CREATING A SPIRITUAL
Moving Toward Equality and Mutual Respect
In an empowered relationship people are equals. Each person pulls her own weight and takes responsibility for loving and supporting herself. No one is saving the other, fixing the other, deciding for or controlling the other.
When you move into Phase Three of this transformational process you are leaving behind co-dependent relationships in which both people give their power away and cultivating positive relationships based on equality and mutual trust. You are no longer showing up as either a victim or victimizer. You have substantially ended the chain of abuse and the patterns of self-betrayal in your life,
That means that you are no longer living to please, take care of, or control someone else, nor are you living to be taken care of, controlled or dominated by another person. You are not accepting any one else’s authority over you, nor are claiming to be an
authority for anyone else.
You understand and practice good boundaries in your relationships. You know what your responsibility is and isn’t and what the other person’s responsibility is and isn’t. You use my Crash Course in Boundaries as a regular practice, taking
responsibility for what you think, feel, say and do, and allowing others to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, words and actions. (See my book The Keys to the Kingdom for this and other important spiritual practices that can keep you and
your partnership on track).
This isn’t to say that you do this perfectly. You don’t. You make mistakes and so does your partner. But you are both committed to acknowledging your mistakes and learning from them. That means that you do not need to be right all the time or to constantly make your partner wrong. You know that sometimes you see things more clearly than your partner does and sometimes s/he is more clear than you are. You don’t compete to be “better than” the other and you don’t accept the idea that you are “less than.”
While feelings of inferiority may come up for both of you, you don’t buy into them. You see that such feelings are bringing up something in you that needs to be accepted, forgiven and healed. You see that the little girl or boy in you is not feeling loved and
you learn to bring love to him or her when s/he needs it.
You understand that your number one responsibility is to love and honor yourself and you do not try to make your partner responsible for loving you and making you happy. You understand that happiness comes from the inside. It comes from
developing a loving relationship with yourself and that is an ongoing process in your life. Each day you are learning to show up for yourself in a more loving and compassionate way.
While you love and cherish your partner, you understand that your partner must take responsibility for loving and honoring self. You cannot take that responsibility on without becoming co-dependent and sabotaging the relationship. So you learn to stand back and give your partner the time and space to work out any issues of self worth that are arising. You know that it is your partner’s responsibility to be the bringer of love to his or her own experience.
In spite of all this, there are times when you trespass on each other. You project your fear and shame. You try to blame the other person. It is always painful when this happens because the trust between you can be undermined if you are not successful in forgiving each other and making amends.
Your greatest commitment therefore is and must continue to be to forgive your partner and yourself for your mutual trespasses. To do so you must find a way to listen compassionately to the cries of your little child and your partner’s little child.
You must feel the pain of the child and work to soothe it and hold the space for healing and acceptance.
Your ability to show up for your partner’s little kid is based on your ability to show up for your own. So you learn to take the time your child needs to feel accepted and loved by you, so that your little child will not be jealous of and competitive with your
partner’s little child.
You understand that two hurt little children cannot love each other. A loving adult is needed. Sometimes that will be you showing up to hold the space of love and acceptance when your partner is triggered. Sometimes it will be your partner holding
the space for you. It needs to be a two way street. You must both learn to play the role of peacemaker. Otherwise, the triggers will escalate and neither one of you will feel safe in the relationship.
Two Types of Empowered Relationships
There are two types of empowered relationships. One is “separate but equal” and the other is “shared intimacy.” In the first type of relationship partners need a lot of personal space. Often, they do not live together. Or, if they do, they have clear boundaries that create identifiable personal space for each person. In the second type of relationship there is a lot of time for sharing and intimacy. People live together, travel together and share most aspects of their lives.
The danger of the first type of relationship is that there will be a lack of intimacy and cohesion. People may feel distant from and unsupported by their partners. The danger of the second type of relationship is that it may become complacent and
routine. The partners may take each other for granted and the energy between them may become stale. The antidote in the first case is “time together.” The antidote in the second case is “time apart.”
Some relationships thrive when partners spend a lot of time together and share many interests. Others thrive when each person has plenty of time to do his or her own thing. It is helpful if you know what type of relationship works for you. In order for intimacy and interest to be sustained, partners must find a balance between time alone and time together. Each person must feel supported in pursuing interests not shared by the other person. On the other hand, consistent time must be devoted to sharing and communicating with each other. Each couple must work out these dynamics.
Sometimes people are not well matched in terms of the kind of relationship they need. If one person needs a lot of intimacy and the other person is afraid of this andrequires a lot of alone time, the needs of both people are not going to be met. For
long term success, it is helpful to be with a partner who shares your general idea of how much intimacy or alone time is needed.
People who have individuated early in life may not require a great dealof time away from their partners. They are happy to engage, to create a shared space, and a “we” consciousness. This takes them both deeper in their surrender to intimacy
and love. However, when one or both partner(s) needs time to individuate, a “separate but equal” relationship can support them in their personal growth. Such a relationship can be a life-style choice or it can be a step on the way toward greater intimacy with
each other or with future partners.
Moving Beyond Romance into a Full Chakra Union
A successful partnership is grounded and realistic. It does not ask too much or too little from the individuals. Each partner has surrendered the romantic ideal, accepts the other as s/he is and shows up consistently for him or her. Moreover, each
person is willing to accept and work through the challenges the relationship brings. There is a solid commitment from both people.
For a partnership to be complete, there must be a sustainable passion in the relationship. Both people must be attracted to each other and desire each other’s company. All of the chakras must be engaged. Full-chakra relationships involve connection and a positive exchange of energies in all of the areas listed below.
• Spiritual Connection: You share and/or fully respect/support each other’s unique path of healing and connection to the divine.
• Mental Connection: You share and/or fully respect/support each other’s interests, values and gifts of creative expression. You are able to communicate honestly and respectfully.
• Emotional Connection: You trust each other. You feel accepted, heard and supported by each other. Your hearts are open to each other. You feel grateful for each other and value what you share.
• Physical Connection: You feel attracted to each other and are affectionate in a way that feels good to both of you. You feel safe and secure living together. Your sexual relationship works for both of you.
• Overall Commitment: You feel the relationship works and meets your needs.
You might find it helpful to rate your current relationship by assigning a number from one to ten (1-10) to each of the above categories. Give a 1 for the least degree of connection and a 10 for the highest degree of connection. Then add up all the
numbers. The highest score your relationship could have would be a 50. The Lowest score would be a 5. If you are brave, ask your partner to rate the relationship too and compare notes.
If you both rate your relationship between 40-50, then you are fortunate and blessed that you and your partner support each other in your journey to awaken, heal and step into your power and purpose. If you rate your relationship between 30-40, then it
is still likely that your relationship be an asset and a support for both of you, provided that you are both committed to working together to increase intimacy, communication, and mutual respect.
On the other hand, if you rated your relationship between 20-30, then it is probably time for you and your partner to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk. You need to discover whether you have a common vision and are both fully committed to the
relationship. You must each begin to ask the question: “Does the relationship provide a vehicle in which I can honor and express my True Self, or does it limit me from expressing myself authentically?”
This conversation is a necessary one for most couples who have been together for 20 or 30 years. You may have fulfilled your parenting and child-rearing responsibilities together, but that does not necessarily mean that you want to spend another 20 or 30 years together. You and your partner will need to determine if staying together enables both of you to grow and come into your power or if it just reinforces your patterns of self-betrayal.
If you rated your relationship below 20, then it is pretty clear that you don’t feel that it supports you in your process of healing and empowerment. You may have to face the possibility that completing your relationship is an important ingredient in relinquishing your patterns of self-betrayal. If this is true for you, it is probably true for you partner too.
Regardless of what you decide, be aware that a relationship cannot be repaired or transformed unless both partners are willing to do things differently. Old patterns are often firmly entrenched and new patterns are not easy to establish.
The True Self cannot be born until the False Self is relinquished. Healthy relationships cannot be born until co-dependent relationships fall apart. Only the most committed and courageous couples can preside over the death of their unhealthy relationships and then re-create their relationship in a healthy way. However, if the desire is mutual and strong enough, nothing is impossible.
There is always the possibility that you and your partner may come together to create an equal, mutually empowered relationship and find that you trigger each other in spades. Instead of being the crowning jewel of your life, the relationship becomes the
biggest lesson both of you have had. If this happens, don’t feel like a failure. Just get some help. Old patterns of self-betrayal
and the wounds behind them sometimes rise up with a vengeance, even after you have done a good deal of healing work.
Below are some of the warning signs you need to be aware of. They indicate thatyour relationship is off course and may even be unhealthy.
- you frequently blame and shame each other
- you give your power or responsibility away to the other person
- you need to control your partner or make decisions for him/her
- the relationship reinforces patterns of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
- you can’t establish healthy boundaries with your partner
- you feel responsible for your partner’s pain or lack of love
- you become a victim or a caretaker
- you often need to be right or make your partner wrong
- you are trying to save or redeem your partner
- you can’t bring love to your child or your partner’s child
If one or more of these warning signs are present in your relationship, it may be time to get some help from a trained couples counselor or therapist. It would also be helpful if you would begin to practice The Affinity Process with your partner at least
two or three times a week. (See my books Living in the Heart and The Keys to the Kingdom).
If you are in an unhealthy relationship, it is your responsibility to set clear limits with your partner or get out of the relationship. No one else can take that responsibility for you. But don’t hesitate to get help if you need it. Before making a decision about whether to leave or stay in a relationship, please consider the following factors:
- transforming a relationship from a co-dependent one to an empowered one requires that both people are willing to change, and therapeutic assistance (marriage/couples counseling) is often necessary.
- when leaving a co-dependent relationship try to understand and heal the patterns of self-betrayal/victimhood that brought you into the relationship.
- don’t stay in the relationship and suffer.
- don’t leave in anger and blame.
- treat your partner with respect, kindness and compassion
- be responsible for the choices you make.
- don’t try to be responsible for the choices your partner makes
- avoid giving or receiving artificial guilt.
- practice forgiveness of yourself and your partner.
Practicing Forgiveness with Your Partner
Forgiveness is the most important transformational process you and your partner engage in. Practice it on a daily basis. Learn to forgive trespasses and to take responsibility for correcting them. Do this earnestly and consistently or your relationship will shipwreck in the first storm.
When you practice forgiveness, hold yourself and your partner gently. Learn to be flexible and resilient. Admit and apologize for your mistakes. Know that you don’t have to be right to be happy. See that you can be wrong and still be loved and so can
Unless abuse is present, do not be too quick to leave a relationship that needs work. Take the time to own your mistakes and to begin to model for your partner the change you are asking from him/her.
Realize that no one is perfect. Not you or your partner. Don’t crucify each other. Understand that everyone does the best that s/he can with the consciousness s/he has in the moment. When you learn from your mistakes, you raise your consciousness,
and you are less likely to make the same mistake again.
Real forgiveness requires the awareness that you can’t change the past. However, you can create a different outcome in the future. So don’t waste your time on shame and blame. Ask instead “How can we make this work better in the future?”
The Serenity Prayer helps you to practice forgiveness. It is a great tool that you would do well to use on a daily basis. Each day and throughout the day take responsibility for what you think, feel, say and do, and ask your partner to do the same. When you are triggered, don’t react to the other person. Look inside and see what hidden hurt or belief is coming up for healing. Use your relationship as a mirror to deepen your understanding of yourself.
When your partner projects onto you, forgive the trespass. When you project on your partner, ask for forgiveness. At least twice this week, when your partner triggers you, ask for an Affinity Process space to share what is coming up for you. Follow the Affinity Guidelines and be sure to own your stuff. Make “I” Statements, not “You” Statements. Do not blame your partner or seek to make him or her responsible for how you are feeling. Make it be about you. Let your partner know what wound has been triggered in you and what false belief about yourself you are being asked to look at. Make it clear that no feedback is necessary. Seek only to be witnessed in a loving and compassionate way. Offer to hold the same space for your partner.
Be patient with each other. It takes a while to learn to use this process. The more you do it, the better you will get at adhering to the Affinity Guidelines and the safer you will feel communicating honestly with each other.
Eleven Ground Rules for Creating an Ecstatic Relationship
The following ground rules will help you to create and sustain an ecstatic relationship with a life partner.
1. Love yourself unconditionally and learn to be the bringer of love to your own experience moment to moment. Don’t depend on others to love you.
2. Establish clear boundaries with others and use the triggers in your relationship as opportunities to continue to heal your core wounds and beliefs.
3. Be ready for intimacy. Before entering a new relationship, take the time to grieve the ending of previous relationships and to heal some of your patterns of self-betrayal.
4. Be sure you really want this relationship. If so, make the relationship your number one priority. Many people say that they do this, but they are just kidding themselves. So ask yourself: “Is work my priority, or children, or caring for my parents?” Be
honest. Don’t set yourself up for failure. If your relationship is going to take a back seat to these other commitments, it isn’t going to lead to the level of intimacy we are talking about here. Better to set a more realistic goal.
5. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and be patient. You have to trust the healing process and know that when you have connected sufficiently to your Core Self, you will attract a partner who helps you grow and take the next step on your journey.
6. Surrender the romantic ideal. If you want to attract your soul mate, you need to be realistic and know that s/he will bring up every little unworthiness and self-doubt you have so that you can heal and step into your power and purpose. Seeking your soul
mate is unwise if you are looking for an easy relationship that does not challenge your ego structure.
7. Develop a shared vision. Be sure you have similar goals for the relationship and agree on the process you will use to reach them.
8. Consider your partner’s needs and experiences as equal to and as important as your own. Many people think they do this, but few really do. This is one of the challenging disciplines of committed relationship.
9. Be monogamous. While it is not impossible to create a full-chakra embrace with more than one person, it is extremely unlikely and unwise to try. On the other hand, each person must be true to him or herself. In the event that you try to be intimate
with more than one partner, honesty and full disclosure are necessary.
10. Avoid blaming or shaming your partner. All attempts to shame or blame are fear driven and will destroy the trust that you have for each other. A successful relationship can be built only through your love and acceptance of each other.
11. Give the relationship the time and attention it needs. An ecstatic relationship requires heart-to-heart communication every day. It requires having fun and celebrating, and it requires honesty and soul searching.
Important Questions to Ask Yourself
A great relationship is a work of art. It is made, not born. You work on creating it moment to moment every day of your lives. To create an ecstatic relationship, ask yourself the following four key questions:
- Do I really want it? Am I willing to make the relationship the number one priority in my life?
- Am I ready? Have I sufficiently healed the traumas of my childhood and previous relationships? Am I ready to let the past go?
- Am I willing? Am I willing to show up for the relationship and give it the time and attention that it needs to flourish?
- Am I able? Have I learned to own my fears and hold them with compassion, instead of projecting them on my partner? Am I able to communicate honestly and keep my heart and mind open?
- Are there patterns of physical, sexual or emotional abuse still operating in any of your relationships?
- Are you giving your power away to, or making decisions for your partner or any other significant person in your life?
- If your relationship has in the past been co-dependent has it shifted so that each person is taking responsibility for his or her own life?
- Do you feel that you are equal to your partner and the other significant people in your life or do you still feel “less than” or “more than” any of these people?
- Do you own your mistakes and try to learn from them. Or do you need to be right and make your partner (or other significant people in your life) wrong?
- To what extent do you and your partner trigger each other? What childhood wounds and beliefs are triggered?
- When you are triggered, do you take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings or do you blame/shame/criticize your partner?
- If you and your partner have communication or intimacy issues, how are you working through them? Are you receiving help from a therapist or counselor? If not, why not?
- Are you harboring old resentments in your relationship or have you and your partner been able and willing to let the past go and establish new patterns of trust, respect, and honest, non-blaming communication?
- Are you and your partner giving your relationship the time and attention it needs to flourish or are you both stressed out and unable to find a consistent time to connect?
- All successful relationships require that you have learned to own your fear and your shame and hold them with compassion, instead of projecting them onto others. Have you learned to do this or are you projecting your fear and shame onto your partner, your children, your co-workers or significant people in your life?