Meet somebody, fall in love, get married. That's how it goes, right? Hmm. Then what? We hear of divorce rates, couple therapy and affairs, but we also hear of the picture-perfect 50 year happy marriages. What is this need to get married, and why do we think it will fulfill us?
If I was going to be cynical, I could say that the institution of marriage needs to be protected with contracts and promises, because it is a man-made constraint that comes from fear, and thus, is fragile. We feel the need to make the other commit so we can control them, so we can be sure they will stay by our side and make us feel safe. Often, it is a need to receive the public approval associated with marriage, or to fulfill a childhood fairy-tale fantasy that we have had pushed down our throats, like the chicken soup we were told could cure a cold. But I don't wish to make it all appear so bleak. In a marriage between two people who love each other unconditionally, there is no need to tie the other person down or try to control them in any way; unconditional love gives the other the freedom of expression that we all wish for -- the freedom to be ourselves. What greater love is there than that? If you really love someone, how could you want them to be anyone else? This type of marriage flourishes and blossoms into two individuals supporting each other in achieving their own potential.
Our need to make the love of another eternal comes from our own desperate need to be loved. This need will continue unsated until we come to love ourselves. The impulse to control others comes from our lack of self-love. We have learned to reject ourselves so much that we have become slaves of outside approval; our sense of worth depends almost entirely on the opinion of those around us. This is so for even seemingly successful, powerful people; if their confidence lies in their success or public standing, where will it go if those things are taken away? This is why loss can often be such a great teacher, for in loss, we are faced with our own feelings of emptiness. No longer filled with our distractions or addictions of choice, the hole inside is left open and visible, impossible to ignore any longer. We then have two choices: We can try to hide it again -- by rebuilding that which we have lost or replacing it with some other form of distraction -- or we can finally decide to take responsibility for our own inadequacy, and begin to do the necessary work to find completion within.
Marriage isn't a remedy for insecurity. The only true remedy for insecurity is self-love -- going beyond the fears and doubts of the mind and developing an awareness of the underlying security that is our very being, what I call love-consciousness. True love, unconditional love, breaks all boundaries, boxes and ideas. It is the unlimited nature of being; it is life itself.
How to move from conditional love to unconditional love
So how can we tell if our personal relationships are based on need or something deeper? Here I share some common indicators of codependency. Ask yourself if you do these things in your relationships, and then read my suggestions of how to change these behaviors into a more loving way of interacting.
Scenario: Do you lie to your partner?
Lies may range from little things (yes honey, I love your chicken casserole) to more important ones (I'll be late back home from work tonight), but lies are a sign of a relationship based in need; the need to receive the approval of the other.
Solution: Be honest.
Love is always truthful. Lying comes from fear. If you want a loving relationship, the truth is the only option. Always.
Scenario: Do you try to control and change your partner?
The need to modify them comes from your own expectations of how you think they should behave in order for you to feel supported and loved. This comes from not taking responsibility for your own security.
Solution: Let go.
When you see yourself manipulating or being overbearing, stop. Bring yourself into the moment and think to yourself, "oh, I can let that go." Go inwards and focus on loving yourself. Then the need to control your partner will fall away.
Scenario: do your conversations always turn into arguments?
When your partner is talking to you, really listen to what they are saying, especially if you don't agree or if it makes you angry. You will find that the things you least want to hear can help you grow the most. You don't have to agree in order to listen, and by listening you are not automatically making the other person right, but you are opening up to receive what they have to show you. When you listen, you learn more about the other person, but most importantly, you learn more about yourself.
Scenario: Do you feel resented?
If you do not express your feelings openly with your partner, resentment will begin to grow within you. This resentment will then be triggered by the silliest little things. If you find that during an argument, you whip out the list of everything you feel resented about, you are not expressing enough what you are feeling.
Solution: Be vulnerable.
A truly loving relationship will bear the test of the truth. Be honest about what you are feeling and you will soon see the true nature of your relationship. Tell your partner how you feel. Don't try to change them; express with the goal of being totally transparent, of showing yourself exactly as you are. Recognize the fear and allow yourself to feel it. By doing so, you will begin to release the emotional charge that causes resentment and replace it with love.
The wonderful thing about these recommendations is that they only take one person to work! Don't fall into the trap of thinking, I can't share my feelings with him because he never listens... or I'll be honest with her if she is honest with me.... Once you make the decision to put honesty and transparency above the need for approval or the need to manipulate your partner, everything will begin to change. If your relationship is based in two people who really love each other, it will become more intimate, more fulfilling. And if the love really has gone, then it will probably soon be over. But ask yourself this: when faced with the truth, would you really want to spend your life with someone who doesn't love you? The truth is, once you start being honest enough to confront that reality, you will already be well on the way to loving yourself. And you will find that this more than compensates the loss of an ultimately unfulfilling relationship.
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Isha's latest book and movie, Why Walk When You Can Fly? explains her system for self-love and the expansion of consciousness. Her website is www.whywalkwhenyoucanfly.com.
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