“The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, “If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.” Now I say, “I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.” ~Jim Rohn
Our relationships make up the most important experiences of our lives. Our entire reality is created from, and based upon, our relationship with ourselves and the people around us. This may sound obvious; yet few people stop and take a deeper look at this most powerful and fascinating entity termed ‘relationship’.
Nothing in our lives brings us more joy, peace and fulfillment or creates more pain, suffering and tragedy than our relationships. Virtually everything we know and understand about ourselves is recognized and understood through our relationships. This is why being in relationship is the most sacred and powerful experience you will have in your lifetime. Your relationships can serve as tools to help you learn and grow past the blind spots and limitations that cause you pain and create struggle in your life.
The single most important relationship you have, and the basis of all other relationships you create and experience, is the relationship you have with yourself. There is a spiritual reference that says: “Everyone and everything in your life is a reflection of you in some way.” Jesus is quoted in the bible as saying “I am the other.” We interpret this to mean that what is out there, and in you, is in here, and part of me. What you love and respect about someone else is the thing you love and respect about yourself. What you judge and dislike in another is a reflection of something you judge, dislike or have disowned about yourself.
Most of us do not realize these truths because we have forgotten, become disconnected from, or do not know who we really are. We have all created false selves, personas, masks, beliefs and roles in our lives that we have mistakenly come to believe are who we really are. The majority of us spend the first half of our lives forgetting who we are and the second half trying to remember. The journey of rediscovering, remembering and awakening to our True Self happens through our relationships, as all of our relationships have the potential of showing us the essence of who we are.
Being in a relationship allows you to see both your perfection as a divine being and your limitations as a human with a certain personality. When acting from a soulful place, you create deeper connections and respond and fulfill the true needs in your life and the lives of others. Our relationships allow us to experience both the positive (love) and negative (fear) aspects of ourselves. If we deny our own light, or that of the other, we will relate to each other in conflict. If we deny the shadow of either ourselves or the other, we will relate in or from illusion. Only by accepting both light and shadow, can we grasp reality and experience harmony. As a result, you’re able to live more joyously, with greater connection to those you love.
Needs and Desires
The need for love and acceptance is a spiritual need as much as it is an emotional one. We are challenged in relationships to accept the unknown of ourselves and the unknown of the other. Meeting this challenge must be founded on trust. You must trust that your mate will get what they need from you, and that you will get what you need from her/him. Since the soul is the underlying guide of all relationships, we are always getting what we need because the soul always responds to need. When we are not connected to our best self, or soul, we will have the potential to become demanding and do things contrary to maintaining a healthy relationship. It is our lack of awareness and understanding that creates this dynamic.
The key word is NEED, not desire. We are often conscious of our desires, but our needs are usually related to what we are unconscious of. We are not in relationships to have our desires fulfilled. It is up to us to fulfill our own desires and stop demanding that they be fulfilled by others. For example, if you have the desire to be loved, you must not demand it from someone else. You will fulfill your need for love by expressing it. Expressing love is far more fulfilling than trying to get it from others.
We have a tendency to create difficulties in our relationships when we let our desires take over. When we do not get our desires met – and that includes things like getting our own way, getting what we want, getting love and attention, being made to feel important, being shown respect and honor – we usually get angry or sad, become selfish and self-centered, and/or resentful or revengeful. In these instances, you would serve yourself by asking what it is you really need, and then give it to yourself, rather than demanding it from others.
Our desires point towards our needs. When we are trapped by a desire, we do not recognize the need behind the desire. When we bring awareness to the need as opposed to the desire, and then respond to our need or the needs of others, we will have taken another step towards becoming more conscious.
Intimacy is an important aspect of all relationships, as it exposes the unconscious and teaches us trust. Intimacy helps us to recognize needs, and it awakens the love within us to respond to those needs. It especially empowers us to meet our own needs. Intimacy says, “You are acceptable and lovable just as you are.”
Merging a Couple’s Path with Their Spiritual Journey
Many people unconsciously project their own issues, self-judgment and undesirable personality traits onto their mate. They expect the other person to provide a level of unconditional love and security far beyond that which is humanly possible or what they are willing to give themselves. As a result, those who do that continually feel betrayed. One of the biggest relationship challenges and killers is the expectation of your partner to provide you with a sense of love, trust, connection and intimacy that you have not given to yourself. We cannot expect from others what we have not given to ourselves, or are willing to give to them without conditions. Keep in mind, when you have one finger pointing towards your partner, you have three pointing back at yourself. Use this experience to become more aware of what you need to give to yourself, or take responsibility for, in the relationship instead of expecting your partner to take care of it for you.
When you practice self-awareness in your relationships, you will begin to take responsibility for your own wants, needs and issues. You will stop looking for others to save you or give you the love and acceptance you have not yet given to yourself. You will view your mate as a sacred partner on his/her journey of healing and awakening. As a responsible partner, you will use the pain and challenges in your relationship to work on your own wounds and false beliefs. You will come to understand that your mate is a mirror of all that you love and accept, or judge and dislike, about yourself.
You have the ability to own your fear and false beliefs and trace them back to your childhood wounds and emotional programming. You have all you need to face and take responsibility for your wants, needs and issues as opposed to dumping your anger, fear and personal frustrations onto your partner. By facing your own challenges with self-love, acceptance and intimacy, you can be open and honest on all levels. When embracing this, you can transform your intimate relationships from bloody battlefields or sterile stalemates into rich and beautiful arenas for spiritual growth and freedom.
It is through relationships that we either rise to our most loving and most authentic self, or fall into the patterns of fear and ego – patterns that keep us stuck and hold us back. Fear and ego owned is easy to listen to with empathy. Fear and ego projected is experienced as attack and provokes counterattack. Taking responsibility for our fear as it arises builds trust and vulnerability in our relationship, which draws us closer to our partner and reinforces a deep sense of safety, love and acceptance. Paradoxically, when we take responsibility for our own fear and ego stuff, it vastly increases the possibilities of both giving and receiving unconditional love, or as close to it as humanly possible.
According to A Course in Miracles, relationships are “assignments” in which people are brought together for maximum and mutual growth opportunity. Our relationships have the potential to be loving, supportive and inspiring, or a painful nightmare of drama and life draining experiences, depending on how we choose to show up and interact with others. Knowing the principles of loving relationships – recognizing the spiritual lessons offered us by each encounter – gives us the opportunity to heal old wounds and emerge into our True Self as a soul, and master of the human experience.