Quite a few single people I know both personally and professionally say they need a partner who is "conscious," by which they do not mean breathing and showing other signs of life. They mean someone who is evolved, self-aware, self-reflective — in other words, "not too screwed up." The reality, of course, is that we are all works in progress. Even so-called "conscious people," and that includes me.
In our consumer-driven, self-help society, there is a certain subtle influence which views partners and relationships very much like items to be ordered at the Universe's gigantic online shopping mall. We cannot, alas, merely write down a list of preferred qualities, meditate and expect a Santa Clause-like deity to manifest our soulmate wish list.
Nor should we pressure ourselves to emit the perfect energetic vibration to attract an ideal partner.
Our idea of "perfect" — what we think we want in our minds or in our hearts — is not necessarily what might fuel our emotional or psychological growth, open doors, or help us end negative patterns. It might not even be what will turn us on.
Love creates the classroom.
Love is the universal force that binds together two people who otherwise would never connect meaningfully. It is the power that we succumb to when we enter a relationship; it creates a classroom in which we might learn. In this classroom we are forced to confront ourselves and another. Who is to say that failed expectations and flaws make it wrong, and setting better ideals would make it right?
There are only four practical facts that really matter for soulmate love.
Believe it or not, satisfying, loving, even lifelong romantic relationships do not require years of "working on oneself," lists of "ideal qualities" and deep meditation. All romantic relationships in fact have a very simple foundation that anyone can strive for:
1. You get along really well, e.g. have stuff to talk about and things you enjoy doing together.
3. Your goals, whether short or long term, are generally in alignment (or at least not wildly opposed).
4. There is no verbal or physical abuse, but healthy and honest communication.
If you do not have any of these four foundations, it's time to move on. Numbers one to three can wax and wane over time, so if you're missing one or two, you might be able to work on it. However, number four's a dealbreaker for any relationship sooner or later.
Believe it or not, you can have one, two and three and still experience number four, so please be honest with yourself.
A relationship is one of many spiritual journeys, and you cannot see the map in advance.
Our mortal minds cannot comprehend the larger significance of events or relationships seemingly beyond our conscious creation — it's all just part of the spiritual journey that is life. In this sense, all relationships have a meaning for our lives that we cannot grasp if we're focused on ideals, in the present moment.
Once, in the check out line at the supermarket, my kids and I impatiently watched the woman ahead of me, infuriated by her painstaking removal of items from her shopping trolley. Later, I discovered that I had just avoided, within minutes, a three-car crash on the expressway. The woman at the supermarket became, at that moment, my savior.
As the Course in Miracles says, "I do not perceive my own best interests." How can we? We cannot see the much larger drama that is our life in the expanse of time, the hidden factors, the unknowable destination. We only see the view from where we are now, and it may seem like the only thing happening is feeling annoyed in a check out line at the supermarket.
What appears to be someone's flaw might be your greatest teacher. Through irritation we can learn patience; through another's annoying silence we can learn presence; through a marriage's financial disappointments we can learn goal setting and saving.
The only ideal worth striving for is to love and be loved.
Rather than plan for an ideal, or work ourselves into a state of needing to become an ideal, invite love into your life. Allow it to create conditions for a classroom. Remove your expectations, and accept both yourself, and your partner, flaws and all. Check in with the four practicalities of healthy relating I mentioned earlier. Take responsibility for your feelings, and your actions, whilst accepting your partner completely (and this means not trying to change anyone). This is radical acceptance.
Wisdom is the result.
Wisdom is the ability to forgive grievances big or small, and the capacity to feel expansive love. It means accepting not getting exactly what we want, facing challenges, and focusing on the good things. Wisdom is the result of radical acceptance, whether or not our soulmate is the perfect mate, and whether it lasts for a season or a lifetime.
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