A couple of years into marriage, when the honeymoon phase segued into “ordinary time,” and from there some difficulties emerged, I became a student of intimate partnerships. It’s what I do whenever faced with a challenge; I read books, go to workshops, and seek out mentors who can enlighten me on whatever topic I’m exploring. In this particular process, I increased my understanding regarding how relationships can work (or not). And over the years, as I continue to learn, there’s a pattern I’ve seen play out between couples time and again. It goes something like this:
Two people fall in love and offer one another their best selves. In my view, this “best self” is one’s true essence. It comes forth naturally as each person, through the support of love, aligns with their intrinsic goodness. The connection is blissful and authentic. This stage that drew the two in so closely together is self-limiting, however. It eventually gives way to the messiness of each individual’s faulty programming. Up rises all of the issues each person still needs to work through in their own personal development — perhaps family of origin dynamics, or a certain brain chemistry that was on hiatus due to the “falling in love” hormones, or things like social and cultural conditioning, and so forth. These revelations range from unsettling to downright ugly, and the two who were so harmoniously in love are now confronted with tense discord, also known as invitations to grow.
At first it can seem dreadful to encounter less-than-desirable traits in ourselves and our beloved. Yet, when we realize we are an instrument of evolution for one another, we can embrace this work as a spiritual practice. We can rise to the occasion. After all, I don’t think it’s coincidence that we typically end up partnering with somebody who reveals to us precisely what it is we need to work on for our own maturation. I see this as our subconscious attraction to growth. And so it is wise to pay attention to the triggers, the root beliefs, the negative patterns, the self-talk, and more. Take time to reflect and then stick to your side of the street while cleaning up whatever you can. And here’s the key:
The path of working through one’s issues, while in the mirror of a relationship, is going to lead you to the fullness of the person you presented to your partner in the first place... your best, truest self. This work is not about the relationship with him/her, however, it’s about your relationship with you! It’s about rediscovering that alignment with your intrinsic goodness, that deposit of God that has been there from the start regardless of your outer relationships.
Evolutionary work may not always be merciful in its unfolding, but in the end it can certainly be grace-filled. It has the potential to lead you to freedoms that come with personal responsibility, healthy self-love, and a deeper prayer life.
May you be inspired!