ERP 100: 3 Building Blocks For A Conscious Intimate Relationship
WHAT DOES A SUCCESSFUL, THRIVING, PASSIONATE RELATIONSHIP LOOK LIKE? In this episode, I share with you a little about my personal story and what led me to studying this topic. I also share with you three of the nine themes that came out of my dissertation research. (Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear more explanations, stories and examples.) 3 BUILDING BLOCKS FOR A CONSCIOUS INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP Here are three themes from my dissertation research: 1. ESTABLISHING A RELATIONSHIP IN UNKNOWN TERRITORY Little Support: Old paradigms didn’t work. Little guidance (i.e.“no one ever shows them how to create it”) Little modeling. One participant commented on having difficulty recalling any successful relationship that he admired at all. Creating a Conscious Intimate Relationship: Many partners had done a level of personal growth before entering into relationship. They had very clear, defined desires of what they wanted in a partner and the type of relationship. They were not willing to settle for “another ill-conceived relationship” Developed Relationship Model: Most partners experienced unresolved conflict and/or disillusionment with other approaches towards relationship. One participant reflected that before he gained more self-knowledge, awareness, and development, he was primarily focused on protecting himself in relationship. Many participants seem to agree that the notion of an easy, romantic relationship was largely an illusion, and that love and relationship require choice and conscious effort to cultivate and maintain. All of the participants experienced doubts, fears, or hardships within their relationships and concluded that facing these challenges brought them to deeper levels of love and intimacy. Change in Relationship: While many couples entered into relationship with an existing personal commitment to growth and spirituality, other couples developed a growth orientation during the course of their relationship. Many couples reported that engaging in therapy, meditation, workshops, and readings had a significant effect on their relationship and assisted in the formation of a more growth oriented model of relationship. One couple spoke about attending a lecture where they felt a deep connection had been made, and that they now of this as a turning point in their relationship. For couples who developed a growth orientation within their relationship, this change was sequential in that one partner changed, and then in turn the other partner began to change their perspective over time Regardless of when partners developed a growth orientation, the process is very similar. Many couples shifted their perspective into a growth perspective by dealing with either personal or relationship difficulties or disillusionment with other models. 2. RELATIONSHIP AS A JOURNEY PARADIGM Growth Orientation: Partners recognized their relationship as a vehicle for both individual and relationship growth and discovery. “Our relationship is a process through which we grow and expand. At our better moments, we use whatever comes forward in our marriage as an opportunity to expand our sense of who we are and deepen our capacity to forgive and love.“ A growth-oriented relationship was often associated with a sense of richness and aliveness because life events and difficulties were defined as opportunities for learning and transformation. Couples viewed their relationship as a laboratory for growth and support “We will use our experiences for us instead of against us. Our goal is to use everything for our advancement, upliftment, and growth.” Through relationship, couples had the opportunity to meet the challenges “with skillful softening and slowing down and opening it up and being a little more loving and thoughtful about how it gets navigated”. Through staying together and facing challenges, couples reported being better people. Couples also spoke about the process of growth, which helped them expand and open up to a greater capacity of joy, love, and happiness. “intimate interactions, such as love, connection, passion, and any other desired relational experience is a self created choice that may take various degrees of arduousness to maintain, such as challenging and restructuring aspects of one’s belief system. This differs from a more conventional notion that intimacy, which often is viewed as a passive, uncontrollable, instantaneous romantic emotional exchange or feeling that happens to one’s self, such as those indicated by the common clichés “love at first sight” or “swept off one’s feet.” (p. 103) “ The majority of participants acknowledged that in the process of their relationship, their unconscious patterns, shadow material, wounding, and deeper conditioning came up. Partners reported experiencing challenges, difficulties, and struggles along their journey, but the “friction” always led to growth. To realize one’s true self, one had to work with one’s unconscious material, “where all of one’s emotional wounds, fears, and self loathing/rejection reside.” Relationship as Teacher: Partners viewed their relationship as a “workroom” in which healing and growth can take place. Couples expressed using their interactions as a source of information to gain insight and understanding about areas of potential growth for themselves. Couples claimed to value the instructive potential of conflicts and challenges because they were able to recognize qualities about themselves to which they would not have otherwise had access. When a partner is in pain, both partners have the opportunity to work with the issue in a productive and constructive way. As partners confront their shortcomings and pain, there is an opportunity to free themselves of habitual reactions and ultimately deepening the experience of one’s self. Companions on the Path: Partners expressed seeing and believing in each other’s potential, strength, and basic goodness. Couples also expressed a confidence in being able to handle life’s hardships together. Partners were able to work together as a team and allies within their relationship rather than against each other. Couples viewed their relationship as a support base, where they could both empower and support one another along their individual journeys. “I’m really for you being you.” I don’t want to stand in your way even if that means I have to learn some difficult things about myself. And I am asking for you to be for me the same way. Even if it is difficult for you or it hurts in some way. Couples acknowledged their willingness to learn from one another. partners were able to learn from each other’s strengths and opposite qualities. CREATING A FOUNDATION OR CONTAINER Commitment: Commonly, people have fears about commitment and these fears often result in restriction and loss of freedom, whereas couples in these studies claimed that their commitments offered them a sense of freedom. Partners reported feeling more confident and free to explore themselves and their relationship more deeply. They shared feeling empowered to fully express themselves and to be who they truly were without feeling pressured to change. Additionally, couples expressed feeling safe to move beyond their fears, and the freedom to take new risks, as well as question and change old patterns and beliefs. One coresearcher commented, “I don’t think a lot of people will have that understanding that commitment isn’t something that’s a chain around your neck. That it’s still a very living, breathing thing that has a very strong foundation, that is kind of like the place . . . you soar from. Commitments were not considered to be static and unchanging, but that they were dynamic, changing, and evolving. Commitments were seen as conscious and continual choices. Values and Vision: Couples had a high degree of shared values together as a couple: having a similar spiritual perspective, truth, openness, and cultivating higher principles together. kindness, compassion, and service to others were priorities. loving, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Couples expressed feeling a sense of harmony and joy as a result of being aligned in the most meaningful aspects of life. A participant explained that a shared vision offers direction especially during challenging and stressful times helping partners keep a larger perspective. Willingness and Work: Growth and development takes work and the process can be extremely difficult and painful, especially during times of relationship conflict. While a strong commitment and relationship container helped hold space for the couple, it was essentially up to each individual to choose to do the work The process of growth often involved partners’ confronting their unconscious fear and emotional triggers, which ultimately gave them the opportunity to transform themselves, but this process can be terrifying. Oftentimes partners wanted to stay contracted in fear, rejecting the opportunity for joy and expansion because it was too scary. This process required a willingness to commit, as well as strength and courage to do the hard work necessary for growth and development of self and relationship. Couples talked about the importance of being willing to do whatever it takes, rather than avoiding or running from challenges participant claimed that it sometimes takes work to have a loving response, and that love is “more than just a feeling. It’s a decision.” Relationship Container: The relationship container was seen as providing the “emotional ‘ground,’ protection, or feeling of safety which might not otherwise have existed.” A relationship can then be viewed as a safe place to practice learning new skills, confront challenges, and to allow healing to take place. Feelings of safety and trust helped partners feel safe enough to be vulnerable and open their hearts (i.e. “sharing what is of real value to me with my partner, and having a safe place to be open and honest is a true gift”). With safety, partners began to build trust. To trust is to trust in the “essential goodness” of one’s partner and belief that they would not cause intentional harm and that they care about the growth of their partner. A participant talked about safety, in saying“In other relationships, I think I stayed more on the periphery, so I could never really feel the safety or the acceptance to just go in and really connect more deeply in myself. And since to me that’s a prerequisite to being able to open up and connect with anything bigger, it was a necessary step for me in a spiritual sense to be open to any greater force.“ “the relationship deepened as we were really able to trust one another in terms of holding the person’s experience. Now there is no concern. A person steps forward, the other person holds them, and the next person steps forward and the other person holds them. Really just promotes a deepening, being able to be in the relationship unconditionally in your entirety and trusting knowing whatever comes up, even if it may promote some kind of conflict, that the relationship can hold whatever kind of individuation is necessary for each person. (p. 108) “ MENTIONED: How To Build A Happy, Lasting Love – Webinar (webinar link) This 75-Year Harvard Study Found the 1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life By Melanie Curtin (article) TRANSCRIPT: Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 100: 3 Building Blocks For A Conscious Intimate Relationship [Transcript] If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please contact me by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here. Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. Also, I would so appreciate your honest rating and review. Please leave a review by clicking here. Thank you! If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.