Why Relationships Don’t Work. ~ Kristin Luce

Via Kristin Luce
on Sep 25, 2013
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After a quarter century of personal, scholastic and professional experience with relationships, I have finally discovered why none of them work—neither for me, nor for anyone with whom I have encountered.

To illustrate the point, let me tell you about my most successful relationship to date. It lasted for 36 hours.

We met at a party of mutual friends, and quickly fell into a “Bubble of Wow,” together. It encapsulated us in a solitary and intense kind of intimacy for a while—even in the midst of the fray and party-goers—until we finally found a quieter space.

We then spent most of the next day and a half together. It was one of those, “where have you been all my life” kind of things.

When we parted on an early morning a day and a half later—after lots more “Wow”—I could feel that something was shifting ever-so-slightly in him, and for the next three days he didn’t call or reach out in any way.

I didn’t either.

I sensed that time was needed for whatever had come up between us. When I finally sent a short text (“I’d love to see you”), he texted back simply that he could not—that he was, in his words, “out of his integrity.” I never saw him again.

So after 25 years of intimacy and working with couples why is this 36-hour, seemingly failed connection, the most successful relationship I have ever encountered?

It’s successful because I didn’t feel blame or outrage that he “ditched me.” I just heard him: he was out of his integrity. I don’t want my friends or loved ones to feel out of their integrity.

Hell, if my kid told me she felt out of her integrity and was changing things in her life to rectify it I would applaud her! I might take her out for sushi to celebrate. (her favorite) Why would I want someone whom I care about to compromise himself?

I want to note that this wasn’t just an intellectual understanding and that is why, for me, it was successful.

Had I tried to talk myself into being happy about it (read: suppressed smoldering rage at being rejected), well, it would hardly have been a success story. The beauty and testament of it was that my actual, visceral, uncontrived response at not seeing him again—a man I liked and wanted very much—was joyful.

When I realized that my desire for him to be happy was stronger than my own personal disappointment, I knew that I had turned a corner.

So let’s take a hard look at why relationships never seem to pan out. I mean, really—have you ever seen a functional relationship? There are some that seem to be functional, or possibly even very good, but we never really get to know Breaking_Up_Phototoo much about them. Then later, we discover the seedy underbelly—often when the couple splits—and are disillusioned all over again.

This one had domestic violence in it. That one has been a sexless marriage for the past 10 years. This one had one partner lying and cheating on the other. That one was more of a business arrangement, waiting patiently until the kids were out of the house. The list goes on and on.

Further, the relationships that seem truly mature are ones that we know almost nothing about: Adaya and Mukti, Barak and Michelle, Katie and Stephen, Will and Jada—never-mind the myriad hollywood couples that are constantly appearing as perfect and happy in the media.

Perhaps they are the exceptions, or perhaps they are just a whole lot better at hiding what isn’t perfect about them. The point is that I have never had a direct experience of what most of us would call a deeply mature, intimate relationship that lasts over time, and no one I have ever met has either.

It seems, quite frankly, that relationships don’t work. And as a long-term researcher, impassioned by the mystery of it, I think I have discovered why.

Relationships are based on the fallacy that I exist, you exist, and that my happiness, connection and fulfillment can be met by something from the outside—that there even is an outside.

That might sound esoteric, but stick with me.

When we look at our experience we can’t actually find a “person,” or even a “self.” In any experience we can find what we call color, the sound of a voice, the experience of a touch, etc. Without a belief in a self, other or time—which are all just thoughts and images in the mind and have no substance—all we have is this moment.

No past, no future, no lover, no “relationship,” and that—to spoil the ending—is the only place where intimacy can reside.

The truth is that we are all living in fantasy-land and we build our relationships on that ground. What it means is that as long as you have an ego your relationships will fail.

So at this point you might be thinking, “OK that’s pretty depressing. I guess I have to become a celibate hermit or else resign myself to having painful, non-functional relationships.”

Herein lies the solution: Recognize that relationships are not primarily based on love, they are based on fear. Once we know this, we can work directly with the fear itself instead of on the other person or “the relationship.” We may discover that relating with another is not about our pleasure or comfort at all (although that’s sometimes a by-product), but about discarding every confusion we are still trapped in.

Byron Katie said, “Egos don’t love, they want something.”

When ego is operating—which let’s face it is pretty much 100% of the time—then no matter how good we try to be, how loving, selfless, kind or noble, we in fact want something.

We might simply want their approval, or we might want financial security, someone to stand by us, to be seen in a particular way, their validation, to avoid responsibility, or a long list of other things.

There is nothing wrong or bad about wanting something from someone. In fact, without the thought that we shouldn’t want something in a relationship, we can simply get honest and admit that we do! We might also notice that our partners do too. So, if you think that your partner is manipulating you to get what they want, it’s probably because they are.

They are not bad, just like we are not bad. They are motivated by fear, just as we are.

So how does fear operate? It motivate us to leave love in order to stay “in control.”

It whispers things in our ears like:

“You’ll be alone.”

“You won’t be able to support yourself.”

“You’ll be homeless.”

“You’ll become dependent.”

“They will manipulate you if you show your love too much.”

“They’ll use it against you later.”

“You need their love and affection.”

“You’ll never be happy again.”

What happens when we believe such thoughts is, ironically, that in the name of love we leave it. We begin to manipulate, withhold, and lie to our partners in order to get what we want or avoid losing something.

Here’s an example:

When I didn’t hear from “Wow-Bubble” Guy I could have pretended that I was no longer interested, told him that he was out of integrity by not talking more directly with me (especially now that I’ve discovered that his being in integrity is a sore spot for him), cajoled him into viewing our connection as an important relationship and insinuated that he was just scared.

I could have threatened to withdraw my appreciation of him or even to see him again—or used any of other the tactics that I have in my past relationships to try to get what I want.

That is not love.

That is reaction based on fear—fear of what will happen and/or what his actions mean about me.

OK, so my encounter was just a day and a half, but what happens when our fearful thoughts prey on a longer term relationship, one in which we have far more invested in? What happens when we watch as our blissful intimacies predictably begin to fail?

Most of us withdraw, manipulate, become fearful, jealous, go into denial, blame ourselves, become controlling or lash out. Meanwhile our partner is doing some version of the same thing. Even though we may be “in relationship” over time we are way out at sea, alone and often in pain.

At some point we face the ugly dilemma of whether it would cause us less pain to leave the relationship or to endure it, even while recognizing that neither of those prongs will bring peace because neither gives us the intimacy, connection, or comfort we seek.

So brace yourselves. Here’s what love looks like.

Love is feeling delight when your partner ditches you. Love is when you can’t find a partner and you enjoy how happy others are to have found one themselves—and all that’s beautiful about sleeping alone. Love is leaving someone you know you shouldn’t be with rather than holding them hostage to your fantasy or needs. Love is when you love and appreciate another who apparently doesn’t appreciate you back, or maybe even notice you.

I sometimes attend a drop-in group mostly to bask in the presence of a beautiful man who’s often there and apparently has no interest in me. I get to see him, adore him, hear his brilliance and witness his huge heart. I

Source: via Jenna on Pinterest
Source: via Jenna on Pinterest

sometimes even get to hug and smell him. Pure love, without requirements or agenda.

Here’s the secret and the power of it: If you want a good relationship then have one. Take it, don’t wait for permission. If you want love then be love and you will never be separated from intimacy and connection again.

What does that look like? It means caring for the other as much as yourself, especially when he or she doesn’t do what you want. It means deeply respecting what they want for themselves, which may or may not mean being near you. It means that if they say “don’t call me,” then don’t, and keep your heart wide open. It means if they say, “I need you,” and it’s not right for you, you say “no,” and keep your heart wide open.

So, I know what some of you are thinking: “If I let go of trying to get what I want in relationship then I will never have it.” But why would unilaterally staying open to someone—loving them and setting them totally free from your own expectations and judgments—make a positive, functional or long term relationship any less likely?

I think it would make it a lot more likely actually, and in the meantime how much fun is it to adore everyone like your own, sweet lover, whether they know it or not?

I will leave you with a quote. It will be a blessing to you every time your relationships fail—as they predictably will—while you quietly become love itself:

“You are your only hope, because we’re not changing until you do. Our job is to keep coming at you, as hard as we can, with everything that angers, upsets, or repulses you, until you understand. We love you that much, whether we’re aware of it or not. The whole world is about you.” ~ Byron Katie


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Ed: Dana Gornall


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About Kristin Luce

Kristin Luce is slowly going sane by using her actual life and relationships to wake up. Her quest for truth has led her through a B.A. in Philosophy, an M.A. in Buddhist Psychology, intensive retreat practice, certification as a Meditation Instructor, two life-changing relationships and two life-changing kids. She now provides in-depth coaching for individuals and couples who want profound and dramatic transformation. An avid writer, she has been featured in such publications as Mothering Magazine and The Buddhadharma, and is a regular contributor to elephant journal. Friend her on Facebook, Twitter, her website or contact her at [email protected].


91 Responses to “Why Relationships Don’t Work. ~ Kristin Luce”

  1. Selina says:

    KRISTIN! You have no idea how perfect the timing for this article was for me! I loved it, and it is so spot-on. Thank you, Sweet Woman.

  2. Selina says:

    KRISTIN! You have no idea how perfect the timing for this article was for me! I loved it

  3. Kelly says:

    The only thing I don't get is how to feel delighted when he ditches you?

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Great question! and that is what I teach, actually, using Inquiry (the Work of Byron Katie) mostly. But I touch on it in the article as well. What we do is identify the FEARS that come up when, say, he ditches you, like: "It means the relationship is over"; "I can't trust him"; "I did something wrong," etc.

      Then we can begin to question the FEARS instead of the other person or the relationship. Is it true that I can't trust him? We can have a deep mediation and inquire into all the facets of that and what I have found, over time, is that often I spontaneously feel delight even when he "ditches me." You're not "supposed to" feel that way, but rather over time in inquiry that may happen.

      It is a process, however—just a more efficient one than struggling with relationships, learning better communication skills, etc—which, although good, will never result in the relationship we want.

      Going into how to do the full Inquiry was larger than the scope of the article, but check out my website for more info! http://www.kristinluce.com

    • Toni says:

      Well… as someone going through that. My suggestion is to not think so much of the persons face, or name. But their characteristics that you liked. Take those lovely things, and put them in your 'creation box' for the next person who is (without a doubt) coming your way. The universe is responding to all this sifting and sorting you will doing. Step 1 – Ask. Step 2. It is given (universe's job, not yours). Step 3. Allowing (get out of the way). And watch out, because in one years time, you will totally understand how 'that guy'. wasn't the right one at all.
      You are welcome. lol..

  4. James says:

    Thank you! And, I believe that we may sustain successful relationships – even while believing in an ego – by being 100% willing to feel any pain so that the other person feels free to follow their desire however they wish. Of course, we also reserve that right for ourselves. Could there be any other way?

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I totally agree. That's the subtext of the article. I only mean that our relationships will fail *in the conventional sense* as long as we are operating from ego. Being willing to feel pain, give another plenty of room to follow their own way, and following our own– well, now we're talkin'!

  5. James says:

    One other thing that comes up for me is that it’s true that relationships are often based on the confused belief that the other person is the source of Love. Why else would we seek them out again and again? They must be the source of something we cannot get elsewhere/everywhere. Enjoying their company while freeing them – and ourselves – from any burden of responsibility can be a challenging path to walk, and enlivening.

    Thanks again. I love your articles.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I love that! –that the other person is the Source of Love. My goodness, can I be the source of love for others? Can I be that for myself? Apparently not, or I wouldn't be seeking it out there (and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't love, adore and be in relationship with others). Thanks for the appreciation and great discussion, James!

  6. Marina says:

    So grateful I saw this today. The timing was impeccable (of coarse). I got off the phone talking with a friend who was encouraging me to love this way and here was your post!

  7. Amanda Fox says:

    I really enjoyed this article. The older I get, the more I realize what I believe you are saying – that I am my only hope – for everything. Love, success, happiness. I have to go out there and get it. I can't rely on anyone to give it to me or get it for me. In that, I am free.

  8. Catherine says:

    For me, the best one of yours I've read yet! Thank you.

  9. Paul says:

    Love you.

  10. Auki says:

    If your most successful relationship only lasted 36-hours I can't imagine why you feel qualified to offer relationship advice to others. 🙂

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Yes, that's rather the point. Conventional ideas of relationship will never work. This one was successful because I let go of the demand that it meet my expectations, and found actual love for the first time. I would love to hear your stories of same.

      • Rainy says:

        Hi Kristin, I subscribe to Auki's comment. I hope with "Conventional ideas of relationship will never work", you are only saying that they will not work for YOU. I'm happy for you that you found love, even if transitory, in one relationship but to extrapolate one experience to make it life's philosophy sounds rather sad and pessimistic. And somehow your whole article seems to be having the same overtones- to be happy with sacrifice, to love from a distance, unrequited love and the like. Being happy when love ditches you? Looks like a brave attempt to cover up a heartbreak. I might analyse the situation and see what went wrong and where. While I might delight that love happened, I would not be happy that love ditched me. Where was this man's integrity in those 36 hours? Sounds convenient to suddenly have an aligned moral compass. Any ways, its always interesting to read different perspective. Wish you the best on your journey!

        • KristinSLuce says:

          Actually, I do mean that conventional ideas of relationship simply won't work, not just for me, but for anyone. I am happy to be disagreed with, but that is what I mean. It's like an engineer seeing that a bridge will not sustain a critical weight. It's not that it won't sustain the weight *for him*, it's actually just that it won't sustain the weight.

          The way ego operates will not sustain relationship. I realize that it's pretty much unheard of for someone to be happy when "someone ditches them" but that has been my experience. If it were me, especially in the past, I would assume that whoever said that was repressing something—so I very much understand your incredulity. And, I was also personally disappointed, as I say in the article. I do not deny that.

          Analyzing the situation is what I have done, personally and professionally, for a quarter century or more, and it is advocated in most helping professions. In my experience it doesn't work. The good news is that we don't have to. It's much, much simpler than that. In this case it was as simple as not wanting someone I love to be out of his integrity. Period. Acknowledging and embracing reality is the quick route.

  11. onesadhaka says:

    This was real nice, and aligns with some important lessons I have learned lately (or known all along and recently had the chance to manifest in action). Love is accepting and allowing….among other things. Yet the accepting and allowing are key to a real love. if we love someone, that will never change, regardless of whether it is reciprocated or not.

    The part that really resonated with my heart and experience was…

    "Love is feeling delight when your partner ditches you. Love is when you can’t find a partner and you enjoy how happy others are to have found one themselves—and all that’s beautiful about sleeping alone. Love is leaving someone you know you shouldn’t be with rather than holding them hostage to your fantasy or needs. Love is when you love and appreciate another who apparently doesn’t appreciate you back, or maybe even notice you."

    …I have experienced the pain (yes, pain) and pleasure of that recently, and it is reassuring to know someone else has as well and gets it.

    Much love and thanks again for this nice piece and great perspective. : )

  12. Paula says:

    What does out of integrity mean? That's the first time I have seen that word used like that …

    • KristinSLuce says:

      That's a great question! And I could write a whole other article about that. I assume that he meant it in the sense that continuing things with me meant he had to compromise other things in his life to which he was already committed. Those could have been internal things or external things. In this case I know he was in a rigorous training program and may have felt that spending time and energy in a new relationship conflicted with his prior commitment to that. So, perhaps he made the difficult choice to give up something he wanted (me) in order to be true to something else that he was dedicated to. And, I don't know what was actually going on for him.

      And for me, as another example, I would have been out of my integrity to try to pressure him to continue to see me, as I say later in the article. I also was willing to give up something I wanted (him) in order to stay in my integrity.

    • Sm1969 says:

      It might mean that he was starting to feel guilty about cheating on his spouse/girlfriend. But I hope I'm wrong. Nice article overall though…

  13. Juliánna says:

    "a beautiful man whose often there" it's actually "who's" as in "who is". I agree with the message. It requires tremendous self-knowledge and emotional intelligence.

  14. Aygul says:

    Thanks Kristin! This article is very liberating. I hope to follow your suggestions. And yes, it has a perfect timing for me as well.

  15. Vera says:

    Thank you so much,

  16. Patricia says:

    hi Kristin… loved the article… wondered if it ever occurred to ask what he meant by "not being in his integrity"… and i see Paula has asked something about it as well… were' u ever curious? or did you know?… it came to me as something i would have felt kind and loving towards me to do… and not too intrusive or disrespectful towards him…

    • KristinSLuce says:

      In my understanding he made it clear that he didn't want to discuss it. So yes, I had that question too and I respected his wishes around it, including not discussing it more. That also left me free to imagine all sorts of kind examples for myself and for him!

  17. Sara Plummer says:

    That was so beautiful, eloquent, and enlightened. Wow. Thank you. I have room to grow there.

  18. Cay says:

    Poem my mom sent me when I was stuck in a very negative relationship. We do not know the author, but one of the most powerful poems I have read before.


    Love is a gift that one person makes to another. It is a gift of the heart, and the heart "signs no documents". It does not sign a lease, a mortgage, nor a bill of sale. It offers no warranties of service nor guarantee of faithfulness. It is well to remember this both that your have no inalienable right to another's continued affection and that you have no obligation of your own always to love someone you once loved.

    Sometimes, if your own life is to add up, you must subtract yourself from someone else's life. This time comes, I think, whenever you find that affection of love of someone else can only be kept at the cost of yourself. If you are on the receiving end of much criticism, if the other has nothing but dissatisfaction with you, if you have lost the sense that to be yourself is a good and decent thing, it is time to get out. If love lessens you, if an undeclared war is being carried on in it's name, if it is painful and joyless, if it is an excuse for destructive demands, it is time to let the love go and save yourself.

    You will find another love, but not an other self.

  19. @e2mpower says:

    Beautiful, happy, loving and lasting relationships DO exist. I am proof and so is my father. It requires the ego-less effort of BOTH parties though and that is truly rare. When I met the man that I so adore I made a silent promise to love him in the most sincere sense of the word. We both made the decision to leave our egos behind, release fear and move forward. Because of this selfless love, we have experienced a level of intimacy that (to hear you talk about it) must be very unusual. I trust him completely and even more importantly, I trust myself. When two people have absolute trust and share honest and sincere love that is free of attachment, then and only then can they experience true intimacy.
    Maybe I am this blessed because I had an excellent role model. My father has been with his wife for over 15 years in a happy, healthy, exemplary relationship. It's so clear that these two love each other that people are just drawn to them! They don't need each other's constant companionship. There is no co-dependency here, just sincere love that is free of attachments. Before I ever met the wonderful man I am with now, I asked my dad how he had made it work for so long? What was the secret to such a loving and healthy relationship? He said 3 words… absolute trust & respect!

    • Molly says:

      I would agree with several things you have said in response. One is how extremely rare these type of relationships are. It is a continuous relationship with oneself to have absolute trust and respect. Not at all daunting, but one must always be mindful. The ability to transition thru the seasons of each other's lives and to continue, would only be attainable by sustaining the commitment to oneself, thus benefitting the other. Which was also how the article read, to me, anyhow… The commitment to myself would be maintaining my integrity. So, let's add a fourth word to your father's wise words of advice; absolute trust, respect & integrity. if we give nothing else in this world, let's give this of ourselves.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Thank you for your post! I am curious what "absolute trust" means to you?

      • @e2mpower says:

        absolute trust (within a relationship) is faithful knowledge that my partner ALWAYS has my best interests at heart , as much as I do. In other words… I know without a shadow of a doubt…my man's got my back 🙂 For this to work however, that trust must go both ways!

        • KristinSLuce says:

          So what happens when/if your partner tells you they've been sleeping with someone else? Do you still see them as "having your back?"

          What most people do then is feel the right to be mad, to shame the other, to be a victim, maybe to leave.

          So in fact, even if the relationship seems good, it hangs in a tenuous balance of conditional love, regardless of whether someone "breaks the trust."—meaning, "I love you as long as you do X; I won't love you if you do Y." So, even if no one does "break the trust" we never know if or when it could happen!

          In this article I am talking about unconditional love, the kind that doesn't leave even when your partner does something you don't want. And I don't mean "doesn't leave the marriage," I mean, "doesn't leave love" (for you or for them).

          The kind of trust you are talking about will fail—it has to. No one can unconditionally "have your back" the way that ego wants it—at least UNTIL you realize that they "have your back" 100% even as they have an affair and lie about it (or whatever).

          Meanwhile most of us are getting pissed off about how our partners don't "have our backs" in small ways all the time, or are afraid of when it might crop up again.

          Again, this is about fear, not love. The conventional view of trust as "you won't do what I don't want you to do, and I won't do what you don't want me to do," is based on fear (because God forbid what happens when someone doesn't live up to it).

          • Christina says:

            When they fail you, then you forgive. Simple, but not easy.

          • Ron says:

            The absolute trust is a reality that moves beyond the deep emotional moles that would create behaviors such as infidelity. Just like some people have a sticky relationship with alcohol, cigs, food, etc. so too do certain people have a sticky relationship to trust and fidelity. To say "what happens when absolute trust produces infidelity?" seems a bit like saying "what happens when an apple tree creates an orange?"

            I know of 3 couples who have a deep serenity with each other and have been married over 20 years, have great sex, and have each others' backs at all times. It's NOT unheard of. They just found a different reality to live in than one that excludes all the unpredictable relationship insanity most of us encounter.

            When you believe it is possible, maybe you will meet such a couple 🙂

    • Chris says:

      Thank you so much for your response to this article. I recently lost the woman whom I thought was the love of my life. However, her fears caused her to cheat, manipulate, and use me for room and board. I have read this article many times and I am sorry, I don't agree with it. I was in a relationship where I gave into my fears and thought my partner was too. However, she was doing it in a destructive way. If you really read this article, it almost seems to say that there is no HOPE for a real relationship and that is just sad thinking ahead. I have two daughters and plan to talk with them when its appropriate about how a person should feel in a relationship, among another things. My parents were married almost 40 years and I never met two people more in love with each other. That is the relationship I hope to find someday! Thank you @e2mpower!

  20. Sash says:

    You have never seen a relationship that works? That's very sad. Meanwhile you generalize from a few anecdotes to make a global statement that relationships are based on fear, not love. Also, your description of love only includes a single type of love, agape, as if only this type is valid or valuable.

    Even when fear is an element, that can be a good thing. Fear can be a good motivator and guide to living. No one can survive without a healthy sense of fear, and a good sense of judgment of when to listen to fear and when to courageously go beyond it.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Thank you for you response! Yes, I have never seen a relationship that works, that's true. I don't find it sad myself, I find it liberating—as in, "Doh! that's why they never work!" because the ones that *seem* to work, don't really work, from what I have seen.

      I do generalize personal examples to make global statements, that's also true. And as I say, they are based not just on the anecdotes I include in the article, but on my personal and professional experience of 25 years. But fundamentally, you are right here.

      I cordially disagree with you that fear is a good thing. The belief that fear is needed as a motivator is a fallacy in my experience, though I understand that this belief is very common.

      I am very interested in the different forms of love that you point to, agape being only one of them. I have not studied that closely, and would love to hear more! Thank you.

      • Demetra says:

        Sometimes they do work! I feel like a lot of what you said in this article is true for many people. But once you figure all that out.. It is okay. I too have witnessed many relationships that look great on the outside just completely fall apart, and I might have believed that to be how all relationships are.. Except that I am now in one myself. It exists! It comes from loving the other person unconditionally, just as you say. I know that I love him, and he loves me so much. When we are apart for a couple days I feel as though I am missing something. Not in a bad way, as I felt very whole before I met him.. But he just makes it better. And yes, I'm sure eventually things will happen that may make me question it, but I believe that love is stronger than that. And if he were to leave? I would feel extremely sad, but I would let myself ache and feel it and I would love him anyway, wish him the best, and know that I would be able to move on with my life. That's what love is.

  21. Sue says:

    A lot of us do have a "deeply mature, intimate relationship that lasts over time." Honest. It almost seems that you're trying to explain the possibility away so you don't feel badly about not having it yourself. And please don't raise your daughter believing that relationships are based on fear. If she is confident in herself, she will find one, like others have, based on love.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Just replied to you below, but neglected to do it in the "reply" sec ion. You can read it in the comments thread.

  22. Lars says:

    Wow, sounds like a very bitter person wrote this article. I feel sorry for you if this is the way you truly feel. Just because you are a constant failure at holding a relationship doesn't mean the rest of us are doomed to a fate such as yours. Perhaps you have some unresolved issues from your past that will prevent you from ever keeping a partner. What you decry actually does exist out there, but again I really pity you that you are unable or unwilling to find a lasting loving relationship.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I am a constant failure at holding onto relationships. It's totally true. I've also been a constant failure at letting them go. Longest one: 21 years. Shortest one: 36 hours.

      Thank you for your sadness and pity.

  23. Beatrice says:

    36-Hour Relationship? You're crazy! I have good conversations at parties all the time. That's not a relationship!

  24. Ben Rocap says:

    My opinion has come to be that it is my expectations that is causing my disappointments. My new motto is No Forgiveness Needed when no Expectation Proceeded. BTW "out of my integrity" is code for I am an asshole.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I couldn't agree more about expectations, and I think that was a huge boon to me as what appeared to be wonderful suddenly evaporated. As for "out of my integrity," I figure either he is being honest about that, or else he is out of integrity with me in that moment, so either way it's true. Thank you for the comment!

      • Ben Rocap says:

        I agree in a sense that fear is a big motivation for finding connection. Very few people want to die before sharing this experience with someone. But it is the expectation of the world to comfort us and relate to us that ultimately can lead to rejection and loneliness. The world is chaos and random so your take your chances that way. I am practicing the art of loving myself which I can control most of the time, and this will bring the energies I want into my life and so I do not need to look so hard. Good luck with you journey.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Its a beautifully written … about beautiful wisdom … and spoke to my (and clearly to many) heart! Thank you.

  26. dan says:

    So good, so true. Thank you!

  27. KristinSLuce says:

    Thanks for your comment, Sue. As I said, the relationships that seem good have been ones I don't know too much about—such as yours—and I also believe you that, in your experience of it, you and others have mature relationships. I myself believed I had one for almost 20 years. I also appreciate that you seem to want to be of help to both me and my children. Thank you.

    In my experience ego is based on fear and most of us are operating from ego most of the time. Hence, relationships are also based on fear. I see this especially when someone doesn't do what I want them to do and I have a negative or stressful reaction. I also see it when I don't do what they seem to want and they exhibit a negative reaction.

    Since you posted, I will invite you to look at how it would be if your partner did something you didn't want, such as sleeping with someone else, lying to you, leaving you unilaterally, etc. Would you still feel open and loving? Would you still count it as a positive relationship? That's the kind I am interested in—where I actually feel love even when I don't get what I want— and the kind that I am finding I can have unilaterally, whether I am "partnered" or not. Thank you for opening this discussion.

    I will also add that my articles, though I use personal examples, are not particularly about me. I am not actually inviting people to comment on my life situation which they can know almost nothing about. I appreciate more when people comment about the substance of the article and their personal experience rather than that they judge me, imagine they know me, or offer me advice, even though it may have been kindly meant.

  28. Sue says:

    If my partner slept with someone else, and broke the bond of trust and intimacy that we share, then no, I imagine I would not feel "open and loving" – at least not in the immediate aftermath. I likely would feel betrayal, anger, and sadness. Maybe I'm on the wrong forum here, but to state otherwise feels ingenuous.

    So, even though I consider myself to be in "a deeply mature, intimate relationship that lasts over time," you wouldn't count it as successful either. Success is in the eye of the beholder, obviously.

    As your article used the first person and shared many personal examples, I certainly assumed the narrative was about you. It was concerning to me to read about a mental health professional and mother stating that successful relationships are impossible. I, personally, would not have wanted my therapist or mother to have modeled that belief. That said, I'm sorry if I overstepped my bounds.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I really hear your sincerity, Sue, and it may be that we are just kind of in two different worlds 🙂 I stopped practicing as a psychotherapist in part because I realized that I was not interested in, nor could I help people to make their lives and relationships "better." What I can do, and what I love doing, is to raise consciousness, which has the by-product of actually making lives and relationships better. When I say that "no relationships work" and that they are based on fear I am calling out exactly what we talk about above: that is, our relationships and our love are typically conditional (e.g. only if you don't sleep with someone else, or whatever). And I'm not saying that anyone should be OK with that if they're not. It's where I was at for my 20-some year relationship, so I get it.

      What I am finding is that there is another way in which true, unconditional love can be set free. And then, as it turns out, *every* relationship works, including long-term ones, including 36-hour ones. And it doesn't take two, it just takes one. I don't teach my children or my clients to be afraid, quite the opposite. But when the people around them act in less than kind ways, I do notice the fear behind it that motivates them, and I think my kids and clients begin to see that too. It tends to bring up compassion, and a recognition and understanding of our own fears, rather than defense, justification or control.

      There is so much more I could say that is beyond the scope of both this article and this thread, but I thank you for engaging with me in the conversation! I am in no way offended about your advice to me, and yes, my articles are really to raise awareness as well as questions about reality and oneself as opposed to being about me personally. You can have no idea how beautiful, empowered and confident my children are!

      I will end by saying to you and to anyone reading this, that if the time comes when your relationships (or other areas of your life) seem to fail you, I am available. There is so much transformation that's possible right in that place!

  29. Iona says:

    The saddest thing about this article is that it assumes that everyone is operating on the same set of ludicrous assumptions. If you've never seen a relationship that works, the missing piece is most likely gratitude. That and the fact that people in good relationships are usually quietly at home enjoying them, rather than out at cocktail parties complaining about their exes.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Or out complaining about articles discussing why relationships don't work. Thank you for your comment, Iona. I posted a response below.

  30. ejesh says:

    I think this is my favorite article in elephant…Great job!!!

  31. KristinSLuce says:

    Interestingly the few negative comments here have all been in the same vein: they each rebuke the writer for failing to acknowledge positive relationships. And most of them do so by using derogatory and shaming language ("I am sad for you," "I pity you," "The saddest thing about this article is…," (You make) "ludicrous assumptions," etc). There are many non-attacking ways to express a variant viewpoint, yet they resort to attempts to undermine the credibility and character of the author.

    When I hear such put-downs I know that it is not possible that these responders are in positive, personal relationships themselves. If they treat strangers, such as the writer, this way, then this is (at best) how they treat their partners as well, and their children, and themselves. They shame them, undermine and try to humiliate them when they don't like what they hear or are getting.

    It is exactly as I say: those who seem to have a good relationship are ones we do not know too much about, and I will add that the threat of getting anywhere near exposing that can bring out hostility.

    I will also add that, as I say in the article, this defense and attack is brought on by fear, which I understand. I think this article just got way too close to the truth for some folks.

  32. Lexy says:

    From reading this well written blog on the subject of relationships, I think that, based on your personal experiences, you tend to be biased against them. It is very clear that the relationships that you have had ended on a negative note, but have you considered the fact that you may be going after the same type of relationships? Love can be the most powerful emotion we can have as humans.

    Don't get me wrong, I also had my fair share of relationships that ended badly, and that pain I felt…. painted a dark color on the subject of a while. But even if they don't last, those moments (and even memories) where everything felt right…. I would never take back. I think that a lot of relationships don't work out for a reason. that is because they just were not our soul mate. I have seen relationships last and it is beautiful to see. I think you should have put either "most" or "some" into the title because nothing is more amazing in life then have your significant other give you that look like you are the only person in the world to them.

    It pains me to hear that you have gone through the struggles that so many face in relationships, but try and keep a little optimism in your mind. because relationships hard to find and hard to hang on to, but the journey is always worth it.

  33. Victor says:

    Year and one half ago I would not understood what you are saying until, for the first time, I left a relationship which was unhealthy for me. Six months ago I met my current partner where our relationship would better be illustrated by an open hand palm up rather than closed. We encourage and support each other to follow our dreams without thinking of how our ego is being affected. Our society seems dependent in many ways on people living their lives in a codependent manner while telling people it is unhealthy to do so. Only by releasing any semblance of control and loving unconditionally have I finally found the balance I need to be in a healthy relationship. Thanks.

  34. Christina says:

    To leave a relationship because one is out of integrity with oneself indicates that they do not value the love above themselves. Sacrifice and commitment to the unity are the tools of "conventional" love. When two partners are dedicated to one another and can trust that in one another, then there is integrity of the love. You can have the kind of love you prescribe-that loves the person regardless of what they do for you AND have a traditional relationship. They're not mutually exclusive. It's the trust that sets you free to live in this way. People in positive traditional relationships are probably upset, because to be in a relationship like that, it must be one of your core values. And it's a value that can only successfully be achieved with a partner that also values it. So while your goal is to raise a specific kind of consciousness, they may feel you are encouraging potential subscribers of traditional love to mythologize it, and therefore kill it for future traditional lovers (who then will have greater difficulty in finding those who are willing to love in this mutually self-sacrificial way.) Anyone who has experienced the beauty of traditional love and reaped the rewards of the resulting beautiful FAMILY life cannot help but feel sadness or pity that some choose to apply rugged individualism to love. They are not easy to create or maintain, but happy families and happy couples (the foundation of happy families) exist. Need may be unhealthy when it comes to material objects and pleasures. However we do need one another socially. We need each other to love and support one another into old age, and to build families of emotional and material support. And we need it for more than 36 hours. We do not all live in monasteries and not all of have unlimited resources. This need is not ugly or selfish. This need is universal, and what makes society beautiful, when it understands and appreciates the role we all play in it. We are not islands, and to expect nothing of your partner – the simplest unit of society – will be the ruination of mutually self-sacrificial, committed love in our culture. Lastly, love is about seeking out not only a companion, but a PARTNER.

  35. lisab says:

    "Here’s the secret and the power of it: If you want a good relationship then have one. Take it, don’t wait for permission. If you want love then be love and you will never be separated from intimacy and connection again."

    Yes, yes, yes. And it definitely works to make relationships last. Kill ego, be love.

  36. Christina says:

    Wow – you inspired me to do a couple of things.
    1 sponsor this article as very much appreciate the sharing
    2 sort out my attitude to my new and scary but the most loving marriage i could ask for.. 🙂
    3 continue my writing and sharing to hopefully again share the love for the love of it 😉

    Thank you 🙂

  37. Breeze says:

    What alot of people just don't understand, which is the harsh reality, is that if you're an average, run-of-the-mill girl (or boy) next door, why should a man (or woman) who have other (potentially above-average) options in his/her life feel more strongly for you (who can't do much to enflame his/her passions) than some other sensual, confident, outgoing, emotionally intelligent chick/dude that he/she has met? Too many Americans have this sense of entitlement, they expect to have the best relationship, the best mate, the big fantasy that hollywood paints… yet such a small amount actually have the talents, insights, ability, emotional intelligence, confidence, sensuality, and so on to make another human being actually FEEL special and sexy. That guy that used you for 36 hours preyed on you and that sucks but I think the bigger overaching problem with dating in this country is people are keen on what they want (or think they want) without so much ability to STRONGLY impact the emotions of other people.

    Women tend to be more of 'responders' than 'initiators' with men, act coy and aloof and hard to get, etc. If a man is sexy and confident, the woman 'responds' to his dominance; he wears her down. If a man isn't so dominant nor sexy, alot of times women will write him off as boring and not bad-boy enough. Yet what alot of girls who like bad boys (even sometimes they say they don't ) fail to understand is that the sexy bad boy has many options with women. So while you may play a more submissive role, waiting on his initiative so that you can respond (or yield)to his sexiness/dominance, your very nature of being submissive fails to excite, challenge, and stimulate him in ways that other more able women (sometimes international) can. Men have emotions too and enjoy stimulation.

    So the point I am hoping to make is that it's good to have high expectations. But along with those expectations should come ability so that you make other people FEEL good around you and give them a reason to come back for more if they so choose.

  38. Alison says:

    I have read this article a couple times now. And I won’t lie, my initial response was similar to the negative comments posted above. But it is not my place to presume to know more about your experiences and thoughts on the matter. And the more I think about it and the more I contemplate my own successful (in my opinion) relationship, I feel I see more and more what you are getting at, and how letting go of expectations really is key. My husband and I have been together for 13 yrs ( 11 of those married ). And I truly think what has helped our relationship is that we both understand and except that we are only human. We will ( and have ) made “mistakes” that hurt the other, maybe some that have even broken trust. Some that I think would have torn apart other relationships. But to me the glue for us is forgiveness. We do not expect perfection from each other, that is impossible. There have been times of infidelity ( not physical ) within our marriage, not being completely truthful, problems with alcohol but instead of staying angry we talk through it. What lead to it and how can we heal and move past it. I think we at stronger for it. So I guess to me a successful relationship is not one that is perfect ( or has the appearance of perfection ) but one in which two beings grow together. Hope this all makes sense, I am on my phone so it’s difficult to keep my thoughts and writing linear.

  39. In Sta says:

    I would argue that there do exist working relationships. I do have many examples around me, where the couples are together for many years and still act as they just met. It is so lovely to be around them! All those working relationships work because they do love themselves, love each other, love their careers and support each other a lot. The couple have to be out of people who are self-confident, mature and share common values and similar vision for future. People have to figure out that is really important for them, know why and focus on it so would not waste time and energy on stupid noise. Unfortunately, people spend less and less time on true fundamentals. Less and less emotionally mature people. Superficial wants lead to imaginary fairy tails that build non working relationships…

  40. Cherisse says:

    Wow Ms. Luce! I enjoyed this article. Not many people can do this for me, but you just gave me an "aha" moment!
    I like, "If you want love, be love!". I have evolved into having much believe in Buddhist philosophy. It always appealed to me, but couldn't understand why (when I was younger). Now, I come full cirlce. I have an acceptance of a lot of things. Those things I battled and challenged and kept defendng against for years. I am proud to say that I am on the same plane! No coincidence that I searched and this article popped right infront of me. Today is a much better day because of you!

  41. danielmirante says:

    Pre-emptive ego defense mechanisms at work? Lowering our threshold of expectations? Does our definition of relationships 'working' depend on having more grounded ideas of what relationships are for? Is it more the problem, than relationships 'not working', that we over-strain them by making them accountable for sorting us out and making us feel great, when this is really up to our own inner work…

  42. Vivienne says:



    Love is feeling delight when your partner ditches you. Love is when you can’t find a partner and you enjoy how happy others are to have found one themselves—and all that’s beautiful about sleeping alone. Love is leaving someone you know you shouldn’t be with rather than holding them hostage to your fantasy or needs. Love is when you love and appreciate another who apparently doesn’t appreciate you back, or maybe even notice you.

    Thank you

  43. Rachelle says:

    You need to explain what you mean by "relationships don't work" don't work in what way? What would be your definition of working. I can't think of anything in life that is "perfect" as defined by humans, but that does not mean relationships are not valuable or possible. Also there are many relationships in which love is involved, not just with romantic partners and those aren't "perfect" either but would you then say something like my relationship with my child doesn't work? What's the alternative you are proposing here? I feel this article is too general and could point people in a negative direction instead of embracing fear and still seeking relationships. One moment it sounds like you're saying romantic relationships don't exist, the next you are giving advice, that doesn't make sense to me if it's impossible.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I do believe this is the best article on relationships I have ever read. I wish everyone could see through your eyes, so that so much pain, jealousy, and heartache could be removed from life. Most people will not be able to truly reach this level, as beautiful as it is.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      Thank you. It is such a delight to be seen and understood, even as I realize that many people will not get what I am actually saying in the article. So glad you see the love in it!

  45. Sherron Teal says:

    My husband and I will be married 33 years this April. We have been through trauma, major illnesses, lack of sex, etc. But some how we made it through. We are very much in love with each other and very devoted to each other. Marriage is not always easy. But I think the word compromise is the most important word in a marriage union. My husband treats me like a Queen, even though he can barely walk he always holds the door open for me. We always think of each other first. Little things is what cements a union together.

  46. Lula says:

    To me the 'love' you describe is simply the romanticized short term connecting phase of love which begins the lifelong process of building a relationship. And the reason people give up too easily on relationships is because their expectations are too high because we are only meant to go through the initial high of connection in order to get started. We are not meant to live in perfect moments but to make connections and grow through the process of coming to consciousness as a couple. We learn about ourselves through our interactions with others. Unrequited love is a missed connection. Relationships cannot 'succeed' or 'fail' because they are not goals but living organic systems.

    Although I don't understand your point, I enjoyed your article. You made me think about what relationships mean in my life and the lives around me. And your view is very peaceful and makes loneliness seem avoidable.

    • KristinSLuce says:

      I appreciate your openness, even and especially in the light of not understanding my point. I was in a 21-year relationship, and another one that was 2 1/2 years–which is most of my adult life– so being caught up in the connecting phase hasn't been my issue 🙂 I do love what you say here, that relationships cannot "succeed" or "fail" because they are living systems. I totally agree with that. Thank you for your comments!

  47. EileenLeslie says:

    Sorry to disturb the surface of this woman's rather distorted reflection of the world, but my husband and I have been together almost twenty-five years and are actually *happy*. We love each other, care about each other, are attracted to each other, put each other ahead of ourselves a lot of the time, raise our kid well together, make each other laugh, stay debt-free together, do fun things together and yet give each other freedom, we argue constructively toward compromise instead of tearing each other down, the mutual feeling that if we were to somehow fail we would be sad… How can any of this be considered "dysfunctional," I wonder?

    Oh, wait. We're not the best housekeepers. Our house is a bit messy most of the time. What a "seedy underbelly"! LOL!!!

    And believe it or not, we know others like ourselves, people who are psychologically mature and enrich each other emotionally, intellectually and sexually and are attached to the happiness they bring one another. Happy, healthy, deeply attached long-term relationships do exist and what we have is here for anyone willing to choose and/or work toward it.

    Hasn't it ever occurred to this "professional" that she has fallen into the same fallacies as so many before her? Besides simple religious ideology, she's looking at a self-selected sample (people who come to her in need of help) and from that, adopted a worldview that created a filter which obscures anything that doesn't fit in with her ideas from her view. And I'm guessing from this essay is that if confronted with our example in real life, she'd apply the "no true Scotsman" argument.



  48. Jessi says:

    I applaud you for writing what feels true for you. If I might presume to offer my thoughts, I would say that life is a mirror. As Adya has said before, and what I truly believe, life gives you what you really want, but only exactly. Like, if you feel very strongly that you want a relationship to work, then that's what you get: you get "I want this relationship to work". Not an actual working relationship, but the wanting one. From what I read, it sounds like you have a belief that relationships fundamentally can't work. And so you are living your truth.

    My husband and I have a wonderful relationship. Not because we're lucky and we skipped all of the hard stuff and bad stuff, there's been plenty of both. Perhaps the reason that people can't answer the question of how can the relationship work, is because the question reflects kind of a denial of what is. You can never get an iron-clad answer on the thing, it's a matter of faith, a belief that love is bigger than us and out of our control anyway, so it's better to ride the current than to stand in the middle of the river and try to steer it.

  49. marie franxe says:

    i would like to thank you for your article . it is well written in a way that even reading it , the ego or the true self understand it . as we can notice with others people s comment who didńt get the point at all , yet . you are not saying that relationships doesn ´t exist but in fact , you re saying that relationships of our actual world doesn ´t work , which mean relationships full of ego and in need of prooves , 365 days / year . as you mention , the ones that work are the ones we don ´t hear about cause they don ´t need proof they exist , cause they re just love , they re not seeking for external proof , they are just love . It´s hard for people to understand you re point of view as yours is very spiritual orientated , and not everyone is yet on that path . In tibetan tantrism , we call it mahamudra , which means ” the eternal , and unstoppable flow of love ” . obviously not easy when our ego is always in need to control . again thank you for your article , very inspiring .

  50. Simon says:

    This is all very true – it seems that in relationships I am always the problem because of the way I think and act etc. I was taught that women value honesty, yet when I’ve been honest they’ve not liked it.

    It is as if men and women speak two different languages, and I can never understand what the women are saying (a bit like the line ‘Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying’ in Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’)

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