Let’s face it—romantic love is fickle.
Like a flame, it can easily go out if we don’t know how to tend it. A good fire burns long and slow, so how do we tend to our romantic life in a way to create such longevity? Or is a relationship that can stand the test of time just a thing of the past now?
Romantic love is just one expression of a deeper form of love that the Universe wants us to experience. Some people find this other kind of love in prayer, in spirituality, or in nature. The essence of this kind of love is compassion. It’s a kind of love that sees the oneness in all things. That inspires us to move from a “me and mine” point of view, to one of togetherness and service.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to be in love. It’s one of the most amazing feelings, ever. Falling in love has never been a challenge for me, (and I certainly have my share of failed relationships to attest to that!) but maintaining a loving relationship over time has proven more difficult.
Once the hormones have settled down, the rose-coloured glasses have worn off, and you’re beginning to see your partner for the human (not God or Goddess) that they really are…now what?
Is it the beginning of the end or is it the doorway toward a deeper, more compassionate love?
Too often we get caught up in our own ego trip about the other person. If they were just a little more this, or a little less that, then we could love them. Online dating promotes this “tick the boxes” kind of mentality, with hundreds of more eligible bachelors/bachelorettes at the click of a finger.
On the other hand, a lack of compassion for ourselves and feelings of low self-worth can find us in years of unnecessary suffering if we’re not careful.
So how do we find authentic compassion, for ourselves and for our partner?
Compassion requires three things: loving acceptance, an ability to communicate from the heart, and a willingness to let go of the drama.
What so many of us are searching for in romantic relationship is to be truly seen, loved, and accepted.
But how many of us go searching for that when we can’t give ourselves the same thing?
Not accepting ourselves can take many forms: it might be a constant dissatisfaction with our physical appearance, an addiction to eating or exercise, or a tendency to push away undesirable emotions like depression or anxiety. To truly accept ourselves, we have to be willing to bravely feel our feelings, not become a slave to our habit of running away from them.
When we make the choice to open up a little more to our present moment experience, we automatically become more open and available to others.
Here’s a secret: a side benefit of your mindfulness practice is that you’ll naturally become more intuitive! This benefits a romantic relationship immensely because when we start seeing from the heart, things come up and get resolved more quickly than if we rely on our logical brain alone.
An ability to communicate is essential to a long-term relationship. If we accept ourselves we will be less afraid to have those difficult conversations that come up in relationship. Whether you want to improve your sex life or are about to join finances to buy a house together, relationships provide ample opportunities to get into the nitty-gritty details of our lives.
If we can lean in to those conversations a little more, trusting that we are essentially safe and know how to take care of ourselves, we open to the possibility of caring for another’s point of view as well.
There are many practices out there that focus on cultivating compassion. One of my favourites is simply focusing on inhaling into whatever I am feeling and exhaling spaciousness. When you feel you have that down, you could explore a practice like Tonglen, where you inhale anything you find uncomfortable and exhale peace or relief. Once you are willing to experience your own pain and suffering, you have the capacity to actually hold space for another person’s as well.
But, let’s be honest, sometimes your partner makes you want to rip your hair out and go running for the hills!
It’s precisely because romantic relationships bring up these intense emotions, that they are the perfect breeding ground for a practice of compassion.
In fact, love has created the form of a monogamous relationship so that we learn how to generate compassion toward another person. The relationship is not love’s end goal, however. She wants us to extend the deep satisfaction and joy of our healthy, romantic relationships to all beings. By practicing compassion to just two people—ourselves and our partner—we can learn how to love anyone, even our enemies.
Compassion is sexy. It’s too often the missing element in romantic relationships. The element that allows us to go deeper, to open up more, to see and be seen, and to generate a humorous relationship to our human foibles.
The only thing you have to lose is your ego. So why not open the doorway of possibility and explore a more compassionate love?