Dear elephant reader: if you’re single & looking for mindful dating or conscious love, try out our lovely partner, MeetMindful.
You are a wonderful human being who deserves heart-bursting, gut-wrenching, juicy, luscious love, sex and partnership. Let’s both agree on that, okay?
Now that we’ve established that, I’d like to offer some tough love to the part of you that chooses to stay stuck, the part of you that doesn’t believe you deserve all that good love stuff.
Let me start by explaining how things work.
We all have an internal sense of who we are and what we are capable of, which has been shaped by our family example and our common cultural beliefs. This sense of self operates unconsciously and determines what we are able to successfully create in our lives.
For most of us, this sense of self is smaller than our actual potential. In other words, it limits us.
While it may grant us full range to reach our potential in some areas, it tends to leave us baffled and feeling inadequate in others.
This is why many people who are generally “good at life” feel frustrated and unlucky when it comes to love.
I was one of these people for many years but what I know now is that my beliefs about myself and about love were sabotaging my relationships. So I decided to embrace the idea that maybe I was believing the wrong things.
I set out on a journey of excavation, destruction, and creation and I rebuilt my belief system—and now my job is to help others do the same.
On the way, I developed some hardcore beliefs which are uncomfortable to live by sometimes but which allow me to flourish in the most challenging and amazing relationship of my life. And these beliefs are not just for me. In the course of working with over a hundred clients, I began to recognize them as markers of success in others, too.
From what I’ve seen, they seem to be the beliefs that actually create awesome love.
1. Every relationship is worth doing the work for.
What I actually mean is you are worth doing the work for. If ever we find ourselves fearing that we’ll look back and realize our relationship was a waste, that’s because we aren’t using the challenges our relationship is presenting us with in order to grow, evolve and heal.
If we wonder whether we’re ignoring the signs that are trying to tell us someone is wrong for us, what’s actually happening is that we’re ignoring the signs that are trying to tell us that the way we show up to that relationship is wrong for us. Every relationship is an opportunity to evolve.
The truth is I’ve learned that no one wastes my time. I am the only one with the power to waste my own time.
Every relationship could be worthwhile in some deeply, life-altering, course-setting way if we stopped cutting corners, avoiding hard truths, and instead showed up fully for it without being attached to how it ends up.
2. As long as we blame our partners, we will never be happy (aka, You’re the love of your life and “The One” you’ve been waiting for).
I’ve never improved a relationship by demanding that my partner change. It’s totally possible that my partner is doing some crappy things, likely even. However, that’s none of my business. My business is either accepting my partner as-is or changing how I relate to him (i.e., the crappy things I’m doing). Those are my only two options. I always get a ton of push back from people on this one but what can I say? This is my belief that has made my love-life a million times better. If you don’t like it, feel free to not listen to me.
But in case you’re interested, I’ll go ahead and explain why this is true.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that no one else is responsible for our own sense of happiness, fulfillment, value, significance, etc. Yet when we are in a relationship we often blame our relationship, and more specifically, our partner when we feel those things lacking. In my experience, anything we repeatedly and unsuccessfully insist on trying to wrench out of our partner is something our soul secretly wants us to learn to provide for ourselves. The feeling of being unfulfilled in a relationship always stems from a place we’ve not fully actualized in ourselves.
This phenomenon disguises itself cleverly but beneath every single thing we want our partner to change is a part of us that wants to learn to interact more skillfully with that part of them.
Even when the issue appears to be that our partner is messing up, the true lesson is never about them.
No matter what they’re doing, the responsibility for our experience of it always falls at our own feet. Blame will only lock us into a cycle wherein our partner’s unwillingness or inability to provide the thing we want exacerbates our unwillingness or inability to provide it to ourselves, which in turn heightens their reaction, and so on until finally: Boom! An explosion!
The only person we can rely on to break the cycle is us, so it’s always up to us. We play a part in every cycle we participate in, which means we also have the power to end it.
By the way, fun fact: We never actually need to change anyone. We only need to change how we relate to the element in them that we wish to change, and to do that, all that’s required is that we change ourselves. The bonus byproduct is often that changing the nature of our relationship to someone actually does change how they relate to us (enter: positive cycles!).
3. If we don’t integrate our dark sides it will kill our relationships.
I’m sure my readers are familiar with the axiom that everything we disapprove of in others corresponds to something we disapprove of in ourselves. Well, the inverse is also true. All those shadowy dark parts of ourselves need to be explored, integrated and approved of or we will experience them as disapproval for our partner.
And since disapproval exacerbates shame and, in my belief, shame is the actual devil, it’s really important we integrate that sh*t! I mean really integrate it.
Shadow work isn’t something we can do theoretically by understanding our dark side on an intellectual level. I’m talking about embracing those parts of our nature that seem to want to ruin everything good in our lives. I’m talking about letting them take a fair shot at it and finding our true selves in the aftermath. There is nothing more compelling than a person who has been to the dark side and is no longer afraid of their own shadow.
When we don’t liberate our shadow, we live in shame of it. And when we live in shame, we are anxious, meek, fearful, hateful, judgmental, resentful, and the list goes on.
4. Anything done or avoided out of fear or shame will corrode our relationships over time.
Ugh… I know. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of really inconvenient news, but the only long term solution to any challenge in a relationship is to act courageously, vulnerably, and authentically even if it causes massive discomfort in the present.
Just take a minute or two to play through the scenarios of all your possible objections to this one. Is there actually any example of where fear didn’t eventually cause damage in the long run? Has the fear-driven option ever really been the better option?
5. Our souls don’t actually want a perfect relationship (as promised: soul growth).
At least it doesn’t want our egos’ idea of perfect. Contrary to what our egos want, our souls choose our relationships in order to work out some deep soul-level sh*t.
I’ve noticed a pattern (and you may have too) that every time I seem to be having problems, I always look back afterward and see the really important reason why it was imperative for my evolution. I’m talking divine-inspiration, master-plan level stuff. So now when I’m in a funk, I look for the divine purpose of it. I keep the perspective that it’s happening for me, rather than to me.
Make no mistake, your soul chooses your relationship for all its particular problems, not in spite of them. So the question is never, “Is my relationship too fu*ked up?” but rather, “Why is my soul choosing this experience for me?”
*Author’s Note: I wish I didn’t have to say this, but if a relationship is violent, leave first, then do the work. You can still confront the soul growth, the blame issue, the fear, and the dark side stuff after you’ve left.
Author: Summer Engman
Editor: Travis May
Image: Flickr/Leo Hidalgo