info at the Private Sessions tab at www.livinginpresence.com
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