The relationship becomes the crucible for YOUR change.
If you want an opportunity to REALLY dig deep and confront your old patterns of pain, unconsciousness, and reactivity, then get into an intimate relationship.
If you want to see where you’ve grown and where you definitely have not grown, and find out how present you are able to be, then get into an intimate relationship.
That was kind of a trick one because you’ll likely find that you're nowhere near as present as you had hoped if you are paying attention to the subtleties.
We enter intimate relationships for many healthy and unhealthy reasons.
Most of us hold a romantic fantasy of joining with our "soul mate" to find pure, lasting love that will save us from the pains of human life. Many spiritual teachers refer to our human life as Earth School.
I'd say that intimate relationships are equivalent to Special Forces Training in Earth School if you want to reap the profound life and spiritual lessons available in them.
Real intimacy challenges us on every level to be authentic, present, in alignment, and balanced in giving-receiving. Real intimacy, perhaps most importantly, is founded on a willingness to engage and to surrender.
It challenges us to raise our consciousness to take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Intimacy also challenges us to deal with those thoughts, feelings, and reactions rather than blaming our partner or the circumstances or wanting the other to make us feel better.
Healthy intimacy invites whole beings to meet in a dynamic center to create something different and bigger than the individuals.
Yes, it is an idealistic perspective. I also believe that we owe it to ourselves to aspire to our fullest self. The paradox is that we also must acknowledge that being human tends to be a messy process with our egos, personalities, emotions, and personal histories.
This brings us back to the opportunity for learning and intense spiritual development in the context of relationships. We get involved with someone and are having a wonderful time.
We enjoy the excitement of learning about someone new, about our commonalities and differences. We may enjoy the intellectual banter, the flirting, the passion, the laughter and play. One day there is a realization that something has shifted.
You’ve been sharing your thoughts and emotions and letting this person get close to you. Your feelings deepen with tenderness and love. Feelings of vulnerability arise perhaps subtly at first. Perhaps your partner reacts to something that triggers some very old feelings for you.
Suddenly, you're feeling guilt or fearing rejection or those very old feelings of unworthiness or self-criticism or jealousy or neediness or fearing abandonment. Ouch.
So, what do we do when our stuff gets stirred up?
1. Develop profound self-love
Or as much self-love as possible while always working to deepen it. I believe this is the foundation of all other love and the bedrock of intimacy. Our partner can never love us enough to fill what is lacking.
Their love mirrors our undeniable loveable-ness which can help us if we allow ourselves to receive it deeply. Love from another is transformative when we allow ourselves to receive it deeply. Love transforms when we recognize it as evidence that we are loveable and worthy.
When we use it as inspiration or catalyst for loving ourselves. It's not our partner's job to love us enough, it's our job.
2. Upshift your vibration
Learn about your energetic body systems. See an energy healer. Practice creating love in your mind for everything and everyone. Listen to your "happy music." Read or watch something inspirational. Release any habits of negative thinking, complaining, blaming etc.
Misery does love company and it's sometimes hard not to play when someone near you starts to complain about something. Purposely focus your mind on things that feel good, that you enjoy, that you can like or love.
Anything at all is a great place to start. "I love looking at the water. I love the color of that orchid. I love my cat." And keep going until you feel your mood and energy lift. Feel the light inside you expand. It really makes everything easier.
3. Do mindfulness meditation
Practice being present. Formal meditation practices are great tools for developing the skills of seeing what is happening within you and the myriad games that your mind plays throughout your day.
The practices can help you recognize that you're not what is happening in your mind but rather you are the one observing what is happening. You are the awareness. This will help create some space between You and the incessant voice in your head.
The space helps greatly as you practice pausing rather than reacting. The formal practice is important however, the ultimate goal, if you will, is to bring that same level of presence into every moment of your life.
It's quite another level of challenge to bring that focused mindful non-judgmental awareness to your daily activities and encounters with others especially in intimate relationships. Being present with whatever we may be experiencing is healing.
4. Feel what you feel and make room for it
Most of us have little awareness of our feelings throughout the day because we're busy in our minds. We're thinking, planning, rehashing the past, rehearsing the future, complaining, or fantasizing most of the time. Our emotions are our personal GPS.
They give us more information than our brains but we tend to default to the almighty brain. Experiment with tuning into your gut (2nd chackra emotional center) several times a day to ask yourself "what am I feeling?" It'll probably take you some practice to get it.
Also, feel your whole body. Notice where the emotions are causing sensations in your body. Use your breath to make room for whatever you're feeling. It's very important to bring curiosity to this discovery process rather than judgment or attempting to control your emotions.
What are you feeling and where? Make room for whatever is there without judgment or argument. Just feel.
5. Let it go
I teach my clients a process for letting go. In session, we go through a short meditation to get grounded, connect with the 2nd Chakra, expand their energy field and then tune into the emotions and sensations in the body. I then guide them through a process of letting go.
Allowing the ebb and flow of emotions without analysis, judgments, arguments, or pushing. I encourage them to make room for whatever they're feeling and to let it flow out of their hands, feet, or wherever they perceive it.
I point their awareness to new emotions or reactions to what they're feeling or resistance to what they're feeling so that they can simply let go of those too. No matter what arises, simply let go over and over and over.
This is a process that leads to healing and freedom.
6. Practice some kind of active communication skills on a regular basis with your partner
Healthy, effective, honest communication is arguably the most important skill for couples. Nothing else can really work without having this in place. Deep authentic intimacy requires safe engaged communication.
Couples can work their way through many minefields with strong communication skills. This is worth studying or hiring a couple's therapist who is particularly skilled at facilitating these skills.
You might also benefit from reading and studying the works of David Schnarch, John Gottman, and David Richo.
7. Have a therapist or spiritual advisor who is skilled in helping process what gets stirred up for you
This is particularly important if you or your partner have trauma in your history. David Richo's book "How to be an Adult in Relationships" is an excellent resource and based in a mindfulness approach.
You cannot avoid having your stuff stirred up even in the best of relationships or circumstances. It's also arguably a good thing for the relationship because the individual work and the couple communications around these things has the potential to greatly enhance the intimacy.
Allowing others in is what deepens the connection and love. It necessarily comes with deepened vulnerability.
Do your inner work as well as you are able. Bring presence to your experience as well as with your partner.
Keep your energy as high as possible and speak with love, respect, and curiosity. Your stuff is going to get stirred up. Hop on that rollercoaster of intimacy with a joyful whoop for the adventure.