“You cannot create a conscious relationship with someone who isn’t committed to doing their work. But you can create a better relationship with yourself, and sometimes that looks like releasing yourself from the idea that you can change another person or convince them to grow. Choose yourself.” ~Sheleana Aiyana
What are the ingredients that make a loving romantic relationship flow and sustain for many years? And what kind of love/relationship is best for long-term success?
These questions have been at the core of my pursuits personally and professionally for some years now, and let’s face it, these questions are at the forefront of most of our minds given the high divorce rate. So, when I fell in love last year, I knew I was about to embark on a transformational journey.
I met a woman. And for the first time in my life I thought I’d met “the one.”
I had never previously had feelings or thoughts like that before, at least not to the extent I experienced them at the time. It was that passionate, physical, chemistry-rich, soul-connected kind of love. But, as the months carried on there were disagreements, arguments, different views and perspectives on many topics, and old habitual patterns and insecurities that were affecting our ability to create the relationship we had both claimed we wanted.
After less than a year, we came to the existential crossroad every couple before us in the history of humanity has navigated their way to at one point or another in their romantic relationship:
Do we blame the other for how we feel and what we experience, call it quits, and move on because it is too hard and difficult to face it all?
Do we fight for this? Do we work for this? Do we take responsibility for our individual experience of life—and face all of the wounds from childhood and previous relationships that are being projected into and triggered by this relationship—together, in the container of this relationship so we can come out stronger together and healed?
Ultimately, after some mutual and non-mutual “we’re in and we’re out” for a month or two, I opted wholeheartedly for the former, while my partner opted for the latter.
While I was unequivocally heartbroken, frustrated, and angry, I was also able to find real compassion for her and her decision. The work, energy, and courage it requires to face a lifetime of inner pain and trauma are immense. It is far less work to simply blame others, past and present, for how we feel and experience life.
It is the kind of mirror only that type of relationship can offer, and it can be absolutely terrifying at times. Although I perceived the situation as a beautiful chance to heal and grow together, I understood where she was in her healing process and how she perceived the situation, so I understood why she chose to walk away.
But this is when I realized the difference between a healthier long-term relationship that lasts and the more unhealthy or short-lived relationships that don’t.
Relationships of any kind, but especially intimate and romantic, are no small undertaking. We come to each other with completely different life experiences, upbringings, personalities, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, wants, desires, needs, traumas, attachment patterns, etc. And for some crazy reason we expect it all to flow and for love to naturally sustain itself, or we deem our partner the wrong person when it doesn’t.
I believe relationships are innately complex:
From a soul perspective, we have our karmic energy to work out and deep life lessons to learn from our partners and relationships.
From a biopsychosocial standpoint, we have hormones and chemicals firing, coupled with a history of attachment schemas from our childhood caregivers.
From a physical perspective, we have sexual wants, needs, desires, fantasies, and blocks.
From an emotional perspective, we each have in us masculine and feminine energies that crave love, intimacy, freedom, expression, safety, and polarity. And we can throw in different love languages as well.
This is why romantic relationships that have the right foundational ingredients are, potentially, one of the greatest containers for challenge, growth, healing, and unconditional love we can experience as humans. They are amazing mirrors for our edges and our trauma on the deepest levels, due to the complex processes going on at all times. They provide a constant opportunity to heal and be healed.
The question is, will we choose to recognize these edges, patterns, and wounds, and if so, what will we choose to do with this awareness?
Behind the complexity and at the core of it all, I learned that building and sustaining a lasting, healthy romantic relationship doesn’t depend on having everything in common or seeing eye to eye on everything. At the core, the relationship has to be anchored, by both partners, in a foundation of consciousness and love.
So what is a conscious relationship? What does that mean?
Both partners agree to commit and unite in love through being open and conscious enough to recognize their individual habitual patterns and the trauma being triggered by one another. And they face them head on as a team so that they can heal individually and thus be more conscious and capable in how they bring love, intimacy, depth, and beyond to one another in any given moment.
The 5 Foundational Pillars of a Lasting, Love-Filled, Conscious Relationship
1. They need to be the right person.
We can debate all day about what that means objectively in relation to the aspects above, but we each know when we are with someone we can’t keep our hands off of, we think about all the time, we visualize a future with, and we simply can’t imagine not by our side. Simply put, we are in love and we know it.
Important to note: This means we also need to be acutely aware and conscious of our own unhealthy patterns in partners, what is healthy for us and who/what is unhealthy for us. If you feel they are the wrong person or “something is just missing” and you can’t put your finger on it, you need to look in the mirror at your attachment patterns and wounds before blaming them for their shortcomings.
If you have truly done this, and you feel it isn’t something that needs to be healed or worked through personally, it likely means they simply aren’t the right partner for you. Even if they check a lot of the boxes on paper and you have deep love for them.
At the end of the day, you have to trust your heart and your higher self, even if it doesn’t logically make sense. But for the love of god, don’t trust your ego or patterns. It is really easy to mistake the two.
2. You don’t need to have everything in common and like all of the same things.
In fact, not liking all of the same things or being the same person means you will be challenged to go outside of your comfort zone consistently. This is a beautiful opportunity to explore yourself, explore your partner, challenge yourself, and try new things in the world you otherwise never would have tried. And the research shows that this adventurous, on-your-toes mentality keeps the spark alive. So, be different. Differences can actually be better for the relationship.
3. You don’t need to be at the same levels of growth and personal development.
We weren’t. But both partners need to be open and committed to doing whatever it takes to be a healthier and more healed partner, individually. And likely for one partner this will be easier or harder and less or more natural. But it is a crucial conscious choice, nonetheless.
4. You don’t need to be perfect in the relationship or be in the perfect relationship.
You don’t need to be the perfect dream partner and have healed all of your stuff, and neither does your partner.
I wasn’t perfect in the relationship and neither was she. I wasn’t fully healed and neither was she. But I realized this didn’t matter; what mattered was how consistently and consciously we questioned our beliefs, perceptions, and patterns and strived to be and do better for ourselves and the relationship out of love and respect for one another. Which brings me to the last, and most important foundational pillar at number five…
5. Both partners need to be equally committed to looking at themselves first and foremost.
They have to be willing to do whatever they can to become more aware of the projections, wounds, and trauma that are limiting the amount of love, intimacy, and healing energy they bring to each moment, and to the relationship as a whole.
Then from this conscious space they have to engage in the work, as a couple, to heal and grow together while staying deeply committed and devoted to the container of the relationship. Put simply, they both need to want it and be willing to do what it takes. This is where we as a couple really broke down.
At the end of the day, every romantic relationship, and every interaction and moment with another human being for that matter, is an opportunity to help heal one another or an opportunity to wound one another further.
We can consciously choose courage, humility, and a deep commitment to the love and the circle of the relationship by remaining open-hearted and expressing and owning our hurt in the face of our wounds being triggered; or we can cower and blame other(s) and situations, close our hearts, say and do hurtful things, and run away—only continuing the cycle of wounds and trauma and ensuring the same relationship patterns with any new partners we bring into our lives.
It is also extremely important to note that not everyone is ready for this type of conscious relationship. Frankly, most people are not. And this is why the majority of relationships and marriages that could last, don’t.
You might not be ready, or maybe your partner isn’t. You can try and try to get on the same footing, but if someone you love simply isn’t in that conscious space or isn’t ready to at least try and do the real work and take responsibility for their experience, pushing them over and over becomes abusive. And this is something I had to realize and make peace with in my relationship.
No matter how hard it is to accept because of how much we may love them, we have to know when it is time to release someone and wish them well on their own unique healing journey.
We have to know when to move on from someone who isn’t capable of or willing to put in the work and effort, at this point in their journey, to create a healthy conscious relationship and to heal themselves at that level.
And while letting that person go will be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do—it was for me —it is also the only healthy and loving choice one can make in that situation. For yourself and for them.
We must keep faith and know that someone just as amazing, who is ready to do the work and be a conscious and devoted partner, will eventually come into our life. I truly believe this will happen for me and everyone on this planet that wants it, as long as we are committed to becoming more conscious, more loving, and doing our own deep inner work.