There’s a widely-held belief that intimate relationships (particularly marriage) go hand in hand with hard work, sacrifice, and limitation.
But is this widely-held belief true?
On one level, yep, it certainly can be!
Our minds can instantly come up with a million reasons to validate how difficult relationships are and justify the massive effort required to “make them work.”
But in recent years, I’ve become aware of something that can really help us create a whole different experience around intimacy, massively relieving the pressure we so often associate with love.
The following is a simple process that I’ve found helpful in moving beyond the lies of romantic idealism.
I find that it can prevent us from looping back into old patterns of dissatisfaction, heartache, and failed relationship—with which I’ve been all too familiar in the past!
1) Get clear on what love means to you.
I only realised in recent years that the meaning we place on love is not a universal thing—not by a long shot!
I’d always assumed that the ways in which we express love were fairly standard, but it was a total shocker to me when I finally realised that’s not so.
What I consider loving behaviour may actually wreck someone else’s head—and vice versa.
Where one person finds reassurance and encouragement a form of support, these same things might drive another person nuts.
Or some people think doing things together creates connection, but for someone else who’s used to their own freedom, that might be restrictive and confining.
You get the picture.
We can unconsciously absorb so many different ideas about what love and romance is from our parents, social norms, and of course Hollywood—and it can massively trip us up in our relationships, as we express love according to our own personal model and take for granted that it should be received positively.
And then we can get a right shock when it’s not!
What can so easily happen is two people who really care about each other, expressing love in their own ways, but not by a mutual standard, both end up feeling unloved and misunderstood.
When this clicked for me, it was such a massive eye opener.
So step one is to get clear on what we believe love is and how we prefer to express it.
This is an opportunity for us to distinguish between what works for us in a relationship, and what love truly is—because they’re two different things.
It also gives us space to be really honest about elements of previous relationships that didn’t suit us, so we can be clearer about what we require going forward.
This is simple to do, just relax and ask yourself: What do I believe about love? And what are my preferences in relationships? Brainstorm ideas and feelings that bubble up.
Then prepare to go a little deeper with the next step!
2) Ask to be shown what true love is.
The next piece clicked in an energy session* I was facilitating for a client who was in the full throws of dealing with a recent breakup.
*Just to note: If you’re unfamiliar with energy therapy, it’s basically an umbrella term for different methods that promote presence. Techniques are used to guide both the recipient and facilitator into a meditative state. In that space, information can be accessed beyond our critical thinking mind and we can tap into the more subtle information our intuition offers.
Her biggest concern was that if she couldn’t make it work with someone she loved so much, a guy who she knew really loved her too, then what hope was there for her?
So we set the intention to untangle the story that was causing her suffering, and “get our zen on.”
As the session unfolded, we became aware that she had no model for what true love is.
In my mind’s eye, I saw glimpses of her childhood, and the intermittent flashes of volatile experiences that had rocked her foundations for love and relationship.
So I asked for her to perceive energetically what true love is, so that she could experience a completely new reference.
I’d expected to perceive an activation around her heart, and a flood of that warm glow-y feeling you might typically associate with the emotion.
But no, nothing happened.
Then I started to notice a subtle sense of spaciousness. I became aware of this softness, openness, and lightness—a gentle breeze on my cheek. She’d farted. Ha, imagine! Only joking!
But back on a serious note, I perceived this energy of what true love feels like—this sense of allowance, trust, gentleness, and kindness. Very different to the version of love I typically imagined.
And I realised that if this was our reference for what true love is, how differently we’d all function in intimate relationships.
Now look, of course this was an entirely subjective experience, but it’s definitely something I’d encourage anyone to play around with, and just see what you become aware of.
So step two is to get into a relaxed space, when we’re feeling nice and calm, and to just ask to be shown what true love is. Be attentive and notice what we perceive.
There’s no right way to do this, so it’s best to approach it with a sense of curiosity, and just see what emerges.
3) Choose to embody it.
So, the final hurdle.
Once we’re clear on what works for us in a relationship—as distinct from our definition of love, and then tap into that expanded perspective of what true love really feels like—the last part is deciding on whether we are willing to be this for ourselves.
Never mind the other person just yet!
Are we willing to embody this state of being with no external justification for feeling that way? Simply because we can?
It might seem like another no brainer and yet this can be the toughest of all, as our conditioning to not feel something unless we have valid reason to can pull hard against us!
In my personal process of becoming more conscious, this is where I’ve tripped up the most.
I know I can access that beautiful, loving, calm, expanded space at will, but for some reason so often don’t choose to. Crazy lady!
I’ll do it at the drop of a hat for a client, or facilitating a group call, or when an intense experience arises—but moment to moment, I often forget this lovely state of being is always available.
And what does that have to do with creating a harmonious, intimate relationship with another person?
Well it’s pretty cool, because when we are the very thing we’re seeking outside of ourselves—when we become it, and truly give up the external chase—paradoxically it presents itself far more easily and effortlessly in our experience. It’s mirrored back.
And so, “step three” is to choose to embody that true version of love—as often as we can remember! To know that we don’t need another person or external justification in order to feel that way. It’s always available to us, and it’s only ever a choice away!
So, in summary.
All of the steps I’ve shared here are based on my personal experiences and my own process of evolving.
I’m not putting this forward as an absolute solution, or by any means declaring myself an expert on love, but I’m just offering a contribution that may assist you in experiencing more ease with future intimate relationships.
Author: Sarah Keane
Image: Author’s Own, Scio Central School Website/Flickr
Editor: Travis May