Robert has been a client of ours for several years. Over this time, we have witnessed him through many different relationships; all following a similar pattern.
They begin full of passion, fun, excitement, and the hope of deep and lasting love. But at a certain point, Robert starts to feel engulfed, uninspired and bored, and begins to shut down. Then he finds some excuse to travel and invariably finds a new romantic interest.
But something profound has happened to Robert over the past year. He begins to see the futility and unfulfillment of his obsessive pattern, realizes the depth of his compulsion to escape, and feels ready to make a change. He has re-entered intensive work in sessions to explore the root of his behavior and pave the way for a real and lasting love connection.
We write about this example because it illustrates three important points:
- How easily we can be convinced that initial attraction is love.
- How deeply we are driven by our emotional patterns in relationship and how easily we can sabotage deeper growth opportunities.
- Unless we choose to go deeper and look at ourselves, we will just keep repeating the painful pattern.
From our experience, what most often causes people the deepest suffering is in the area of intimate relating.
People are either troubled if they have not found someone or others with whom they can experience intimacy and companionship, or they are troubled by a relationship which is not working or living up to their expectations of nourishment, aliveness, and depth.
For instance, Beatrice tells us that in her life work and creativity is flowing well, but all the men she has been with either leave her or are boring to be with.
Catherine complains that her lover doesn’t want to make love to her.
Adam gets irritated because he feels that Ellen, his wife, is controlling, and overly fearful.
Any kind of connection with another person, especially our more intimate ones, brings an opportunity of deep emotional and spiritual growth if we approach it consciously.
There are many reasons that we enter into relationship with someone. It could be romantic and propelled by a strong physical attraction, and a sense of mutual interests and priorities. Or it could be simply be a need for belonging and security and the joy of finding someone who cares.
However, a more mature motivation could include all of the above but also the awareness that true intimacy is a spiritual and emotional path. This insight carries with it the awareness that to make any real intimacy work in the long run, it is going to take persistent, committed, and conscious inner work.
It’s an experience of two souls learning how to be together with all the challenges that two different unique people present.
We often say that any kind of connection with someone, but especially a romantic one falls into two different levels or categories.
The first category is more what we call, “an energy connection” – a relationship that has not gone deep enough yet to bring up challenging issues but can be very exciting, passionate, entertaining, and fun. We may think it is love because our heart and energy feels so open and expanded.
But love doesn’t really happen until and if we choose to enter the next level or category.
The second category is the journey of deep intimacy in which we will be challenged to accept ourselves and the other person for all that we are with our defenses, fears, and insecurities. Learning to deal with our frustrations, disappointments, conflicts, and misunderstandings that will surely arise.
This level is basically about true vulnerability and transparency.
To take this journey, there are three important pre-requisites and conscious choices:
- We choose relating as a path for deep inner growth. This requires a willingness to look at ourselves deeply in the mirror of the other person and use the preciousness of the connection for inner transformation.
- We have the willingness to look at our disturbances, feel what is triggered inside us and go deeper to embrace and feel the wounds that are exposed.
- We enter with a deep commitment not to retreat into our routine and automatic defensive patterns but take responsibility for our triggers; feel, accept, and expose the wounds they provoke and learn ways to resolve conflicts.
The reason that we have such a passion to teach people how take the journey of committed intimacy is that it not only offers the kind of love that we all consciously or unconsciously long for, but it also offers an amazing opportunity to get to know ourselves behind our masks, compensations, and roles.
It is a very interesting journey that keeps unfolding as we go deeper.
We say this from our own personal experience as well as having worked with countless couples and individuals grappling with the challenges of enjoying a beautiful love connection.
It’s important to understand that inner work and personal exploration normally doesn’t come up when we relate more superficially. But once we commit to the deeper journey of relating, it becomes an amazing way to grow and mature.
Many people who come to work with us are discouraged because in spite of having done so much work on themselves, they still feel that this part of their lives is not working.
When we’re missing the understanding, inner depth, and tools to create a beautiful conscious love connection, we set ourselves up for all kinds of dysfunctional attitudes and behavior and sabotage the love we would like to create and sustain.
We may be unable to resolve conflicts but instead continue to distract ourselves; minimize, complain, blame, attack, shut down, pull away, or escape to find another partner.
We may go into resignation and give up on relating altogether, often living in a sort of deadness together or alone. We may not be aware of our childhood wounds and how they influence our relating today.
But when we align ourselves with what it takes to make the love journey work, everything changes.
Here are some of the highlights of what it takes to be able to enjoy intimacy:
- Learning about our patterns more deeply and how they show themselves in our relating.
- Learning to accept and love each other with our differences.
- Finding contentment in our aloneness and in the process learning to accept disappointments and frustrations as our expectations are not met.
- Learning how to interpret and understand our five basic feelings – joy, sadness, anger, shame, and fear.
- Learning how to stand up for ourselves and respect our boundaries in a vulnerable way.
- Discovering inner space to observe our and the other person’s triggers with distance and compassion
- Connecting with and developing confidence in our essential nature and qualities.