By Jessica: Everything we walk through in life is an opportunity to grow and embrace fully who we are. In India, they say that the path of the householder is the hardest spiritual path, far harder than that of the monk or hermit. In other words, facing the daily ordeals of being in close relationship with others, whether it be romantic, family, via work or our responsibilities, is the hardest path to manage and stay close to God, or to the blueprint of who we were created to be spiritually. The good news is that, as we do learn to manage that, we strengthen exponentially in who we are.
Note: I use the word God as a convenient, small word to indicate Divine experience too big for me to describe or define.
My belief is that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, right now, and that life is a constant balance between what we must accept and what we can change. I use the prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Too much acceptance and we become victims of things we could change, too little acceptance and we become victims of the backlash from our delusions of control. The aim of the work I do is to guide people into making empowering choices, rather than choosing one of the seductive forms of victimhood available to us.
Nowhere is the seduction of victimhood more insidious and perplexing than in our love relationships. We sense when we have a strong connection to someone, and we “know” when that is reciprocated and where that must lead to – or do we? A strong bond, maybe sometimes even the strongest of bonds, may be in our lives to teach us many things, rarely is that lesson how to be with that person as a life partner. Those in our soul group may choose to teach us the hardest lessons, our job then is to understand what our part of that lesson is and not keep trying to dissuade the other person from their soul-work.
In my own life, I met and lived with my twin soul for 5 years in a very connected, joyful and at the same time turbulent and destructive romantic relationship. It was the kind of relationship that others would look at and envy, the connection and love shone out – it couldn’t help it, that was its nature. The other part of the relationship was ugly and often hidden from public eyes and was ultimately what would nearly kill me. I truly believed that I could not live without him, and yet it was me who walked away in the end, a messy, unhealthy end that took years to finalize. The soul-connection was undeniable, palpable. The destruction was almost complete – it was due to the many wounds we both carried – although, at the time, it looked like he was the perpetrator and I was the victim. In hindsight, with many years distance, we were both very wounded and the purpose of that relationship was the growth it held for us both, not the relationship longevity. It took me years to understand that his loving soul had chosen to play this part in my life to teach me boundaries. Without that lesson, I would have been a poor parent to the children who came into my life later, not to mention a rather ineffective therapist.
How do we know whether a relationship has truly served its soul-purpose or whether it is just a form of self-harm? The simplest way is, when we are ready, to simply get real, tell ourselves the truth. The confusing thing is that there can be a true soul-connection with someone and it can also be self-harm at the same time. So, how do we get real? One simple way is to sit down with a pen and two pieces of paper (one for you, one for your partner) to weigh things up, according to the evidence of actions made. What are the pros and cons of the relationship for you? What are the pros and cons of the relationship for the other person, what actions do they make to demonstrate those? And this is where you have to be scrupulously honest – it cannot be what you hope or dream are the pros and cons, for you or the other person, it has to be that for which you have tangible evidence (action) – yes, you ‘know’ he/she loves you but do his/her actions demonstrate that, what is the tangible evidence? Your final questions after the pros and cons on each list are: 1) who is benefitting most here and 2) am I being truly who I am or am I changing in some way in response to this other person? If you are not benefitting equally, then understand that you are choosing to be a victim and decide whether you will continue to do that in full consciousness, or whether you will find support to stop that self-harm. The ultimate self harm is when we change our true nature in response to another – we violate our integrity, and cheat the other person, by pretending to be who we are not.
We respond in a way that we think the other person would prefer, or we choose to present ourselves as what we perceive to be attractive, exciting, fun. This is like climbing onto a circus ball and trying desperately to maintain our stability, grasping at the other person when we wobble, collapsing on them when we inevitably lose our balance; falling exhausted off the ball and into the mud when we are alone and don’t feel we need to put on the show anymore. So all of our effort goes into being someone we are not, in order to attract the person we want to love us for who we are…it’s easy to see why it might not work. When we put that much energy into being honest and in integrity, we attract people, both practically and energetically, who respond to the light of who we are, as we strengthen in our true being. That way we stop victimizing ourselves and the person we claim to love and we allow each person to be with whomever is right for them. There is simply no place for unreturned, invalidated love if we are truly being ourselves.
Let me give you a recent example. A lovely lady I am working with, a beautiful soul in her late 30’s, came to me about a relationship that has just started but was ‘in trouble’. He is a very sweet and loving older man and they both feel a great connection. This lady has a history of trauma and really is not ready for physical intimacy. But she “knows” her partner is! In order to give him what she felt he wanted, she had to use alcohol to numb her fear around physical intimacy. Alcohol increases her anxiety and gives her panic attacks, so she usually avoids it. She asked to work with me because of her increasing panic attacks, which she associated with the relationship and was readying herself to leave. With very little work, it was not hard for her to trace why the panic attacks were increasing, and to recognize a pattern of self-sabotage that had plagued her relationships for years. She would leave each previous relationship believing that the problem was the other person, whereas, in reality, she had set it up beautifully to fit her unconscious pattern and prove that men could not be trusted.
The largest personal hurdle we all face is in owning our part in any difficulty that occurs in a relationship. If we only see the other person’s part, but not our own, we make ourselves victims. If we recognize that even 1% of the problem is/was ours to own and work on, we empower ourselves for a better experience next time. My client took the time to be honest with her new partner, choosing not to talk about her trauma yet, as she was not ready. This wonderful man, now given the opportunity to be a part of what helps, has taken her honesty and has run with it – telling her and demonstrating to her that everything can be at her pace. He could have reacted the other way and said that wouldn’t work for him (or some other, rougher way of putting it!), and still her mission would be accomplished. Would she really want to be with someone who would be willing to violate her vulnerability for his own needs? Sometimes the answer to that question is yes, and then we have to accept every day that we are making the decision to be a victim and thereby choosing to build resentment against the person we purport to love. Which raises questions eventually leading us to our own answers and, hopefully, into self care and healthy relationships.
For myself, I came to understand that the bond between my twin soul and myself would never change, but that in this reality, we could only ever hurt one another – and where is the good in that? He chose to remain single and pour himself into his work as a surgeon, helping many others. I moved on and eventually married someone else, someone in my soul-group who is as different from me as a person can get. Without the innate understanding that flowed between my twin soul and myself, I have had to learn to articulate and break down my responses and feelings to my husband, something that has helped beyond measure in our relationship and in my professional work.
It is said that the Divine always works to help the most people at maximum efficiency and I certainly see that in my own life. Were I to have stayed in that relationship, at worst it would have destroyed us both, at unlikely best we would have stayed home together 24/7 in our little cocoon of laughter and total connection, never strengthening or learning the lessons we came here to learn. Never reaching out and touching the lives of so many others, receiving so much grace through that reaching outwards. In this reality, our little cocoon is an unrealistic dream, the more likely scenario is that it would have destroyed us both.
What is left for me now are the many golden moments of our time together, each day that goes by there is a goodness from that relationship that improves my life today. But I am old enough, and perhaps wise enough, to know that our lives have taken very different paths and we have given each other exactly what our souls agreed, no more, no less. Without losing that precious relationship, I would never have been through the tough times I needed in order for my will to stand up and say “No”. Without experiencing that connection I would never have known love, laughter and kinship that sustains me to this day, and I would never have become healthy enough to marry the wonderful man that I have and to sustain a normal, loving relationship through life’s ups and downs.
The path to a healthy relationship starts with being painfully honest with ourselves. We then move on, sometimes with help, to clearing away that which blocks our light from shining out to our soul family and our soul purpose. Until you deal with your “stuff”, your stuff will deal with you. Blame, shame and guilt make us victims; acceptance, amends and action empower us. What do you choose? Can you fully own your part in any difficult situation in order to empower yourself and grow strong in who you are? Or are you self-harming by pretending to be who you are not and craving to be loved for who you are? Maybe a better prayer for many of us would be: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.”