Why do so many people fail at their relationships? What is the nature of relationships? What can we do to help improve our ability to care and love ourselves and another person?
We are drawn into relationships by very powerful forces. At the core of human being’s is the social need to express life. We seek security in a chaotic world, someone to share this burden with us. We are drawn by sexual expression, which remains the greatest force on planet earth. But more then anything we are desperate not to be alone. The pursuit of pleasure and pull of attraction coupled with aversion to loneliness guide us to find another.
What we seek, without knowing, is the reflection of ourselves, a mirror that allows us to face ourselves through the experience of a relationship with another person. Unfortunately we don’t have relationships with people, but rather with the images we create of them. We create these images with our frozen past: our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. We polish these constructs with our expectations of our future. Initially the images of our partners are beautiful and glorious and we want nothing more than to hold on to them forever. This initial attraction to the image of them is so powerful as it allows us a brief respite from the harsh glare of our personal despair, fear, sorrow, anxiety and loneliness. We are spared the burden of introspection in the face of such a glorious external light.
From here we have already sowed the seeds of our own destruction as we plunge into deeper levels of codependency and denial of shadows; theirs and ours. Couples are unable to sustain relationships because we blame our darkness on our partners, too fearful to face them ourselves, waiting in vain and ignorance for another to solve our internal problems. Over time, through trauma and experience, resentments build and the images become tarnished, unable to remain as flawless as they once were. This essential conflict, the space thoughts create between us and truth, swells with endless rationalizations as it is mutated by time. Making this creation of our imagination too massive, the burden to much to bear.
The laws of attraction are also the same laws of repulsion. Over time if only the good side of someone is accepted, the darker aspects will begin to grow in strength. The whole individual must be seen, to understand that which you love most about them is also the aspect that maddens you. Now we have divided the fragmented image of a person even further into their good and their bad, instead of allowing them to be whole and human. We only want the good and have rejected the bad, severing the human into a thing, an object of our own design.
Once this shimmering illusion we've created of another person fails we are left to face the very dark vulnerability that we ran from in the first place. So we drop the image that we once convinced ourselves was love and we let the person behind the image shatter to the ground. From here the conflict continues as we run from ourselves in reaction to the sorrow of loss. Instant gratification fuels the engines of consumption. We run on fire for the next shinny new thing setting ourselves further ablaze, running further away from truth and self.
To have a successful relationship with anyone first requires a relationship with oneself. This, the loneliest of all journeys means facing all psychological barriers, hindrances and conditioning that blocks your ability to have self-love and self-understanding. Relationships are spiritual journeys and akin to the journey to find “God”, which is the truth inside of each person. The journey to find the truth within is the only path to self-understanding, selflessness and love. Both individuals must be committed to this path in similar intensity if harmony and understanding is to be achieved. The key to a successful relationship is to be able to sacrifice your individual greed without compromising your authentic self. This is a delicate balance to strike and the line between selflessness and compromise is a thin and ever changing one.
Our hearts have many desires but it’s greatest is to be perceived, to be known. We place this burden ever so neatly upon the awaiting shoulders of our partners. We long for them to know just what we need to feel confident, attractive and worthy despite the fact we cannot generate these things for ourselves. We put our self-esteem and self-confidence outside of self solely in the hands of the unperceiving external world and as a result we are in a constant state of defeat and misunderstanding.
Assumptions and expectations lead to a crippling like cancer of resentment and disappointment upon relationships. The numerous aspects of a relationship, from the mundane to the spiritual, must be communicated, they cannot be assumed to be known by the "all-seeing" partner. The irony is that we are hurt by our partners inability to read our minds and hearts, saddened with their lack of mystical insight, when we ourselves are not even capable of this self knowledge and self love. The key to self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth is found in the word self, these jewels can only be found within.
Expressing one's needs and wants in a healthy respectful way is the gateway to intimacy. Clear communication of the heart and mind is essential to a relationship, as it creates real connection and understanding vs imagined and assumed reality. Meeting both individual’s needs is an ever changing and challenging dynamic. A relationship is by definition codependent as it is dependent on each individual for it to even exist. Communication is the only mediator we have to lay a path of success. The greatest thing you can do for another human being is to ask for help, as it takes vulnerability, grace and humility to reach out in need. With communication comes navigation towards refuge, safety and understanding.
Relationships need to be evaluated over time as there are always ups and downs in the moments of our lives. One should be able to be completely clear with self and able to answer the question: “Am I a better, more truthful, self-knowing and kinder person as a result of my relationship despite the normal ups and downs of life?” The answer must be a resounding “yes!” Unfortunately most relationships either end in the violence of impulse or drag on in a slow rationalized death. One must be clear and honest with self at all times.
We should approach our relationships as new every day, every moment reflecting the ever changing nature of life. Even though we’ve known someone for decades we should look at them each time with a feeling that this is the first time I have beheld such a mysterious being. This is very difficult to do, as it requires a continual psychological death of self, a death of our imagined identity and fantastical thoughts, and beliefs. We must see ourselves as new with each passing moment. To do this one must understand the impermanence of all things and see the space that our thoughts have created between us and truth. We act with fevered intensity to build up the ego, to step ourselves ahead of others and fill the bottomless pit of insecurity. Our life is then spent defending the shallow and hollow facade we hide behind, the mask we have built. The irony comes in the fact that the reason we built up these false walls in the first place was so we could feel safe connecting to others, but in the end we rip ourselves from connection to self and others, left isolated in a fantasy we have created of “I”.
Only through observation can this relationship between reality and our thoughts be seen, only from there can we end conflict and find freedom. To have a successful relationship with another person, requires us first to have a relationship with self. We must take down our own image and persona we have created of ourselves and face the very fear and loneliness that we are so desperately trying to escape. We must simply accept this fear as it is and stand in our loneliness so we can end our conflicts and find the true meaning of love.