The Whole Point of Every Relationship (is probably not what you think it is).

Via Natasha Blank
on Nov 13, 2012
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I’m not an expert on relationships, but I’ve had a bunch and learned from them.

At least enough to gain some intellectual insight that (hopefully) translates over time into a living breathing shift of being.

Turns out, it’s not about making each other happy, or any other kind of imagined perfection. It’s about helping the person in front of you be everything they truly are.

Here are some ways to do that.

1. Hold each other accountable.

Understand the gift she is here to give this world.

2. Call bullshit.

Reflect when she isn’t giving it.

3. Let go.

Trust in his separate journey, even when what he’s doing makes zero sense to you.

4. Remember that your job is not to make your partner happy.

It’s to allow her the space to find her own happiness—when you’re together, and when you’re apart.

5. Be honest. 

One hundred percent. The permission you give yourself to be all of who you are is what creates that space.

6. Fight well.

You’re both on the same team. Your opposition is the misunderstanding—not each other.

7. Embrace attraction to others.

It’s there. Communicate, be clear (with everyone, including yourself), and enjoy your fabulous human existence.

8. Do your work.

It’s usually not about him, or her. Your partner is a flashlight illuminating where you’ve still got work to do. Those feelings of jealousy, resentment and hurt? They’re showing you all the places in you that need your own healing.

9. Remember that you’re a mirror, too.

Reflect back all the beauty that lives in him. Especially when he forgets.

 10. Enjoy the ride, man!

Seriously. You’re never going to figure it all out, so you might as well just love everybody.

This list is totally incomplete. Have some of your own lessons from the road to share? Post in the comments below. We all thank you.


Bonus: These two are a perfect example of this kind of relationship:


Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Natasha Blank

Natasha Blank is a dancer, dj, integrative healer, and the founder of Get Your Dance On. She creates collective experiences that feed our hunger for life through radical self expression, and plays in the spaces where creativity and healing meet. She is also in the midst of dancing every single day for a year, and invites you to join her. You can find out more about her journey at Get Your Dance On


94 Responses to “The Whole Point of Every Relationship (is probably not what you think it is).”

  1. I loved this. So right on.

  2. Lawrence says:

    then i have set a lot of folks free or vice versa … painful bu thanks for the validation on what have been very rich life-altering relationships… i'm going to tattoo this one for my next partner in freedom !

  3. matt says:

    Good advice-especially about letting go and letting the person have their journey

  4. Lucy says:

    YES!! to all of the above. And bottom line for me is OPEN HEART/COMPASSION for my Self and Other in every moment.

  5. yes! compassion is the key. so much crazy stuff comes up in relationships – so important to have the perspective of compassion for all of it.

  6. katie says:

    beautiful Natasha

  7. Deanna says:

    Love this so much! Thank you!

  8. Deb says:

    Wow Natasha! So insightful! You really captured the essence of why we are here honestly. To allow each other the space just to be who we are and discover how that changes and shifts as we find ourselves over and over again in new situations and help us flow through embracing love, accepting who we are, and honoring each other. Thanks for sharing!!

    • "To allow each other the space just to be who we are and discover how that changes and shifts as we find ourselves over and over again in new situations and help us flow through embracing love, accepting who we are, and honoring each other"

      i love it. so well put. nothing is ever static or sure: the only thing to do is be with the moment as it unfolds, and ALLOW it to unfold completely.


    • Harris says:

      Hellow Deb,
      Good talking . . but please, can you define love?

  9. Keith says:

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  10. lilpushi says:

    Natasha, I want to thank you for this post. I had a semi-complete breakdown today after seeing my ex and started thinking about how nice it would be to have that closeness with him again. I totally forgot why I ended it in the first place. Then the universe brought me in contact with your article and vividly reminded me what was missing. You've also given me a ray of light that lends me hope for future relationships. Definitely bookmarking your article 🙂

    • so glad you found your way here!

      breakups. fucking. suck.

      i was going through a particularly wrenching one a while back, missing him terribly, and my big sis offered this: "we aren't buddhist monks. we've chosen to be householders and live in a world where attachement is inevitable. which means the pain of severing that attachment is inevitable. and it leaves you feeling a giant hole where you used to feel closeness and comfort. but that's what a lot of people refer to as the 'god-shaped hole' – you can try to fill it with people, substances and distracting behaviors, but none of them ever stick. because that's the space that you need to leave open for god."

      neither of us thinks of god in a theological sense, but i got what she meant. those crazy feelings of hurt and longing are a doorway into a deeper communion with your self. that closeness you long for belongs to YOU. and it's your choice when you decide to share it with another person.

      you got this!! keep going. thank you so much for sharing!

    • goddesslv says:

      what a great article i agree!! thank you so much for sharing!

  11. Davide says:

    The thing I object the most in this list isn't in the list. It's the implicit assumption that what you do and what you are are the same thing. Well, they're NOT. 🙂
    A couple is made by two "one"s that join to make a ONE that's bigger, to which BOTH belong. You're not there to make the other happy (or viceversa), but if you get in a couple you have to have "rules", conditions, that are negociated, ad of which BOTH take responsibility. Then if later some of them become something you don't stand anymore, you can always re-negociate. But, while love (as a sentiment) is unconditional, relationship can't be so. Freedom is in setting rules together and, once in agreement on that, take responsibility about them and respect them (and ask for them to be respected by the partner). It's a process, a work in progress, and the rules are always re-negotiable. And if you don't find a satisfying agreement, you should not start (or keep) the relationship as a couple.
    Otherwise, we're talking "friendship" here, not "love" as in a couple relationship… Friendship with benefits, if you like. But still friendship and nothing more. 🙂

    • Thanks Davide! I totally agree. Relationship is a constantly unfolding negotiation of boundaries, needs, desires, trust, etc etc. The freedom of which I speak is found within that structure. Good communication and ability to agree on the structure (as it evolves) is a precondition for everything I list above. Thanks for adding!

    • Canadian Girl says:

      I totally get what you're saying, re-negotiating , embracing change and growth.
      It ended my marriage when I had finally had to face and accept that my husband was not capable of change, renegotiating and totaaly adverse to growth.
      When I fiannly realosed that all he wanted was to "got back to the way it was" only then did I have the strength to leave.
      Suddenly opportunities and posibiliites opened up, I found myself surrounded by beautiful people.
      I am happy I lfet hi

    • Harris says:

      Hellow Davide,
      What you say is good in theory, but jn practice differs a lot – next time you and probably all of us will repeat the same
      mistakes and might come out with an adjusted new theory helping us to move on .
      I see all comments refer to " love" – You see, there is a destructive misunderstanding among humans: They don't know
      the reason they are together with a life companion. In most cases they like to say the reason being "love" whereas
      actually the reason is " sex" . So instead of saying aloud to your companion "Iwant you " you prefer to whisper in his/her
      ear " I love you" and here is the building up of a misunderstanding.s
      Somebody here referred even to God . I was certain that sooner or later, God would creep into it . . .
      Agree/disagree or what?

      • Kat says:

        Disagree. I am not with my partner because of sex. Sex is only a bonus/expression of the feelings we have developed for each other. Sorry, but this perspective of yours seems a bit immature to me.

      • Maria says:

        I think I agree with you. We all have wired in the reproduction instinct, that combined with a few projections, we consciously disguise as 'love'. Real love is expansive, intelligent and inclusive and has very little to do with sexual attraction or desire though they are easily confused.

  12. Joe Sparks says:

    We want to form intelligent relationships based on actual knowledge of each other that has developed over time, not over night, not relationships based on feelings of desperation, we all feel desperate, pulls to fill frozen needs, looking for mommy or daddy, or on sexual attractions, he/she is sexy! Excellent article!

  13. smallgrl says:

    I love what you have said here! My friends who I shared this with love it too, both the ones who are in a serious relationship and ones who are not. That says alot. I would also like to stress that I think this list applies (more or less) to any relationship: colleagues, friends, family, lovers, etc.

    I have to add to this list one piece of information that I got from a counsellor that stuck with me: every relationship involves (some amount of) negotiation. You must be able to express your own wants/needs, understand theirs, and come to reasonable compromises where both of your needs are met and it feels like an equal give and take.

    Thank you!

  14. Niki D says:

    …and hopefully setting YOURSELF free in the process as well… xx

  15. pyanz says:

    Thanks, Natasha. Couldn't have been more timely. These are all the things I'm working so hard to remind myself of in a hard moment. The smaller ego self is actively lobbying for me to work against at least five of those principles, while it's wanting to blow up number one, Hold Each Other Accountable, and number two, Call Bullshit, into tools with which to punish my partner.

    Thank the Mystery for breath, for a daily movement practice, and for teachers like you to ring the bell of mindfulness so that I can balance my responses; so that I can allow a wiser, larger part of myself to steer a little more of the time; and so that I can remember that even my own happiness is not the most important thing to me. Truth, vision, growth, reverence and curiosity- aren't these really at the center of a life well lived?

    • Oops, I forgot to mention extreme self-awareness. Glad to see you're on that one, Peter. May we all know the difference between fear-based and soul-based choices.

      Truth, vision, growth, reverence, and curiosity: all worth tattooing on my palm.

      That's all I got. RIght there with you.

  16. Laura says:

    Live in a present moment. It will never be how it use to be, so don't expect your past to fill up your present moment. We all change with time, so realize there is nothing more beautiful than that. Even if our past was one of the most memorable moments, simply acknowledge it with a smile and let it go.

  17. […] just read Natasha Blank’s post on The Whole Point of Every Relationship…and it really hit […]

  18. Harris says:

    Those people seen crying, does not mean they are "good" – they are the " victims" – :" Godama Bhudda".

  19. Sage says:

    Love is complex and can have different meanings. I subcategorize into Eros (a feeling of wanting, yearning, desiring, infatuation, that sort of thing), and Agape (a feeling of gratitude, giving, supporting, letting go, appreciating, revering, unconditional accepting, and like that). To be in a sexual relationship with someone often involves Eros, which can feel very exciting and passionate. The feeling of excitement that can come from perceived desire from another is very heady, intoxicating stuff. Agape is sometimes more difficult to experience or understand as it involves a level of detachment and this is something I think a lot of humans have little experience with, IMHO. Often, detachment is perceived as cold, disinterested, and uncaring, which when a component of Agape is not the case. Detachment in Agape merely means accepting, not taking unpleasant communication from a loved one personally, spacious appreciation, caring and not grasping. Where Eros is desire, Agape is service. Both aspects are appropriate and can be pleasant to experience. In a romantic and sexual relationship, I believe the best experiences occur when both aspects are in play and the partners can be aware of how they are loving and how they WANT to love in any given moment. I think awareness and the internal process of choosing can empower each of us in our dance of how to best be “in” love in the moment. My 2 cents.

    • Miri says:

      It would be nice if we could always maintain the openness and insight relationships normally begin with. I'm in a situation now where, after the male has pursued and won my attention, I'm feeling like the efforts that impressed me so have fallen off. We have good communication and I brought this up. He seems to feel that this is to be expected. I guess I agree that this is what one can normally expect, but it's not something that I've ever seen be successful. It makes me think that he made up the interesting/attractive qualities/moments, which I know is not true … but I get all combative with my thoughts when I begin to analyze them. Hahaha. I'm trying to have some grace and not act dumb, because I think I've been a bit unyielding in the past. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm to figure out if I'm falling short out of insecurity or if he's just less intuitive than I initially thought he was. I could go on. Ugh. I always say, in relationships, that there are dealbreakers and there are compromises … but I always seem to resent the compromises later on, so I'm trying not to make them anymore … which means I'm a horrible person … sort of. ARGH.

    • Manda says:

      wow…I think you just summed up what I have been figuring out lately so eloquently! I have always been so caught up in the intoxication aspect, I have never really respected my previous partners SPACE as you put it. I have been doing that more recently, and it has been improving my connection with others and myself… FIST PUMP! Thanks for sharing on these aspects of Eros and Agape type love, I am going to look into them more for sure!

    • Hey MDR, curious to hear your thoughts about this. Did you interpret this article as referring to one of the insecure attachments described in the wiki piece? If you did — or didn't, and mean something else — I'd love your take. Relationships are such a delicate balance between independence and heathy interdependence, close relationships with other and close relationships to oneself. It's a conversation I'm always interested in opening up.

  20. Robert Allen says:

    This list is great and to the point perfectly, laconically. I say you open the length of this article- and write a book on the same topic. Good stuff!

  21. Mrs Oberst says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this. Thank you 🙂

  22. […] 5. The Whole Point of Every Relationship (is probably not what you think it is). […]

  23. Nicole says:

    Loved reading through this article and discussion. And I wanted to offer a component related to ego and defensiveness. In my view interdependence is key to a successful relationship and is only attainable when both partners remain open and curious towards each others needs, desires and feelings. In an effort to constantly do what’s best for the relationship each person is not only responsible for being aware, honest and willing to share all of these aspect but also willing to go to places unknown in order to satisfy all these aspects (which in the end are forever shifting depending on circumstance and perspective). Remaining in the present moment at all times is essential and understanding that holding ground could potentially inhibit the creation of ultimate pathways towards a stronger relationship. If one person perpetually holds his/her ground the other person most likely will feel compromised. I believe the true strength of a relationship is related to the propensity for each partner to demonstrate their independence with loving kindness and then to commit to building interdependence by letting go of their independence only to build a new state of understanding with their partner that is even greater and more powerful than if they were to keep their stand alone. Keeping in check with ego is important to remain open and aware. Curious to hear any thoughts Natasha 🙂 Thanks again for such a simple yet thoughtful read!

    • Tina says:

      I love what you have to say, Nicole. Especially the part, "If one person perpetually holds his/her ground the other person most likely will feel compromised. I believe the true strength of a relationship is related to the propensity for each partner to demonstrate their independence with loving kindness and then to commit to building interdependence by letting go of their independence only to build a new state of understanding with their partner that is even greater and more powerful than if they were to keep their stand alone." YES!

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  27. Carrie B. says:

    Our list helps live this life of freedom: honesty, transparency, trust, respect, communication, negotiation and lots of love. With these things – we feel invincible as a couple and as individuals.

  28. PanOptikum says:

    Good list! Especially 6. Conflicts are a good way to know yourself and your partner better. It's never fighting against the partner, always against a misunderstanding, a habit or whatever.

  29. Cindy says:

    Forgive….our words and actions can be so imperfect, mangled. Believe the best. Give the benefit of the doubt. Then forgive.

    • Natasha Blank says:

      Yes. Yes. Yes. Letting go is so crucial. I catch myself holding onto the tiniest things, which serves nothing and no one but my ego's desire to be "right." Silly, yet so easy to get hooked.

  30. Hank says:

    total bull -sh*t… I'm calling it now

    (also, why are all the positive encouragements about "she" and all of the tolerating of bad habits are for "he" …speak to both sides or none!)

    • Natasha Blank says:

      Hank, I hear what you mean about how (1) and (2) could be seen implying positive and negative things about the genders whose pronouns I used. It certainly isn't intended that way – you could swap one for the other and it would still ring true from my perspective. If I could have used a non-gendered pronoun for all of them, I would have 🙂

      And if you think this list is bullshit? What's yours like? What works for you? What do you do differently? Your constructive input is totally welcome.

  31. Owen Marcus says:

    Great guide… we needed it when we started. But on the other hand it's often only through the struggle of learning do we appreciate the beauty of simplicity.

    It was great meeting you at Dan's on that beautiful June night in Brooklyn. Maybe next time in NYC you'll see me at your gig.

  32. Maggie says:

    I strive to do this in all of my relationships, with friends AND lovers. The gift of freedom – given and received – is, to me, the most loving gift of all.

  33. Shelby says:

    All I would add is to forgive quickly and leave the past in the past. When we continually bring up the past, it prevents BOTH from moving forward.

  34. Nat Rizk says:

    This is amazing. Thank you. #4 is something that especially insightful & strikes a cord with me.


  35. dick says:

    So much of this is true. Maybe not all of it, but that's for me to decide after all.
    My big rule is this: Love yourself first, warts and all. Doing that makes your love flow to others.

  36. Jennifer Twardowski says:

    Love this! 🙂 Thank you!

  37. Salamanala says:

    This is amazing, I am going through a tough relationship period right now and just today I decided to do all the points mentioned above. Thanks, this must be the confirmation that my decisions are on the right track.

  38. elizabeth says:

    One word: Children.

    They change much of any relationship… in a practical sense. I read the article and completely agree with the statements made. But, as my partner & I have 4 kids (ages 25-1, no lie) we have little time/energy for anything but a very real and honest relationship with each other (and everyone else in the family!). Just saying… no time to think or worry about things – baby’s up & needs Mama. Good day, all!

    • Natasha Blank says:

      Word. I've been wondering lately about why so many divorces happen shortly after the arrival of kids – and your comment sums it up. Either you've got the tools to work together to serve something much bigger than the both of you, or you're able to step up and cobble them together as you go, or you don't. Good on you & your partner for giving so much over these last 25+ years (and the next 18+!)…. now THAT is love.

  39. Nick Myers says:

    You just reinforced something that i've actively been doing in my relationships for quite some time now. Even working with the most subtlest parts of me that are still habitual trying to say, "mine mine mine."

    Enjoying each relationship I have with each individual has shown me their beautiful self, and it has shown me my beautiful self. Letting go of my ideas about myself and others has helped so much in expansion in my compassion in general. It's so refreshing to so an article like this so nicely articulate. Thank you Natasha


  40. Natasha says:

    Well written- I agree completely and could add a few from my own 'Blessons':

  41. Paul says:

    We all need room to just be; Human BEings. Such beautiful and insightful responses on this thread!

  42. Lou says:

    I didn’t agree with everything, but No. 8 really hit me. Hit me hard. I’m glad I had the opportunity to read that.

  43. Jchobbit says:

    I really wanted to like this. The intention seems pure…but the tone is so sexist. Stereotypical & makes me uncomfortable.

    • Natasha Blank says:

      I should have made the point within the article that my pronoun choices are arbitrary – I picked one to start and then more or less alternated. When I refer to "he" or "she," I'm certainly not just talking about only that gender.

      If any other part of this struck you as sexist, though, I welcome your thoughts and invite you to share any tools you think contribute to healthy relationships.

  44. Ray says:

    11. Do not give up who you are (or where you are in your journey) to give your partner these things. If they are worthy of your gifts above, they will not expect that from you. in fact, they will reject it from you.

  45. I love that this is just the opposite of what most people try to get FROM relationships. Really, what we need to be focusing on is cultivating more of what we want to GIVE to relationships. Then the giver becomes the receiver.

  46. Tantra Therapist. says:

    sounds like a perfect way to be "in love" with a narcissist.

    • Natasha Blank says:

      Of course, there's a big difference between being generous, self-aware, and adult – and being co-dependent. But that's a whole other post…

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