Lennon and McCartney said it. Rumi, Kabir, Hafiz (and other Sufis) wrote about it. Religion and culture chime in loudly about the importance of it. The total mass of songs, poems and movies that implore us to find it, keep it and renew it could create another planet. The lectures, articles and books on love and compassion for the human race, a specific “other” and the self fill the airwaves, bookshelves and ezines of our lives. So what is the fuss all about? Is it about romance or sex, connection or intimacy?
Ask yourself, “What if love were the single greatest tool for personal development”? How might that change the way you view your intimate relationship? If we look at the relationship we have with the beloved, can we connect with the Beloved? Beyond the romantic elements, the physical delights, the pain and misunderstanding, the frustration and the joy, lurks a path to awakening that accelerates the process of maturation a thousand fold.
“Shelf-help” as Wendy Palmer likes to call it, can advise us about meeting, wooing and bedding perhaps wedding the attractive candidate. Only being in a relationship that names “coming home to oneself” as the greatest goal, brings us Love, with the capital L.
Stephen and Ondrea Levine say “Few recognize the enormous power of a relationship as a vehicle for physical. spiritual, and emotional healing.” Why is this true?
We are enculturated into a view of intimate relationship as romantic. And the definition for romantic is fairly narrow at that. Rarely do we encounter role models for partnering as a path to awakening to our true nature.
Relationships are the stage upon which we play out our very young understanding of love in its many guises. What we were told (and taught) about love by our caretakers when we were little shows up in our adult relationships. What we experienced in our very impressionable early years of development, before we could speak, also shows up. How our parents treated one another is often a more indelible experience than their words about “being loving.” The same is true for the injunctions of priests, rabbis, teachers, scout leaders, etc. How lovingly we were treated effects us long past the exit of many players from the stage of our lives. What we needed and desired as vulnerable children (and didn’t get) we attempt to redress through our partners. This puts enormous pressure on our lovers – impossible pressure, as they too seek solace for early unmet needs.
In psychology, we learn of “object relations” which deeply affect our loving connections. These ways to relating to others basically casts them in a role of an important early caretaker unconsciously – so we don’t see the person – we are “back with” the important mother or father or granny. When we unconsciously stop seeing our beloved by replacing him or her with a parent (with whom we all have unresolved issues) we attempt to heal the past. By its very nature, the past cannot be undone, but we try again and again to have a “do over” which never works. What works instead?
Recognizing that a relationship is the perfect place to practice transparency, commitment (especially when times are challenging), generosity, healthy boundaries (caring for the other without merging) deep listening, compassion are steps along the path. The method is being Present, both to arises within and to the real other before you,
And when things go awry, and they always do, looking at the situation from an undefended position, begs us hold the question of “where am I in this?” What is my contribution? Seeking out the truth of old pain and unresolved suffering that arises and allowing our partner to be in it with us, rather than suppressing or denying it allows us to begin the healing. When we can enter into our partners pain without trying to make it go away, hold space for her suffering and be a witness, we continue the healing process. These acts of loving often are called forth when we are triggered into the old feelings… yet being with the experience, sharing our feelings of shame, guild, abandonment, loss or grief creates the intimacy that ultimately heals, that accelerates our maturation.
Rather than leaning on the beloved to hold us up, we become two upright entities that evolve beside one another without creating a hindering shadow. So yes, all you need is love, real love which transcends romance.