“What we are able to let go of often becomes the most lasting love of our lives.” ~ Rebekah Freedom
The enduring romantic fantasy of forever carries a weight with it that many of us bypass in the pursuit of wanting to feel secure.
For many of us, the pinnacle of finding “our person” and life-long partner is a life goal. It’s right up there with getting abs, having good sex, and making a lot of money to do what we want to do.
However, once we start to live inside of those life goals and things don’t go to plan, it can have a devastating impact on our self-esteem.
When forever begins to fade into a memory, how do you save your dying relationship?
It takes work.
Let’s unpack that familiar phrase in a way that brings us back to the foundation of what “The Work” is. Every happy couple will tell you that being together isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. And that both people have to do The Work. Ironically, this can become a major point of contention in a dying relationship. Each party involved feels entitled to outline what the other person should be working on. The notion of unconditional love remains academic at best, because in the death rattle of the relationship each person is grasping to maintain some sense of power.
This is where the real work begins. There is a moment in every single relationship when things shift from the ease of romantic fantasy into a full-blown power struggle. An odd amalgamation of wanting to be seen and accepted butts up against defensive posturing and childhood wounds. The gloves come out.
This typically happens in month three or six of dating. Our egoic and entitled nature starts barking demands. Conditional love seems way more logical.
This is also the time that attachment styles begin to be revealed. If we are any bit anxiously attached, we can push and pull to get our way or we can avoid conflict all together. The persona of who we wished to be erodes and the devil we are takes over.
The charmer who was willing to rub your belly and feed you chocolate while you were in your moon cycle is now a crispy jerk who is no more charming than a toad covered in warts. And kissing that toad isn’t going to turn him into the ideal partner either. Instead, this is the time that we must face ourselves.
We have a choice when the charm wears off. We can play the victim and blame the other person for being deceitful, or we can do The Work. This means we can take accountability or we can continue to confirm our suffering.
To be clear, every relationship has a different timeline. People can go decades without facing themselves because going through the motions of having kids, buying a home, and changing careers to support the family provides enough of a distraction that what lies under the surface goes unnoticed. Issues can get swept under the rug.
So, what leads up to a dying relationship can show up at any stage and phase of the relationship cycle. What matters is that when death is at our doorstep, we greet it with compassion. So many of us run from our own evolution and metamorphosis.
One must engage with the phases of change in order to participate in the salvation of our relationships. We must engage in deeper levels of connection and cooperation. To do this requires enduring the shifting energy of the five phases of change.
First, we live in denial. Our physical body is run by instinct, and our consciousness is unaware of itself. We respond to primal urges with no concept of our internal drives or motivations. But pain, the great teacher, reveals us to ourselves. We begin to feel the stirrings of change in our bodies and minds. Then we shift into the second phase: preparation.
Preparation is a type of alchemy where mind meets body. We visualize new experiences. We recognize patterns. We assess past results. We start to feel our feelings and form a new relationship with our emotions. Preparation can be subtle and it can be overt. It is a time of incubation and gestation followed by the third phase: action.
Action is where thought is made manifest. To the couple in a death cycle, this can be the most critical phase. In this phase, each person experiences the demonstration of endurance or decay. A shedding and rebirth happen in this place. Previous perspectives are often amended. This then results in new behaviors and communications. When action is practiced, it evolves into the fourth stage: maintenance.
Maintenance is where we experience the results of doing The Work. Moving from denial into action requires self-reflection, compassion, and a healthy relationship with desire. At times, we can remain stuck between denial and preparation. This leaves us frustrated and looping in the narrative that we don’t have the capacity to change. We interface with doubt and henceforth interact with the final phase of change: relapse.
When a relationship is dying, it is often because growth has stagnated between the two individuals that form the union. Insecurities, old stories, and fear can cause paralysis. Therefore, relapse serves as a beginning and end simultaneously because it is where a person is most susceptible to their habits. Habits are garish. The real awakening happens when we begin to see what our habits produce. This awareness then opens us up to change.
The maturation of all of life is cyclical. We go through death and rebirth cycles. Our breath is the most potent example of the duality within us. So, to save a dying relationship, each individual must go through the phases of change over and over. They must be willing to let go of “what was” and surrender to their evolution in body, mind, and spirit.
The Work is simply this: to love and be loved in return through all cycles, phases, and rhythms.