Relationship as Path
Most of the clients I work with (and most human beings I’ve met) share a similar longing—to belong, to be met, seen, known, and loved by other people. Even clients that are in long-term relationships struggle to feel the connection they yearn for.
The pain we have in relationships is common and understandable. If you are normal, you have experienced some form of pain in relationship:
- >Being or feeling alone
- >Not belonging
- >Physical, emotional, sexual or verbal abuse
- >Being shamed, bullied or humiliated
- >Any and all challenges associated with Sexuality
- >Lack of connection
- >Lack of depth
- >Lack of “real” friendships
- >Longing to be seen and known
Relationship can show us exactly where we are on the journey. We might have a ton of spiritual maturity, but then turn into a five year old when we get in a fight with a friend, family member or lover.
If, on the other hand, we are willing to “stay-in-relationship,” we begin to see each hurt or relational upset is an opportunity to burn through past traumas, hurts and stuck places in ourselves. That’s why I am so geeked out on relationship as a path. In fact, I think that relationship is the frontier of spiritual development.
In my experience when we begin to take a “growth-development” mindset in relationship, the game changes. We start to get the relationship life we want and as a result, our whole life opens up.
So, if you want to increase your relational skill and capacity and ultimately meet the longing in your heart, I recommend some combination of the following:
- Change your view. Instead of seeing relationship as a place to get your needs met and feel good, try seeing every relational hurt, trigger and upset within your relationship as your opportunity to grow. Treat “relationship as a path” and see how it goes.
- Marriage. Marriage kicks ass. If you are willing to see marriage as a spiritual path, its tight container has the strong likelihood of transforming who you are from the ground up. Long-term committed relationships can help us see our blind spots very quickly. And the agreement of marriage can help us burn through habitual avoidance strategies. We are forced to consider the other person’s perspective. And, there’s nothing more vulnerable than exploring our endless sexual terrain with one other person.
- Being a parent. If we are able to see parenting as a path, we can begin to see the blessing in no escape. While marriage is a tight container, we can always leave. With kids, there’s no way out, even if you do leave. Our kids have the ability to penetrate every corner of our being. Parenting will show you all the relational blocks you have and help you heal the hurt little kid in you from birth onward. (But it’s optional and you will only get this if you say, “yes.”) Parenting is the ultimate relationship tool to help you grow yourself up.
- Individual work—Yup. Working with a guide, mentor, therapist or coach of some kind that you trust and that has the skill and ability to awaken your innate relational spirit. If the person is not talking about what’s happening between the two of you on a regular basis, find someone who is.
- Group work. Groups facilitated by someone solid will accelerate your growth as you’ll have 10 mirrors as opposed to one. It can be 10 times the healing impact. Non-religious, non-advicey, relationally-focused men’s groups, women’s groups, couples groups and circling groups are my personal favorite.
- Circling. Circling is a relational meditation or yoga and is one of the most dynamic relationship practices I’ve experienced. Circling typically happens in groups and is simply an intimacy practice. Circling is not therapy, nor is it designed for transformation or going for “breakthroughs.” However, when beginning to learn the art of here-and-now intimacy, we do have breakthroughs and big insights happen. Circling is a fun method of deepening relationships and evoking more authenticity into the relational space. Circling is also growing, so you can probably find a local circling group in a lot of major cities now. To learn more check out Boulder’s Integral Center.
- Spiritual work–having the ground of a solid mindfulness practice will only help you hold your seat when the going gets tough in relationship. Spiritual work done in community is a bonus because then you have to deal with your fellow travelers and all the ways they trigger you while being supported by your community where the chemistry is natural and solid. If I didn’t learn how to meditate and still practice meditation, I would have bailed on this whole journey altogether. It would have been too intense for me to sit with.
- Ayahuasca. Strangely, this sacred plant medicine from the jungles of South America has changed my life forever and helped me heal relational wounds that psychotherapy or group work was not able to touch. Initially, I thought yage couldn’t address relational traumas because it is not a person, it’s a spirit. However, I have been shown otherwise. But one shot won’t do it. Like anything you have to “stay-in-relationship” with her many many times to receive the profound and lasting shifts in your body/mind/spirit. More on Ayahuasca here.
Got other ways that have changed your relationship life for good? Please add them below. I’m a big fan of the multi-dimensional approach above. It doesn’t mean this approach is the best, or that you have to “buy-in” to my way.
If we truly care about honoring whatever longing we have for deeper relationships, we must make our intimacy life a top priority and do whatever it takes to expand it. The hidden benefit of course, is that by improving our relationship life, we pump more love into the human collective, which I think we can all agree is desperately needed.
Editor: Brianna Bemel