Even after many years of struggles in codependent and abusive relationships, it is possible to mature into a conscious relationship. Once the lessons have been learned, we finally see light at the end of the tunnel. Intimate relationships have been a source of torment, despair, frustration and powerlessness. They now become the most beautiful part of our life. Our life deepens and we get to experience the purity of the love within our heart through the most magnificent mirror of romantic connection. What does this relationship feel like?
1. Personal Work
Because of the law of attraction, the partner we love is the mirror of who we are, mostly the unexpressed aspects. Therefore, the better person we become, the better partner we will attract. A beautiful and enjoyable romantic partnership can only be the mirror of genuine self-love. For this reason, inner work is and will continue to be the biggest factor in attracting, loving and keeping this special person.
In a conscious relationship, we remember that our partner is a mirror. When they trigger us, we remember they are helping us to become aware of unsavory aspects we have repressed. We enjoy the good times, and we go into introspection during the challenging times to learn and become a better version of ourselves. If we think the behavior of our loved one has nothing to do with us, then we will not have strong reactions. We can either be supportive or feel indifferent, and lose interest. But if we are triggered, then we can be assured that it is about us. With experience, we learn to discriminate more and more accurately what is our stuff, and what is their stuff when a conflict arises. And we learn to discuss it in a vulnerable way to increase self-awareness and intimacy.
We learn to be alone while not feeling lonely. We do not need someone to complete ourselves. We do not need to marry someone to relive our childhood traumas. We are no longer afraid to be abandoned or betrayed. We understand that love is within us and not outside. So even if a breakup occurs, we know for certain that after we have grieved, the love within us will manifest an even better partner than before. This works as automatically as a sick body will eventually get healthy because health is our natural state of balance as we follow our inner guidance and get enough rest. We are able to make the best decisions for the relationship and ourselves because we are not driven anymore by the fear of ending up alone.
The people in a relationship are more important than the relationship itself. While it is wonderful to enjoy longevity in a relationship, we understand that there is no guarantee. As human beings, we keep changing and growing and sometimes people grow in different directions. It does not make anyone wrong, though the process of uncoupling can be so painful. We can only share happiness with our beloved if we are happy ourselves. To keep sacrificing oneself is not sustainable. We need to put our self first with the sincere hope that our partner will want to stick around, and we understand that they need to put them self first too. We understand the fragility of romantic love, as it requires so many conditions to truly blossom. For this reason, we never take it for granted and revel in every moment of deep intimacy. Sometimes, we love our partner so much that we understand that it is best for us to step away if we see that we are limiting their growth.
As we accept the free will of our partner, we are able to experience a new form of love that is not possessive. We do not feel threatened by the growth of our partner, thinking they may leave if they outgrow us. On the opposite side, we want them to reach their full potential. We understand that the love can only get better as each partner commits to becoming the best they can be. We want to experience two hearts that choose to love each other in complete freedom, a love that is genuinely unconditional. We accept that our partner may say no to us at times. It could be no to joining on an activity, no to sex, no to help us out, no to an external commitment and we trust them that they have taken our best interest in consideration. We work on our own abandonment or self-esteem issues or insecurities when this happens without attempting to manipulate them.
We commit to know ourselves and to be authentic. We commit to own both our light and shadow. Unless we know who we are, we appear unpredictable and unsafe to our partner. As we acquire self-knowledge, we understand our core needs and we are able to communicate effectively about them. We are honest, we act with integrity and we have healthy boundaries. When we have a conflicting need, we find a creative way for both partners to get their needs met.
The more we own our shadow, the more we can create a container for our partner’s shadow so that we can both bring more of ourselves into the relationship for deeper intimacy. The more we own our shadow, the less likely it is for any shame to disrupt the relationship. The more we own our shadow, the better we can support our partner’s emotional healing without judgment.
2. Building a life together
While the commitment to self comes first as it is the healthy foundation for anything we bring into our life, a relationship takes nurturing and commitment. A romantic partnership is like a beautiful flower that needs its daily intake of nutrients, good soil, sun, and water. An intimate connection is the co-creation of two individuals. It is a third entity in addition of the two individuals, not an entity that is supposed to overthrow the same individuals that brought it to life in the first place.
Take it Slow. It takes time to know a person. People have a tendency to move too fast together after having sex. Sexual chemistry may be irresistible at first but it will eventually wane off as incompatibilities surface. Sexual attraction is an indicator of the potential of a relationship for personal growth, while compatibility is the best indicator for longevity. Genuine trust is built slowly through repetition. Taking any step back in a committed relationship is very damaging so it is better to advance slowly but surely. Only commit when you are ready to do it, but then be consistent.
Become an expert on other person. We tend to forget it but the main reason to be in a relationship is to love and to be loved, to experience joy and happiness. Therefore, the better we know our partner, the easier it is for us to make them feel loved. It is critical to know their love language, how they feel appreciated, what opens their heart, how they feel cared for. The more you bring joy into their lives, the more your partner will feel inspired to reciprocate if s/he is not narcissistic. Be curious and keep asking questions to know your partner better every day. We should give at least five times more compliments than constructive feedback on how our partner’s behavior is affecting us negatively.
In its lower form, sex can be used for control and a way to release negativity. However, when used consciously, the benefits are immense. The regular mixing of Yin & Yang sexual energy of two lovers is excellent to their health. Sex can become a sacred ritual when the energy from the genitals gets refined in each subsequent chakra to eventually open the crown chakra. It allows the lovers to experience ego death in a divine embrace. It opens the door to some of the highest pleasures we are able to experience on this earth. It promotes playfulness and intimacy. It brings heaven on earth.
Many of us make the mistake of loving romantic partners for their potential and not for what they are today. While people can change, this is a long process so this type of expectation puts unnecessary stress onto the relationship. To truly love someone is to love his or her shortcomings. This makes it a safe place for our partner to grow without shame. We are able to see and love the whole person, without idealizing or demonizing him or her.
A conscious intimate relationship is the experience of togetherness without losing oneself in the process. It is the merging of freedom with responsibility and commitment.
We give without expecting anything in return. Unless absolutely necessary, we only do things for our partner when it comes from our heart to keep the relationship pure and unconditional. And by doing so, we raise our vibration and we move our center of gravity from the ego to the heart, to experience life at a much higher level.
We focus on creating joy and happiness for our partner. More and more, their bliss becomes our own, and their smile reflects the delight of our heart. We have no need to claim our value because it is already there as we wonder at the love in their eyes.
We strive to be sensitive towards our partner and we extend the same concern to our close ones. We ensure to be on the same page, and if we are not, we at least become aware that we are not. We are patient and understanding in solving our differences.
Self-improvement means encouraging and feeding the highest aspects within us, and starving the unsavory ones. We need to have the same commitment towards our partner. When a shadow aspect manifests but we do not feel our partner could take the constructive feedback, just ignore this aspect in silence. But under no circumstance should we feed their shadow otherwise it will come back to bite us. I once had a partner who had megalomaniac tendencies. I would be encouraging but never to the point where her ego could take the better of her. Unfortunately, she had a manager that was in love with her, and would continuously put her on a pedestal. He used her shadow to make her leave me so that he could get married with her. However, he is now the one who has to deal with the monster he has created.
There cannot be a relationship without communication. Communication can be verbal and non verbal. Communication is what harmonizes the uniqueness of two individuals so that a third entity, the relationship, may be created. The quality of your relationship is first determined by the quality of your communication. Communication is the invisible thread that makes the dance of relationships possible.
When our partner talks to us, we figure out the best course of action. Do they just need to vent? Do they need their pain to be validated? Do they need to be felt, seen and understood through active listening? Do they need to feel protected and loved? Are they actually looking for advice? (rarely) Do they want to explore a philosophical subject? (rarely)
We strive towards achieving the best balance in sharing our problems and worries. We share vulnerably what troubles us for deeper intimacy, however we are careful not to overwhelm our partner with our challenges. We develop a sense of how much our partner is able to handle without being dragged down. If they get triggered, they will make our state worse and not better anyway. We accept the fact that our partner has limitations just as we have limitations. We put our individual problems into the right container, as we understand our partner is sacred and should not be the recipient of our own dysfunction. We make it a priority to share the positive aspects of life over the struggles. We develop a habit to see the glass half full rather than half empty without living in denial.
In the medical profession, the Hippocratic oath teaches us to abstain from all intentional wrongdoing and harm. I believe the same applies to intimate relationships. While it is impossible never to hurt an intimate partner that is so close to us, we commit never to do it intentionally. And if we do hurt them, we become introspective so as to understand on how not to do it anymore. On the opposite, we commit to do everything in our power to bring more joy and happiness into their life.
Kindness is the antidote for shame. Kindness promotes safety in the relationship. When communication and interaction with our beloved is infused with kindness, we relax. We need less time alone to recharge because we are able to do it even more effectively in their quiet presence. Kindness allows an intimate relationship to become a refuge.
Authenticity comes with responsibility. We become aware how speaking our truth or acting from our authentic self may negatively impact our partner. We anticipate their reaction so that we can best communicate about our needs while minimizing negative impact for them. For example, if you have an urge to climb the Himalayas, you do it in a way that will guarantee your safety and at a time when your spouse can have extra support at home with the children.
Please be careful with what you are committing to because a broken promise can permanently damage the trust in the relationship. Trust is the foundation of intimate relationships. It takes one hundred consistent positive actions to earn trust but one failed promise can demolish everything. So be aware of your limitations. I recently saw a young couple where the woman was struggling with sexual inhibition because of a traumatic past of sexual objectification. We realized that she needed more space for her sexual healing so the young man committed never to initiate sex anymore and that he would leave it entirely to her. This idea came from a noble aspect of him however he was unaware of other parts of him that were unable to hold this promise. As a result, I suggested that they schedule sex once a week intentionally and leave the rest to her. This way, he will not be completely starved sexually and he could more easily create the space she needed for her sexual healing.
A relationship agreement is a wonderful way to clarify in writing how a couple can maximize happiness for each other. It brings focus and consistency in their efforts to nurture the relationship. It needs to be light and flexible for spontaneous love but precise enough to foster commitment. I encourage the couple to write an update of the relationship agreement every year as people keep changing and evolving. It should however never be used as an instrument of control, but as a gentle reminder for the partners’ dedication to love each other in the best way possible.
4. Conflict resolution
Shame is like a hot potato. We throw it at each other because we are afraid to get burnt. Arguments escalate the same way as we throw back and forth the burning shame to each other. Here is an example. The husband arrives late from a long day at work and a business dinner with clients. Wife says “The kids were acting crazy tonight. I am exhausted. I hate living with an absent husband. You are never here with us”. The husband feels ashamed. It triggers his self-worth issues so he responds “Well, there needs to be someone here to pay for the mortgage, and your weekly visit to the hairdresser”. Now this triggers the wife’s insecurities that she is not good enough, and she feels guilty to take care of herself so she goes into a fit of rage. Owning the shame is what breaks this circle. The husband could have simply responded “Yes, I feel bad that I let you down tonight again. I understand you need a caring husband on your side to raise our beautiful children. I am sorry”. Then she may vent a little bit more her frustration but there is no more escalation. This couple can come close again.When we need to give feedback on something that is bothering us in the relationship, we have to learn to do it in a vulnerable way and by taking full responsibility for our feelings. “I cannot stand my life with an absent husband. You are never here with us” becomes “I am struggling with the fact that you are so busy at work. I feel I am distancing myself from you because we do not spend enough time connecting with each other”. “You are such a nagging bitch” becomes “I am starting to struggle with my self-worth because I feel I cannot make you happy no matter hard I try. I am starving for appreciation and connection”. “You are so selfish and only thinking of yourself when you have sex with me” becomes “I felt very alone and objectified when we had sex last night. I am starving for a deeper connection between us. I want to feel that we care as much for each others pleasure as we do our own”. This approach mitigates shame and allows for the beginning of a conscious discussion instead of an argument.
A relationship is fragile, and has potential dangers from outside (life circumstances and other relationships) or inside (incompatibilities). The couple cannot be naïve about them and instead should develop full awareness of what is menacing their union. Some of these negative external influences could be: toxic in-laws, friends not in support of the relationship, difficult stepchildren brainwashed by a jealous ex, a very demanding boss, health or financial issues, or civil unrest. Relationship threats related to various incompatibilities are even more challenging, and it takes conscious communication and a lot of flexibility not to affect the relationship negatively. While most of the time together should be focused on positive aspects, it is critical to acknowledge what could have a negative impact and not sweep it under the rug. Love is precious but it is so fragile. Awareness will advert many dangers.
I am often asked the question on what to do when both partners get triggered at the same time. Ideally, both partners should isolate in a separate room to figure out their personal trigger. It can take the form of journaling, meditation or another healing modality. In this case, the partners are incapable of being a helpful container so it is best to do the work alone. Then they can come back together later and share what they have learned in a vulnerable way after they have calmed down. However, someone with an anxious attachment style may feel even more triggered if his or her partner disappears when a conflict occurs. In this case, I recommend they stay in the same room together as they work separately in silence with their own triggers.
It is a paradox but to be able to handle conflicts successfully, we should not be afraid of conflicts. If we give in because we are afraid of our partner’s negative emotions whether it is rage or despair, we are abandoning ourselves. Nothing gets solved this way, and we keep repeating the same unconscious patterns over and over again. It is natural to be afraid but a conscious relationship demands that we do not act from a place of fear. We acknowledge the fear but we continue to act from our highest truth, no matter what the consequences are. If our partner is not able to love us enough to handle our authentic truth, then we need to accept the fact that we may be better off with a different partner. Many teachers have said that fear and not hate is the opposite of love. Let’s learn to embrace conflict rather than running away from it. Let’s bring as much conscious awareness as possible during the conflict so that we can learn from our disputes.
It is natural to have preferences in the way our partner looks or behaves. We can express our personal preferences however we should never use any form of manipulation such as intimidation or blackmail to control our partner’s behavior or looks. We need to respect their free will and wait for them to take this action from their own volition. Let’s say your girlfriend does not shave her underarms and you find this unattractive. You may express your preference however if she is genuinely attached to her armpit hair, you should let it go. If this is a reason for you to break up with her, then she is definitely better off without you as it shows you are unable to love her the way she is.
Rather than seeing a relationship trigger as a curse, we need to rewire ourselves to see it as an opportunity. A trigger can be seen as a long and strong rope to recover lost and buried aspects within us. They can teach us invaluable lessons, promote self-knowledge and personal healing like nothing else. They bring to our awareness existing problems that need to be addressed. They help us improve our communication. If tackled properly, they help us deepen the intimacy with our partner.
Intimate relationships are challenging but there is nothing else that has the potential to bring us as much happiness, growth and wisdom. A conscious relationship is the ultimate reward of many years of trying, failing and learning to love. This is why many forms of art have been obsessed with romantic love and intimate partnership. It is the most beautiful reminder on this earth of the rapture of divine love. Never give up on the dream to love and to be loved.