From Dancing with the Beloved by Paul Ferrini
A relationship is a covenant between two people. It defines what both people are willing to do. It honestly states what each person feels s/he can give freely.
It is not a call for mutual sacrifice.
It must not be about what people give up to be together. It must be about what people bring willingly to each other. It must be about what they take pleasure in giving and receiving.
A relationship is not about demands. Once one person begins to demand from the other, the relationship ceases to be. There is no more covenant. A covenant is not just made once for all time. It is made week by week, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. In this moment, we are either willing or we are not. And if we are not willing to give what we promised to give, then the promise has no meaning.
You cannot make someone do what s/he said s/he was going to do. Coercion is not an aspect of relationship. Coercion is a sign of lack of relationship.
So what do we do when one person is unwilling? Do we say, “It’s okay. I release you from the commitment you made?" Or do we say, “I have relied on our commitment to each other. Please try to fulfill the agreement you made with me”?
It seems to me that you do not want to be with a person who is unable to be committed to you, regardless of what words s/he uttered in the past. You do not want to hold onto someone in pain, or you will share in that pain. You do not want to keep someone against his or her will or you will spend your life battling that resistance.
You cannot make a relationship happen.
A relationship is a covenant. It is an agreement between two people about what they are willing to do. If only one person is willing, it is not a relationship. It is a form of trespass.
Real love has no possibility to come into its fullness without a true and firm commitment from both people. It doesn’t happen between two skittish people. It doesn’t happen when two people keep running away from each other. It happens only when two people learn to stand together. And sometimes that is hard.
Sometimes two people do not know how to stand together. Sometimes, they aren’t even sure they want to be together. This happens in every relationship. Highs become lows. Energy and interest wanes.
Sex is no longer emotionally fulfilling. Talking to each other seems difficult.
Within every relationship, there are moments of non-relationship. Smart couples use these moments to take time alone to reconnect with self and to recharge.
They don’t end their relationship when the energy gets low. They don’t have an affair. They give each other room to breathe.
It might be for an hour or two, for a day or two…perhaps even for a month or two. Each person must find ways back into Self and that means disentangling from other. Each person must find time to ask the question “Who am I now?”
The answer to this question changes from time to time. That is why we must not forget to ask the question.
Relationship is both a journey into intimacy with another and a journey into intimacy with Self. We forget that. We think it’s all about other, but that is not true. Indeed, if our journey into another’s heart does not take us into our own, then our progress on the path is interrupted.
We need time to internalize. We need time to breathe and be alone. It is part of the cycle. We move together and apart. If we do not move apart, we cannot come back together.
You can’t have a relationship with all highs and no lows. You can’t have a relationship that is all together. Every relationship must fall apart, not just once but many times. That is how it grows. That is how new intimacy is achieved.
Our models of relationship don’t allow for this kind of interpersonal transformation within the context of a committed relationship. In our models, people either stay together in a frozen state, or they remain distant and uncommitted.
People who stay together “no matter what” stop growing. They cannot even look at each other any more. Life energy leaves the relationship. It cannot abide the limiting patterns and structures.
People who fear intimacy take a rocketship out of the relationship at the first sign of trouble. They move from lover to lover, never breaking through to the source of love, in themselves or in the other person.
Some relationships have no staying power. Others have no transforming power.
Real relationships require both. They require commitment to each other and freedom to be ourselves. They ask us to keep telling the truth as we move together through our sadness and pain.
Successful relationships require that we have the strength to stand our ground when it is necessary and the flexibility to adapt when circumstances change. Sometimes they ask us to wait patiently. Sometimes they ask us to move forward energetically, even though we aren’t sure where we are going.
No relationship is easy. Every intimate relationship tests the depth of our commitment to ourselves and others. Gradually, in the crucible of relationship, selfish love dies and is reborn as love without conditions.
This transcendent, agape love that remains throughout the highs and lows of our emotional experience does not blossom all at once. It is a gradual ripening. It unfolds more deeply each time we meet our partner in the circle.
Greeting and letting go, embracing and releasing: these are the tides of love. There is no heart that does not know them.
The beauty of the dance reveals itself to us when we realize that the very act of letting go of our partner’s hand is an invitation to take it once again.
When we meet again in the circle it will be with a greater sense of appreciation and reverence. Our hearts will be more open and welcoming. Our defensiveness will diminish and we will gaze more deeply than ever before into each other’s eyes.
Listen to audio excerpts from this book read by Paul Ferrini:
Face to Face with the Beloved
No Relationship Lasts Forever
The Power of Forgiveness
What You are Not Responsible For
The Death of Romance
Addiction to Love
Relationship as a Spiritual Path
The Dance of Relationship