Are you in despair at not being able to attract a great partner? Are you unsure as to whether the relationship you are in has the potential to grow and deepen? Here are a few things I see repeatedly, that can indicate some issues either in your approach to relationship, or the viability of the partner you are currently with.
1. You are unclear about what you, or the other person, want
When asked about the relationship, one partner reports, “we’re having fun, we’re feeling it out.” And the other says some version of, “I really think we are a great match for a long term partnership and that’s what we are moving towards.” Hmmm….
So the first step here is really self-honesty. Sometimes we may tell ourselves that we want one thing in an effort to not intimidate the other person with our need for something serious, for example. I see this frequently. The person is willing to ‘act casual’ so that she can stay with the guy she’s attracted to who she knows isn’t thinking about something long-term. And yet, to do so, she has to lose some faith in her longing, and try to discount her feelings.
My heart tells me this: usually if you long for something, that is because it is right for you. It is a part of your destiny, your inherent natural-ness, your make-up. This applies to all areas of life, including relationship. If you want to learn and grow and explore with possibly many relationships, own it! It’s great. If you want to know what long-term partnership is like, what that really means and what that really feels like, then own that! It’s also great. And, don’t spend time trying to convince yourself that you want something else. It’s a dis-service to you and the people you date! Just be strong in what you need, and have the courage to turn away from things that aren’t that.
If you aren’t clear about what you want, it might be worth your time and contemplation to get clear.
It was hard for me to let go of my hope that delicious-talented-amazing-bass-player would magically turn monogamous, but believe me, it paid off to breathe a sigh of acceptance and move on. Fighting with reality is never a good plan!
2. You feel you are walking on eggshells
If you tend to think about your relationship as an ongoing effort to not wake the sleeping lion, so to speak, and are constantly modifying your behavior to not upset your volatile partner, there is a good chance that the part of you that wants to be authentic, imperfect, funny, free to make mistakes, and not think too much (your essence!), will over time either:
A. Shrink down to the point where you can no longer access your joy, your humor, or any peaceful feelings, or…
B. Rebel! Causing fights, irritation, tension, fire spitting contests, and blame between partners.
I get it, there’s a lot to love about the lion. She’s big, beautiful, charismatic, shiny, looks like she could sweep you away into the sunset, yet….the restless lion at home is a different story. Unless you are as big, as beautiful, and as shiny as she is, and have as much fun asserting your dominance as she does, you’ll look like a nice evening snack to her, and will be the brunt of her frustrations, unresolved issues, anger, and volatility. Not very fun for an evening at home.
In all seriousness, I see this dynamic so often…One partner is showing aggression, power, anger, dominance, and not wanting to look at his/her contribution to the issues in the relationship, and the partner who wants to ‘work it out, talk it over,’ etc, becomes the target of unfairly over-inflated rage, blame, inflexibility, and criticism. Sound familiar? If you are an empathic, low-self esteem type, this may be just the type of relationship you’ve been attracting.
Now, if this person is expressing to you that he wants to work on this issue, and acknowledges that his behavior is not good for the relationship, then perhaps proceed, with caution. But if all you’re getting is “I’m right, you’re wrong, it’s your fault, you’re so this and so that, why can’t you just get this,” etc, it might be better to consider letting this one go, and finding yourself a more cuddly, playful animal who is softer to come home to.
Think about it this way: your partner is the person who will see the most sides of you. If you are afraid to be messy, upset, unsure, foolish, brilliant, hilarious, tragic, flirty, and every other aspect of yourself in front of them, how could you ever live a full, happy life with them?
3. You or the other person are in an active addiction
This is a very difficult thing to face in relationship. It is possible to feel very deep connection with someone at the same time that very entrenched, active addiction is present. Though it may be one of the most painful things you’ll ever do, letting go of an addict, releasing them to face their addiction, is a great service to both people. Or, if you find yourself in active addiction, your greatest gift to yourself is the time and space to heal.
A disclaimer about this one: I believe that all of us have addictions. The desire to escape what we are feeling through a substance, person, or repetitive ungrounded activity, is pretty much normal for most humans. But what I am talking about here as an “active addiction,” is an addiction that takes up a good deal of the person’s mental/thought energy, causes difficult emotional states of shame and self-disgust, illicits protective and secretive behavior, and lowers the person’s ability to function normally.
If you do feel that you or your partner is in active addiction, yet find it very hard to let the relationship go, I recommend checking out the Al-Anon program. If you think you are possibly in an addiction, I also recommend the AA-based programs. Learn more about those here.
There is a possibility of making a relationship work (a great possibility) if the person is actively pursuing treatment and is feeling some confidence in offsetting their addiction. If they are in an ongoing relapse/recovery spiral, however, or just plain living with the addiction and not working on it, there just isn’t a lot of extra energy left to work consciously on a relationship.
4. There’s a large power differential
Me: “Hi, Tabitha, I hear you’re seeing someone new?”
Tabitha: “Yes, I’m so excited! He’s the leader of my yoga teacher training and he’s reaaaally spiritual.”
Me: “Oh. Ok. Hmmmm….”
So, I hear there are exceptions to this rule, but I personally have seen 10,000 of these relationships start and seen 10,000 of them fail, usually with a good bit of soul damage to boot. Why? Because leadership is such a HUGE theme in relationship. When the leadership shifts and changes (ie, I help you with your struggle, then you help me with mine), there is a much greater chance for mutual respect and self respect for each person.
The respect for the other comes when they are able take the lead, display maturity and capability, and they help you/your relationship through a rough patch. You become more attracted to them…leadership is sexy! And, the equally-important self-respect piece comes when you are able to activate your own leadership skills, your own poise and beauty in a difficult situation, you step up, and you take your relationship to the next level. Your partner is awed and he relaxes; “whew, she can handle this too.” Both play the lead role from time to time, and the relationship feels balanced. Neither person is looking to the other for answers to his own life questions.
In relationships where the balance is already tipped from day one, the self-respect piece doesn’t get to happen for the ‘student,’ or ‘apprentice’ person. The person in the sub-dominant role tends to stay subdominant. The relationship takes on a more parent/child dynamic, and over time, both people get sick of it. Even if the sub-dominant person tries to take leadership, it feels sort of childlike and hesitant to both people, not because that person doesn’t have leadership capacity (in another context they might be an amazing leader!), but because when the roles are already established from day one, it is very hard for either person to step out of their original role.
In these cases, I have witnessed that often the sub-dominant person is drawn to this type of relationship because of a shadow desire to be a leader and to move out of a whole-life pattern of sub-dominance. Often if we go to past lives, there is a history of being in sexual slavery, geisha-hood, prostitution. In this life the person wants to have the opposite experience, of being empowered and sexually free, yet they are drawn to other people’s power as it is the only way they know how to access their own.
The more dominant partner, on the other hand, tends to have a deep fear of vulnerability, of letting go and trusting someone. If they wanted and were actively pursuing those things, they probably wouldn’t want to get involved with someone who they felt “higher” than.
5. Projection and delusion are present
“I finally found him.” “He’s everything I ever dreamed of.” “I know she’d never hurt me.” Hmmm….red flag red flag red flag!
When someone walks into my healing room talking like this, I often think to myself, who’s talking here? Does it sound like a reasonable, mature adult? Absolutely not! To me it sounds like a hurt, scared child trying to soothe him or herself when people say these types of things about their brand-new sexual partner.
This type of fantasy-projection is rampant amongst the spiritual population. We collectively have laced our childhood pain and hurt with higher concepts like synchronicity, bliss, and destiny. As if, because you ran into him in line at the supermarket on the very day you were thinking about wanting a relationship, it is a sign that destiny has intervened and the universe has aligned and now the fairy dust will sprinkle down and happily ever after is all that’s left! Yay! Candyland fantasy for everyone!
My prayer: please let us all remember our first chakras, people.
Ok, I may sound cynical. And yes, I did meet my truly great partner in line at the grocery store. But, my point here, is that when we jump to sweeping conclusions immediately upon meeting someone, it is more of a sign that our inner pain and wounding is activated, than that the stars have aligned to deliver our Disney dream man. It is very important, if you want real relationship, to learn to differentiate between your own fantasy projection and grounded reality. As I say to my clients, give it a year, and then MAYBE you can start saying something along the lines of “he’s the one” with some truth behind it. Or, more likely, it will sound something like this after a good year with someone you are compatible with:
“We are pretty stable as a couple still…Isn’t that great?” “I’m impressed that we move through challenges really well.” “He makes me laugh.” “She has come a long way with her moodiness.” “I’m excited to see what’s next for us.” “The patterns of _____ that I see are really challenging but we are working through it.”
Notice these statements still don’t conclude that since I’ve met someone compatible and am enjoying a healthy relationship, all pain will be gone and I won’t have to have a hard day and nothing will make me sad, ever again.
Addiction is the act of repeatedly turning away from the discomfort and imperfection of the present moment, towards some stimulus that distracts us for a little while. If this section is resonating with you, I would suggest getting honest with yourself about how you might be using idealized relationship as a way to escape your discomfort about some fact of your life. Better to face that discomfort if you really do want to experience something deeper than a distraction. Spiritual relationship’s purpose is to take you deeper into life, not farther from it!
What if none of these are happening in my partnership?
If the patterns talked about here don’t remind you of your dating life or your current relationship, congratulations! You are most likely in a good space to either deepen with your partner, or to attract someone wonderful into your life.
All relationships are full of challenge and growth, no doubt about that! But if you find yourself with someone you can be yourself with, who is on the same wavelength as you in terms of their goals in relationship, who is not afraid to face their issues, who you are able to feel yourself in a dance of shared leadership with, and who you have seen the human, imperfect side of…well, now the journey will be getting interesting!
And, if the topics in this article do resonate with you, don’t despair. Give yourself the self-love and courage to work on the areas that are still holding you up. It sounds scarier than it is to face these things, and the reward of healthy, happy relationships that you can grow in…now that is worth working for!