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The messages we receive from Hollywood, the media, and society all play into the belief that, as Richard Schwartz says, “Romance, relief, and redemption can all be found in intimate relationships.”
For much of my life, I believed in this, and I shared in my last post how it took me many years to learn to fully engage in deep relationships.
Among other unhealthy thought patterns, I believed that my partner’s purpose was to meet my needs. When he fell short, I would try one of what Dick calls the “three projects.” I would attempt to:
One: get him to change.
Two: change myself into the person I thought he wanted.
And three: give up—and either search for a different partner or become numb enough to be able to stay.
For me, the key to freedom in relationships has been learning to make the “U-turn” whenever I felt triggered. Rather than looking to my partner to heal my exiled parts or to make me feel like I am enough, I’ve started to use the painful moment as an opportunity to heal. Rather than obsessing over whether I am with the right person, I’ve learned to use each relationship trigger as an opportunity to heal and to free myself.
A man is not meant to meet my needs; I am meant to meet my own needs.
The first time I experimented with this was with a man who was highly averse to cuddling. I woke up next to him one morning and I could feel the distance. I felt a yearning to be physically close, and then a feeling of rejection because I could sense he didn’t want that.
I remembered the U-turn and, despite what felt like an excruciating and deep pain in the moment, I pulled myself out of bed, sat in meditation, and turned toward the part of me that was in pain. I connected with the young exile who felt ignored, rejected by her father, and who didn’t receive the nurturing she needed. I witnessed her pain; I helped her feel heard, understood, and cared for.
I realized that the pain I was feeling in that moment in bed was disproportionate to the situation. Whenever that is the case, it’s a clue that a younger part of us has been triggered and there is an opportunity to do some deeper work.
When I could return to my partner unencumbered by the backlog of pain from the past, I could see everything more clearly. It turned out that I didn’t need much from this person, as we were actually truly incompatible, and we would discover this shortly thereafter. But, the short-lived relationship still turned out to be an opportunity for growth and healing.
This work has become a practice for me, and it has led to a new ability to have a deeply satisfying, stable, and healing romantic relationship. Despite doing significant trauma work over the years, I still have exiles that can get triggered. These are parts of me that feel inadequate in ways I’m only able to access in an intimate relationship. I’m proud to say that when these parts get activated, I no longer engage in any of those three projects.
I don’t engage in old, sabotaging behaviors such as seeking reassurance from my partner, fantasizing about leaving, or panicking that we aren’t compatible. Instead, I have learned to turn toward the pained parts. I give them what they need, which is most often kind, loving attention and soothing self-touch, like placing my hand over my heart.
Once I am calmer and more connected to my own energy, I can share my experience with my partner. Then, I am sharing from a place of personal empowerment, freedom, vulnerability, presence, and self-love, and he can witness my process with love and admiration for the work I have just done.
I receive his love because I am no longer hijacked by extreme parts—and all this makes for a beautiful relationship.