We’ve been taught that the purpose of a romantic relationship is to make us happy—to find our better half.
While relationships are often a source of gratification, their actual purpose goes much deeper than this. I’ve realized that they’re not meant to make us feel whole; they’re meant to make us realize our innate wholeness.
You see, we’re all born complete. I’m convinced that the void we feel as adults wasn’t there at the moment of birth. But our childhood experiences, family, surroundings, society, and the media help shape our future conceptions. One of these is the belief that our happiness lies in something or someone else.
Consequently, we spend most of our lives thinking we are halves and pursuing what we believe will complete us. Romantic relationships have long been thought of as the perfect remedy for loneliness and dejection. We think they will put an end to this undeniable emptiness inside us and, at last, make us whole.
Then, when the euphoric phase ends and problems inevitably arise: we blame our partner, ourselves, or our luck. When things fall apart and we choose to stay, we get frustrated with our partner (and the relationship) and insist on getting what we desire. And if we choose to leave, we bounce from one relationship to another, adamant that we find our other/better half.
I know how difficult it is to unlearn what has long been engraved in our brains. However, understanding the real nature of romantic love can transform us and our relationships.
What I’ve come to understand is that happiness and completeness are already inside us and relationships arise to help us tap into those qualities. There are many other experiences besides love that can assist us in realizing our wholeness, but I personally consider relationships the best teacher.
Never before have I believed in the power of pain in relationships the way I do now. The suffering that we experience in romance is, in my opinion, an assortment of old wounds that are opening again. They often originate from the early childhood experiences or traumas that are still imprinted in our consciousness.
At times, our partner may do something we consider unacceptable or intolerable. While we certainly must take action, we should also be aware of the nature of the reactions their behavior has awoken inside us.
Every painful moment in our relationship is like translating a painful experience from our past. But rarely, if ever, do we perceive it this way. We see our partner as the path itself rather than the bridge leading us to the path. And so, we run on empty and become disappointed with our partner. The person we believed was our other half suddenly becomes our worst enemy.
So long as we enter relationships to feel complete, we will always act from a place of need. We will constantly expect from our partner more than they can offer us. They will become a source of frustration and irritation. The relationship will turn into an empty well that can never quench our thirst.
What I’m suggesting to fix this problem is a simple but powerful switch in how we view our relationships:
Instead of asking, “How can my partner complete me?” ask, “How can my partner help me realize my completeness?” And instead of asking, “How can my partner fulfill my needs?” ask, “How can my partner be a source of inspiration so I can heal myself?”
When problems arise, use them to look inward and work on something within you, rather than insisting on getting your way or changing your partner. When we do this, our relationships have the ability to move us closer to our true nature. Slowly, we heal the issues that have stemmed from our past conditioning, instead of blaming our partner for causing them.
Oftentimes, we feel like we have to go backward, but in reality, we are moving forward. We are slowly removing the blocks that are preventing us from realizing our wholeness. Then, not only do we heal ourselves, but we are finally capable of taking our relationship to the next level.
Whether we stay with our current partner or experience different relationships in the future, we can turn them into a source of self-improvement instead of a destination for fulfillment. We can choose to no longer perceive our past painful relationships as dramatic, but instead understand that every person who enters our life heals a part of us, sometimes without knowing it.
If we can believe this, we can stop blaming others for what we view as their mistakes. We can realize that they showed up to shed light on how we can grow—not because we’re imperfect or unworthy, but because we are meant to return to the moment of our birth: complete human beings.
Year after year, relationship after relationship, problem after problem, we move closer to realizing our wholeness. Then we understand that the goal of a relationship is not to fill a missing void inside us. Its purpose is to recognize that there isn’t a void to begin with—only a whole person who is capable of improving.
Everything changes when we pursue relationships (or decide to stay in our present one) to achieve personal growth. If this feels like a tough idea to digest, try to look at your past (or present) relationships through the eyes of a student rather than the eyes of a victim. I promise you will find hundreds of lessons that have made you who you are today.
When both partners decide to perceive each other as a bridge to healing and understand that any pain they inflict on each other is the result of past conditioning, their relationship will become happier and healthier.
Because two people who realize their own completeness last far longer together than two people who seek completeness through each other.
Bonus: The One Buddhist Red Flag to Look out for.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Allan Filipe Santos Dias/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton