The other day I received an email from a dear friend who has been actively doing his own personal growth work. He was sharing about some insights he has been having about how his ego creates distress and distance in his relationships with others. He then reminded me of something I “learned” a while back and that life keeps giving me the chance to learn again. Namely this: When the ego is running the show things don’t go so well – we feel anxious and desperate and feel the need to control others to gain their approval and the elusive security we believe that their approval will bring. When we can step outside the ego, to our higher self and let go of wanting control of the situation or of the other person we immediately feel released, relaxed, peaceful and can truly relate to the other person from a place of love and acceptance and not desperation and neediness.

This prompted me to think about my relationships and some of the big life lessons they have given me.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in “Women Who Run With The Wolves” there is a natural cycle in relationships of life/death/life and in order for a relationship to deepen and grow and become mature love we need to be willing to stay present for each other during the “death” phase and trust that new life will come to the connection in time. In our society we seem to have (myself included) forgotten about the second “life” phase. We get fixated on the initial life phase of relationships (often termed “romantic love” or the honeymoon phase) and we believe that there is something we can to do stay there – to keep our relationship in that perfect, everything is wonderful phase of love. We can’t. There is a natural flow in relationship where once we have enough security and time with someone our “shadow” side begins to surface.

Those thoughts, feelings and behaviours that we held aside in an effort to reveal only our best selves start to emerge. Likewise, the deepening of intimacy in the relationship begins to push our security button and we begin to feel very fearful and threatened, both of the loss of the relationship and of the loss of our individuality. This is the “death” phase of the connection. Where the relationship begins to reveal its full self – the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the stage where most people bail. Thoughts of “you’re not who I thought you were” or “I didn’t sign up for this” abound and we begin to blame the other person for where the relationship is not working. “They are changing” we think and we feel duped and angry. Really, we are feeling scared because it’s time to jump off the cliff into mature adult love and a commitment to truly loving the other person come what may.

Many of us don’t realize that this “death” phase of the relationship is just the middle phase and not the end. And because we don’t realize that we believe that the relationship has died and cannot be resurrected and so we leave to start again with someone who, we tell ourselves, will be more real or more healthy, or more right for us; someone who won’t kill the romance with their “stuff.” It doesn’t work like that – hence we find ourselves in 6 months or a year or even the next week, back in a new relationship which will ultimately find its way to the death stage of the cycle.

The solution to the relationship revolving door is to realize that the death stage precedes the life stage – new life is coming. Hang in there! As we see ourselves holding on and staying present in the relationship through the revelation of each other’s shadow sides and through our own vulnerability we are blessed with a blossoming of intimacy, connection, commitment and love unlike anything we have ever known in romantic/honeymoon love. The romance is there, the love is there, but there is something else that’s there now and that is a deep sense of trust in the presence and continued love of your partner. You’re there for each other and you know it. This is true love. This is deep love. This is the connection we all truly desire but which so few of us ever attain because we turn back too soon. We turn away when things get tough and the shadow appears instead of holding fast and keeping our hearts open to our love.

Certainly there are circumstances where you should consider turning back – if your partner is abusive (verbally, emotionally or physically) or violates your core values (ie. has affairs or lies to you). If your partner isn’t willing to take responsibility for their role in the relationship and do their work to be the best they can be and to grow beyond any harmful behaviour it is best to leave the relationship and establish a relationship with someone who will share the load with you and who is committed to emotional health and wellness first and foremost.

And, I do believe that in any other circumstance, leaving the scene before the relationship has had a chance at rebirth – or the second life phase of the life/death/life cycle is only perpetuating your stay in relationship purgatory. We all want depth and security and commitment and true love and that only comes with the second phase of life. We must pass through the death of the initial connection to find the real jewel within.

A few other things stood out for me as I reviewed my relationship past – recent or otherwise – that I’d like to share with you.

I am more interested in having my partner in my life than I am interested in being “right”.

If I’m not careful I can easily lose my balance and put all my eggs in my relationship basket. This means I can find myself losing my connection with friends or not following through on my self-care (exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, hobbies etc.) which creates a greater dependence/urgency around the relationship than is necessary or healthy.

I have had a hard time letting people, particularly my significant other see my mistakes/imperfections. This stems from an old story that we all carry that I have to be perfect/good enough in order to be loved. Not only did this need for perfection lead to some inauthenticity (which means it made it hard for me to be truly intimate with others) but it also left my partner feeling like he had to be perfect to keep up. This is so ironic, really, because I so admired his ability to be real and vulnerable and imperfect and strove to be able to do that myself. It also led my partner to initially put me on a pedestal which I promptly fell from and that stung a lot for both of us.

~Next week Part II of Some Thoughts on Relationship~

Author's Bio: 

CEDRIC Centre founder Michelle Morand is a recovered compulsive eater and counsellor with over 17 years of experience in the field of recovery from eating disorders such as compulsive eating, anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, as well as casual factors such as depression, anxiety, and trauma.

Author of 'Food is not the Problem: Deal With What Is', Morand is a skilled educator and lecturer and frequently appears at live health shows, on radio and V, and in print media. Michelle is the editor for Insights Into Clinical Counseling (IICC) and won the BC Association for Clinical Counsellors 2010 & 2011 Communications Award which recognizes a member or individual/organization from the media field who has provided regular, continuing, or special assistance in promoting counselling and/or mental health issues in the community.

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