I had a conversation with a guy at breakfast this morning about relationships. He is struggling with finding someone that he desires sexually while still having a mental connection with that person. I think that's a challenge for many that are looking for deeper meaning and connection in their relationships. It's harder to find that person that you have a connection with than the movies or books make it seem. But, that's not what this post is about... This post is about what you do after finding that connection.
Richard Bach's words provide some of my greatest inspirations. He has moved me and at times, inspired me to simply keep breathing. There is a quote from the movie, Shadowlands, that goes something along the lines of "we read to know that we are not alone." Whenever I pick up one of his works, I am reminded that I am not alone and that there are like-minded individuals out there. I have had the great pleasure of being able to hear him speak on two different occasions. One was at a book signing where he showed up an hour early and had an impromptu conversation with those of us who had gotten in line hours earlier. It's one of my very favorite memories. The other was at a seminar he was giving about spirituality. It was at this event that he spoke about soulmates.
In Richard Bach's early works, he has a relationship with with a woman named, Leslie Parrish-Bach. Their start is, well, rough. He talks about that in his book called, The Bridge Across Forever. You meet them as a couple again in One and Running From Safety. They didn't always have an easy time of it. They have differences of opinion and different ways of looking at and processing the world. But they worked at staying connected; and seeing each others authentic selves. They were an inspiration to me. Then, years later (after the book signing but before the seminar), a little book came out that gave me an upset stomach when I read it. It wasn't obvious but I had the distinct impression that they were no longer together. I was devastated. It felt like my own parents divorcing all over again. I felt angry at him for deceiving me, for assisting in my belief that it was possible to meet someone and make a relationship work. I felt betrayed by him and my own hopes. So, when I met him at the seminar, I was still a little bitter and confused. When it came time for open questions, I ask him what happened. In a nutshell, here was his response (paraphrased, and I'm sure, not nearly as beautifully as his original words, but you'll get the meaning): When you meet a "soulmate" or someone that you have a connection with, it's like looking in a mirror. If you allow other things to cloud that mirror, then you lose that connection. You stop seeing that person for who they are and what they need and without that, the bond is loosened.
In other words, or rather, how his words rolled around like marbles in my head and what I ultimately took away from it was this: When we meet someone that we're connected to, however you want to define it, it's like looking in the mirror and we see the best and worst of ourselves. Ideally, we see the best and we want to strive to be more than ourselves or more than we are in that moment - not because it's demanded or manipulated - but because we suddenly have the foundation and freedom to reach for something higher than we can reach on our own. We're all human and we all make mistakes but if we're being our authentic selves in those moments and in that dynamic, and we're looking at our authentic partner just exactly as they are without the desire to mold or change them into something we'd prefer, then we are maintaining that connection. We are nurturing that relationship and not allowing the "clouds" (in whatever form they take: another person, old childhood tapes, children, money, etc.) to stop us from staying connected. It takes work but if that connection is conscious and authentic, then it shouldn't be a hardship. I imagine that it would look more like an adventure in exploration.
Last December a friend sent me an email from an article that she had found (she didn't provide a link but if you're intrigued, email me and I'll be happy to forward to you what I have) that talked about having an authentic, conscious relationship with another person. The article basically says that too often we have too many "people" involved in our relationship - when, by definition, a relationship is about and between two people. We bring in our parents, our churches, our past partners and sometimes, actual physical people. In those situations, it's hard, if not impossible, to be our authentic selves and until we're conscious of how those previous and current relationships play a part in the dynamic that is our primary focus, we will never reach a state of true intimacy. The article really struck a chord with me. The basic point of it was not that you'll ever completely get rid of those influences because that's not possible, but instead, to first become aware of their influence and how they manifest in your life and then to find someone that allows you to look to them for support and help, not in order to be rescued; to be a complete, whole person to their complete, whole person. It's about being conscious.
So, back to my breakfast conversation, he was saying that his ex wanted him to change, when he had felt perfectly happy being exactly who he was. He had previously felt that he was "good enough" and had hoped to be accepted. I don't think he's alone in the world. On some level, all of us simply want to be accepted for ourselves, exactly as ourselves. But, I hear from many - both men and women - that they meet people who want to change them. I don't understand that, by the way. I've always entered a relationship thinking to myself - what you see is what you get and if you can't live with this now... then what's the point, really. I've never looked at a potential partner and thought "there's a flaw in this area, but "I'll work on that.""
Let me clarify, there is a difference between supporting someone in their own attempts at growth and change, provided it was something they originally wanted to do versus seeing a quality that you don't like and then attempting to mold it into something that you want it to be. There is also a difference in asking someone to treat you with respect by asking them not to do something that hurts or annoys you. For example, if your partner is always calling you "the little woman" in front of their friends and you don't like it, well, I think you're obligated to inform your partner that you don't like it. Then, if the behavior continues, it's really about respect - their respect and concern for you, which is a whole other issue.
There has recently been a Fifty Shades of Gray craze and although I love the book and found it highly entertaining, it does scare me a bit. There are HEAVY attempts and some success by Ana to change Mr. Gray from who he really is into what she wants him to be. He compromises giant chunks of himself in order to be with her and please her. It concerns me that popular culture finds this behavior to be so acceptable. In fact, when I was discussing this very fact with a group of women, one woman became very annoyed with me when I pointed out the unauthentic, unconscious, seriously co-dependent hehaviors in their dynamic. She jumped down my throat in order to inform me that I was completely wrong and that Mr. Gray wanted to change. Really?!?! Really?? Because he seemed pretty content to be exactly who he was and it wasn't until Ana began her emotional blackmail that he started his own morphing into something more desirable to her.
But I digress...
In my last relationship, I felt, for the first time in my life, many of the things that I mentioned above. It was theory tested and proven true. But, it takes two people to keep the mirror clear. It takes two people to feel the connection. And it absolutely takes two authentic people, who genuinely want that connection, to maintain a healthy relationship that's centered around growth, authenticity and consciousness. It's not always easy, and sometimes it can be a bit painful (growing usually is), but I still believe the effort and journey are worth it. I'm a complete person and I'm looking for someone who is also complete and who wants to share an adventure in exploration.