When it comes to romantic relationships one of the most common fantasies we have is that we’re going to find our perfect partner and live happily ever after. We imagine a relationship in which everything runs smoothly, where there is no conflict, no agitation, no disappointment. We imagine that every moment spent with our partner will be filled with bliss and satisfaction, and that we will never again experience suffering.
However, the reality is that, no matter how wonderful your partner may be, the relationship is never going to be perfect, because neither you nor your partner is perfect, and you’ve both entered into the relationship bringing with you your own emotional baggage.
In every relationship there are times when difficulties arise. There are times when we don’t see eye to eye. There are times when we’re disappointed with the things our partner says or does. And when difficulties arise, rather than dealing with them, we often argue, shut down or run away.
Difficulties cause us to question the integrity of the relationship. We begin to wonder whether this person is right for us after all. We feel that it just isn’t working out, not in the way we would like it to. Because, once again, what we would like is a relationship that doesn’t challenge us, that doesn’t trigger our underlying issues, that doesn’t require us to face our innermost fears and insecurities.
Often what is triggered are feelings associated with unresolved wounds from our past. For some reason, we keep winding up in relationships where the very same issues arise again and again. And we wonder why. Why do we keep attracting partners with whom we find ourselves facing the same difficulties over and over again? We keep running away, but somehow these same issues keep coming up.
The reason that these same issues keep arising in each of our relationships is because we have not properly dealt with them. We keep expecting someone else to do the work because we refuse to take responsibility for our own emotions. And the reality is that no one else is responsible. The real problem in many relationships is that we tend to think that it’s the role of our partner to satisfy us, to make us feel happy, and to heal our emotional trauma. And when they fail to fulfil that role, as they always do, we feel that the relationship has failed, and so we throw it away and move on to the next one.
I call this unconscious relating, because in this type of relationship we are unconscious of what is actually going on inside of ourselves. We have little or no awareness of our own independent emotional processes. And because we have such little awareness, we fail to realize that our emotional state is solely our responsibility. It’s no one else’s job to heal us, and it is no one’s job to make us happy.
In a conscious relationship, however, we find that the role of our partner is often to shed light on our shadows by provoking us, pushing our buttons and triggering our deepest fears and insecurities. This isn’t to say that your partner is intentionally trying to disturb you. Much of this happens quite unintentionally. Your partner is just doing whatever they are doing, and it may be that it sometimes triggers a subconscious issue within you. So you become upset. You become agitated. And it really isn’t your partner who is agitating you. It’s your own thoughts and beliefs. Those wounds were already there before your current partner showed up. So it really has nothing at all to do with them. But because you never healed those wounds, they remain open. And so, once in a while, your partner says something or does something that touches upon a particular wound, and all of the suppressed suffering bubbles up to the surface.
When this happens it’s entirely up to you to decide how you’re going to deal it, or if you’re going to deal with it at all. Are you going to do what so many of us do, which is blame one another? Are you going to try and suppress it or run away? Or are you going to see it as an opportunity to really look at it, to understand it, to heal it and to grow? Because, here is the truth. The situation that is triggering that wound is not what has initially created it. The wound was already there. It’s not being inflicted from outside circumstances. It’s an internal thought pattern. So if we think we can escape it by changing the situation, which often means breaking up with our partner, then we’re not really healing that wound. We’re just putting off having to deal with it at this moment in time. And because that wound remains within us, unhealed, it’s going to come up again and again until we’ve dealt with it. This is why, even when we go from one relationship to the next, we keep finding ourselves faced with the same issues. It isn’t that we are necessarily attracting the same kind of person or a similar situation. The reality is that we are carrying this wound with us into each new relationship. And it’s never really going to go away until we take the time to sit down with it and do the necessary inner work to resolve it.
So this is what conscious relating is about. We have to get rid of the fanciful idea that we’re going to meet our soulmate and suddenly all of our problems are going to vanish. When we’re coming from a place of conscious awareness we recognize that the relationship is an opportunity for personal growth. So this means that our partner is going to trigger us. They’re going to push our buttons. They’re going to make us aware of the wounds that need healing. But then it’s entirely up to us to take to the challenge of healing ourselves.
In an unconscious relationship we see these moments, not as opportunities for growth, but as problems. We think there is something wrong with the relationship. We think that this other person might not be right for us, because we see them as the source of our agitation, rather than taking responsibility for our own emotional reactions. We don’t want to deal with our issues. We just want the other person to exist in such a way that we don’t have to even acknowledge those issues. And when the other person is unable to live up to our fantasy, we discard them.
In a conscious relationship there really isn’t any such thing as conflict, because we recognize that the real issues don’t exist in relation to one another, but rather they exist independently of one another. That is to say that our issues are personal. They really have nothing at all to do with our partner. And when we recognize this, we understand that it isn’t the other person who is the cause of the issue. They are only the trigger. So when we take responsibility for our own emotional reactions, there is no blaming the other. We can recognize that we are feeling angry, disappointed, or whatever. We can recognize that these feelings are triggered by something which our partner did or didn’t do, but we also recognize that these feelings arise from within us, and that they are related to thoughts and beliefs we have created in response to past trauma.
So what we call conflict in relationship is really our resistance to owning up to our own emotional reactions. Instead we project our issues onto the other person, believing them to be the source and cause of our suffering. If we are upset, it is the other who has caused it. If we are angry or disappointed, it is the other who is responsible. By making the other person responsible for our emotional reactions, we are diverting attention away from the reality that the hurt we feel is arising from within our own minds. And because we cannot recognize these wounds as self-inflicted, we can never heal them. So we just go on blaming the other person, and nothing ever gets resolved.
Relationships don’t work out because we don’t take on the responsibility of doing the inner work. If something is bothering us… if we are unsatisfied.. if we are consistently suffering… we put all the burden upon the other person to change. But we don’t make any effort to change ourselves. We always think that if our partner would only do things differently, everything would work better. But not only are we resisting the reality of the situation, we are resisting our own personal responsibility to bring about change within ourselves.
It should also be understood that when we are in that place of putting the responsibility of change upon our partner, this means that we aren’t accepting them just as they are. And when we’re not accepting of someone, we are essentially rejecting them. It would seem that the one thing that all of us want most in our relationships is to simply be accepted for who we are. After all, this is what unconditional love is all about. So when we’re not being fully accepted, then we naturally feel that we are not loved. And what do you suppose this does to our relationships?
A person who does not feel loved and accepted by their partner, or by a parent or a friend, will begin to withdraw. This creates a strain on the connection. This creates distance. And when we’re feeling disconnected from one another, all kinds of problems arise. So it’s no wonder that so many relationships suffer.
So how can we deal with the difficulties which arise in our relationships?
1.) Take responsibility for your own emotions.
2.) See your difficulties as opportunities for personal growth.
3.) Accept your partner fully, without condition.
4.) Be the change you wish to see in your relationship.