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May 19, 2016

Conscious Love: What the Hell is That?

Sophie/Flickr

There’s that ad again for MeetMindful, asking if the elephant reader is looking for mindful dating or conscious love.

I have skipped over this ad in more articles than I care to count, but a friend reading my article asked me to define “conscious love.”

After determining that he did not think it was something I wrote, I blathered some explanation that may have made some sense, but his question got me thinking about what it really does mean. As an elephant journal columnist, I should know what our partners’ ads mean, right?

Conscious love sounds different.

Relationships, including marriages and long-term commitments, fail all the time, but we keep trying to plug into the same formula. We perpetuate this by modeling it for our children, causing them pain—not out of cruelty, but tradition and habit. This is the way things have always been done, dammit!

I see memes constantly on social media touting the idea that we are complete on our own, but I am still surrounded by friends and coaching clients who are looking for that someone who will “make them happy” and soothe all the pain inside them.

Where love is concerned, there is a disconnect between logic and emotion.

In my search for a definition for conscious love, I decided to Google the phrase, and surprisingly came up with very little.

Then I found it! The article that captured my attention and communicated clearly where I am in my belief about loving relationships. Instead of being committed to a relationship no matter the cost, each person should have a commitment to growth as an individual, as a couple, as a community. We are a wonderful addition to another’s life, but not the foundation on which it is built.

Growth is the goal, and much of what we have been taught to want in relationships is in direct opposition. All the roles we expect each other to play. All the repression of our true selves to “keep” someone. All the dumbing down of our dreams and lessons to fit the idea of a couple as one unit without separation.

If the traditional pattern isn’t working, what does promote growth?

1) Authenticity.

Know who you are and who you want to be—not for others, but following your soul’s desire. I think of this concept as internal, although it certainly manifests externally. As part of a couple, we may find this helps us set boundaries and find joy as we come together as real people, and not roles we play.

2) Transparency.

Let others know who you are, even when they may not like everything about you. This prevents all kinds of resentment that can challenge a relationship. Feel the freedom to communicate the emotions, thoughts and dreams of who you are or want to be. This is an enormous gift you give your partner—trust as shown by your willingness to be vulnerable with them.

3) Congruence.

Act in harmony with the authentic you and what you want your impact to be on your relationship and community. The energy in our life and relationships is diminished without this balance. We do not always get to do exactly what we want, but we can strive for our actions to be in sync with our mind and spirit.

4) Acceptance.

Your new relationship may not “look a certain way,” so be prepared for some pushback from others. As long as you are comfortable with your connection, you do not have to defend your decision to not fit in with the “normal” way of things. I have been dating a man for a while, and we resist labeling our relationship. We jokingly call it “whatever this is.” Lack of a label doesn’t make me feel less for him.

5) Awareness.

We come to each other with past pain and our own course of lessons and challenges. The more quickly we are able to recognize old triggers and behaviors that inhibit growth, the healthier we are and the more we have to offer each other. We also need to be aware of our defaults in emotions and behavior, because when growth and change get uncomfortable, we will automatically retreat there.

As much as I embrace the theory of how I want my life to be, I recognize that I do not have the enlightened relationship thing down. I find myself wanting to drift back to the model I was raised with—one where there is a married couple who never even look at someone else with sexual or romantic interest and can promise each other forever without the slightest reservation.

My thoughts are changing, and I am working to reset the defaults:

I still feel jealous, but I don’t freak out every time he notices a pretty woman. I can also communicate my feelings honestly without worrying that he will think less of me for my momentary insecurity. I have come to a place where I think of this as a compliment. We are surrounded by beauty, and yet we choose each other’s company.

I still get angry when things do not go my way, or I take things personally that have nothing to do with me. I am learning to recognize my patterns much more quickly and self-correct.

I still feel fear when I open up and am the real me, whom he may or may not like. Hell, I feel anxiety about him reading this article, but I’m writing it anyway.

I still get sad when something he does triggers that abandoned child, but I take her hand and in the wise words of my grandmother tell her, “Do not borrow trouble.”

Maybe it’s because I am nearly 50 and have a different perspective as someone who has been divorced and widowed, but I am enjoying the concept of a relationship as a complement to my life—not the purpose of it.

We can pursue our own personal “becoming” without feeling like we are being selfish. It allows us freedom from the pressure of being the center of someone’s universe, and an opportunity for genuine celebration of each other’s victories.

Magical relationships revolve around choice, instead of necessity and expectation; although, I doubt Hallmark is going to sell many cards that say “I complete myself, but you are a great add-on!”

A paradigm shift for a healthy life within and outside of a connected pair may not be catchy or follow an easy pattern, but life and love are messy and wonderfully unpredictable. Enjoy the ride.

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Relephant Reads:

An Invitation to my Conscious Lover.

6 Fundamental Traits of Conscious Relationships.

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Author: Lisa Foreman

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Author’s Own // Sophie/Flickr

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