We’ve all been there. When a relationship is fresh and new, we’re on top of the world. Life just opens up and anything is possible. And then, somewhere along the way, stuff comes up. Things aren’t so rosy anymore and we just want to run. Or fix it. Or withdraw. Or whatever we think will get us past the difficulty and into a space that feels better.
Relationships are one of the greatest joys in life—and one of its greatest challenges. The deeper and more meaningful the relationship is, the greater the challenge. They trigger our deepest wounds, open our hearts so that we are raw and vulnerable and force us to really look at ourselves. And none of that is easy. These are the spaces where all of our old patterns still run the show. All the unresolved emotions and childish tendencies, subconscious habits and limiting beliefs.
We all have stuff to heal. And we are masters at fooling ourselves and looking around what we don’t really want to see. We often do it without even being aware of it. When something in life goes awry, when something feels a bit off, our intimate relationships are the first thing we question. Is this right for me? Is there another, better relationship out there? When things come up, dropping the whole thing and going elsewhere can seem like a pretty tempting idea. But most of the time, we find ourselves in the same situation with the next relationship and the one after that. Because, most of the time, the relationship isn’t the problem.
We draw in experiences, people and situations that resonate with us. Invisibly and unconsciously, we seek out familiar situations and people, those that give us a chance to become aware of our shortcomings and become empowered. To learn a bit more about ourselves, we need to become conscious of those unconscious bits that have such a powerful influence on our experience. We open into a space where we can be hurt, rejected and abandoned because this is exactly the space we need to be in to heal. And to feel the joy of life.
Connecting authentically with others means showing up, owning our crap and being present. It means listening to the emotions when they come up and learning to express them in a healthy way. Seeing where our boundaries are fuzzy and where we lose sight of our needs. Relating from a conscious space is challenging because it brings all those little misalignments and leaky bits into our awareness. When those really sensitive spaces come to light, it’s easy to step into a place of blame, or shut down, or run away. The hardest thing to do is sit with the feelings that come up. Express those little fears or insecurities as they are, rather than becoming defensive. We’re almost hardwired to do anything but look at the painful bits, and we’ve all learned some pretty sneaky ways of avoiding them.
Yeah, sometimes it’s easier to shut down. But it’s a delay tactic. The pain and fear and insecurity that come up, all of those less delightful parts of the human experience, they’re in us to begin with. And we carry them into every connection we make until we learn to see them. Like a thorn that we avoid touching. Any time something rubs against it, it hurts like hell. But it won’t stop hurting until we pull it out. Until we let the feelings come up, look them square in the face and talk about them.
This is why relationships are such a perfect vehicle for spiritual growth. To relate from a conscious space, we have to show up. And we have to be honest about all of those things that get in the way of showing up. Keeping our relationships healthy means knowing our needs and making sure they’re met. Learning how to be accountable for our actions and how to open up when it’s hardest. This is the essence of spirituality. It’s all about stepping out of the head and into the heart. Authenticity, being real even when it hurts, is one of the deepest and most elemental paths to healing and waking up.