Warning: adult language below!
“Falsehood and illusion carries with it the seeds of its own destruction.” ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb
In this article I want to share with you five reasons why many relationships are based in illusion and lies which cause unnecessary pain, suffering, and insanity.
(Or, it could be called five reasons why I’m an offensive opinionated dickhead…I’ll leave up to you to decide after you read it!)
Obviously not everyone has the experiences listed below—there are many great relationships out there. But these experiences are so commonplace that bad relationships also seem to be in abundance.
The major aim here is to shed some light on common ways in which many of us—myself included—have disempowered and/or are disempowering ourselves in the context of our relationships. Thanks to our conditioning, we too often limit ourselves and stay trapped in stagnant patterns which lead us further from who we really are.
How much time and energy are we spending trying to prove, control, demonstrate, or justify some element of the relationship that we think we are supposed to have in place? How fruitful and solid is that orientation? How’s it working?
I hope that what I say below won’t be taken too personally.
1. Relationships are often based on illusions like the following:
- there are two separate, independent individuals
- permanence actually exists
- we have complete control over the outcome of the relationship
In many ancient traditions, the belief that one has an independent permanent abiding self is seen as a state of disease and imbalance. So what does it say about our state and the potential of our relationship if this is a our foundational basis?
A couple of minutes of observation easily reveals that everything in this reality is always in flux and transformation. We can have an experience of understanding this through, say, meditation, and then 15 seconds later get back on board with our egocentric defensiveness.
Such is the delight of the monkey mind.
So if there is no permanent self and this world is in constant transformation, then who or what can really be controlled?
2. Relationships are often based on needs, emotional lack, and/or past traumas.
Often, we treat relationships like medication for our fears and insecurities, thus subconsciously burdening our partners with the responsibility of being the “emotional drug dealer.” This is clear and easy to see when we reflect on how common it is for people to talk about their “needs” and what they “want from a relationship.”
We have also probably observed how crazy people get when these needs and wants aren’t fulfilled in the way that we expect—that is, that our partner seems unwilling or unable to do this for us.
This is classic co-dependent behavior: we attach our emotional well-being and our sense of self to an external entity.
If we honestly asked where those needs and wants came from, it’s highly likely we would eventually arrive at what I’m talking about. We should be asking ourselves whether we are looking at the relationship to offer each partner freedom, independence, and empowerment, or some sort of validation of our egocentric story, thus somehow medicating our emotional lack.
Either way, it’s important to get in touch with what we actually mean when we talk about needs and wants and where they come from: Are we creating unspoken contracts and responsibilities? Are we respecting both parties intrinsic space and rights?
3. Relationships are based on the acquisition of something in the future.
This is a basic “doing to get” orientation towards reality—or in Buddhist terms, dukkha (suffering). Suffering pollutes the present by not being good enough while also polluting the future by putting the pressure and expectation on it that it must be better. This might sound crazy but it isn’t, because when we’re happy and content in the now, improving on the future doesn’t even cross our minds.
This can be quite a trap since the relationship can transition into a “working on the relationship” dynamic, which can easily be an infinite loop. This is because A. there’s no objective solid thing called “a relationship” and B. there’s no future where things can be “improved.”
For instance, if I said that new Ferrari will make me happy, many people will would oblige that materialism can’t really bring satisfaction and that happiness is an inside job. My question would then be, is this same logic applied to our relationships? I would say the answer is usually no because we’ve been conditioned our entire lives with “romance” through the media telling us that this is the ultimate way to happiness.
Maybe the same people that manipulate our ideas of beauty and happiness and what we need to buy to achieve that are the same ones selling us an visions of salvation and deliverance through love and romance.
Could these things even be connected and feeding upon the same void with in the psyche?
4. Relationships are based on “working on X,Y,Z” and/or being better in some way in the future.
“I’m working on my X issues” “Im working on me” “I’m working on self love”
Who is working on what and why? How can something that is labeled as “broken” get fixed?
How can someone who assumes a lack of self love practice self love? How does one’s traumatized sense of self heal itself?
Medicating a “negative” or using force to overcome a “negative” still just validates and solidifies the power of the “negative.”
Once we find the cause, do we find the cause of the cause? And the cause of the cause of the cause? Ad infiitum.
To give a personal example, a few people through out my life have labeled and boxed me as “having abandonment issues” because I was adopted at a birth. Seems like a logical conclusion and a concise explanation for the disappointment and let down I’ve experienced in relationships in this particular incarnation. Or is this because I’ve also been labeled a Myer-Briggs INFJ, Enneagram 4, Human Design 2/4, Astrological Cancer, Chinese Wood Rat (etc.)?
The basic theme of each of these is that I’m “supposed to be” a weirdo outsider hermit character. So then, why am I the way that I am? Is the the chicken or the egg?
(For more info on this fascinating subject, please check out “Why I have Felt Angry, Sad, and Lonely For Most of My Life.”)
We love to get on board with these kinds of explanations because they offer external reasons as to why we are “fucked up” while seemingly offering a concrete path to becoming “better.”
They also open to the door to a whole host of shoulds, shouldn’ts, must, mustn’ts.
Most people miss this one thing: we’re all fucked up.
We all have hangs-ups, and there is no perfect state or end goal to be reached. For far too long we’ve been sold ridiculous inhumane ideas for what we should or ought to be. Beyond the media, we get this from religious ideals, from new age advice—even from modern psychology.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with learning from such arenas, but I’m suggesting that buying into these kinds of theories (ie: believing everything we read) facilitates the mechanistic, divisional, and salvational thinking which is abundant on the planet today.
And that’s what can destroy relationships, even when we think we are healing them.
It’s time that we move past this guilt based sub-human morbidity and start embracing, appreciating, and understanding what is human and what is normal for us. All of this fear, shame, and guilt isn’t helping anyone…other than those who somehow profit off of it—energetically, monetarily, or both.
5. Relationships are based in ignorance and insanity.
These are strong words which may seem offensive, but if we look at their definition away from any emotional charge or connotations, this statement becomes obvious.
Ignorance is simply the ignoring of something; insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
We tend to ignore many of the concepts noted in this article. If we were to objectively and honestly reflect on our relationship history, then we would see a trail of hurt and pain. Maybe we hurt someone else, maybe they hurt us, maybe we hurt each other…but we too often choose to ignore this. We somehow believe that our next relationship will be perfect.
If we keep repeating the same thing over and over again thinking that it will lead to a different result, this is insanity. We believe that a change of scenery, change of look/style, a bit of therapy, a bit of “self love”, or a bit of spirituality and now things will really be different. Often these things are another form of ignorance, or worse, repression and denial. We might say “I’m really over it now,” or “I’m really better.”
We go through the motions of cycles of blaming, shaming, and guilting ourselves and others trying to find the reason or cause for our “issues,” something which the self-help industry is happy to sell us.
For context, consider things such as:
- The repeated way in which women are abused and oppressed
- Current divorce rates
- The popularity of online dating
- The history of the institution of marriage across various cultures
- How many people are on psychiatric drugs
- How the media sells us “love” and “romance”
I write this article not to be accusatory, but to explore the idea that perhaps, when it comes to relationships, our foundations are not so solid. These things keep us trapped functioning at the low level of consciousness and disempowerment that is centered around action, effort, will, and striving, where we believe that we must be or do something to get something, or else.
It could be useful to take a step back and examine the dynamics at play with in our own lives.
Simply observing something alters it and puts us in a more empowered place to intuitively feel out and sense the right action at the right time. To move or not, to act or not, to govern by not governing, rule by not ruling. This is more like playing music or creating something artistically as contrasted with the petty dictator role we’ve been sold as “normal human functioning.”
We may not really have control and we may not really even exist as independent selves, but we can make different choices.
We can choose to bring more acceptance, honesty, humility, and humor into our lives.
I don’t have any advice or solutions to offer, aside from that there aren’t any solutions. Any solution that comes from the mind and/or mental gymnastics is high likely to be another manifestation of the thing medicating itself, aka the guitar tuning itself. This can be a tough one to get our heads around since it contradicts all the lies we buy into, but if we reflect on our lives, I bet it’ll become pretty clear that the things that bring us the most joy usually feel like they happen organically.
It feels better to be honest about our bullshit and stop hating it than it does to try to medicate it away.
Laughing a little at our pain and suffering is perfectly okay…even healthy. What if it really isn’t that serious, and what if, in the big picture, the things we suffer for really aren’t that important?
Relephant video bonus:
Author: Brandon Gilbert
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: goincase at Flickr