What if I told you that your relationships — even the failed ones (in fact, especially the failed ones) — were the gateway to self-awareness and -acceptance? That through an exploration of your relationships you could uncover your deepest fears and beliefs about life itself?
Each of your relationships serves as a microscope, allowing you to peer into the deep recesses of your heart and your unconscious mind. If you take a moment to step back from the idea that relationships are something that happens to or outside of you and into the idea that relationships are a reflection of your inner world, you can unlock a new awareness of who you are and the barriers that hold you back. By harnessing the power of this awareness, you can transform your relationships.
It took me a long time to internalize this. I spent decades blaming my ex-partners for the failings of past relationships, convinced that it was circumstance that had brought us together and circumstance that had torn us apart.
My moment of awareness came when, at 35, I was curled up in a ball in my bed, tears streaming, and felt a clench in my heart so painful I thought it would swallow me. Another relationship had ended the night before, and in this broken moment, I suddenly found clarity I’d never had before: I was the only common denominator in all of these experiences. The thing that needed to change was me.
I had thought about this before, but until this moment, that perspective had been tied up in deep self-blame. This time, I tried to work through that, and the journey I went on transformed not only the way I behave in relationships but also the type of partner I attract.
The people in our relationships are mirrors, providing opportunity to see ourselves more clearly than we can alone. By seeing our default patterns and flaws more clearly, we can begin to change and shift our approach to relationships.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to what your relationships reveal about you, these are three of the common relationship patterns I see as a love coach and what they often reveal about the individuals involved:
1. You repeatedly involve yourself with emotionally unavailable partners.
I found myself in relationship after relationship with men who never wanted to deepen the connection and left as soon as things started to feel serious. Have you experienced this too?
When I allowed myself to get curious and quiet, I discovered that I, on a deep, hidden level, feared intimacy. Although consciously I longed for a deeply connected relationship, there was some part of me that feared that intimacy. Because my unconscious mind sensed that the men I had chosen wouldn’t push the relationship further, I found them attractive.
Sometimes when we find ourselves in this type of relationship, we also fear abandonment. On some level, our unconscious mind is always seeking to prove itself right, so if we come into a relationship with the belief that men or women always leave us, then we will find people who will fulfill this prediction, or we will unconsciously sabotage relationships to prove our belief true.
2. You tend to find yourself in relationships with selfish partners.
Do you often find yourself in relationships with people who take, take, and take? Or do you feel like you’re always the responsible one in the relationship? The one who makes it all happen?
This relationship pattern is incredibly common and may hold specific insight for the partner who feels like they’ve been taken advantage of. Consider the possibility that receiving support makes you feel vulnerable and giving or controlling feels much safer.
To be in the flow of relationship, we must be comfortable with both giving and receiving.
Sometimes we over-give out of a fear that who we are at our core isn’t good enough. We feel like we have to earn someone’s love and affection. Other times, we over-give as a way to control the other person’s connection to us (if we give, then they’ll want to stay).
If you find yourself in this type of relationship, take some time to assess how comfortable you are with receiving support. What does receiving support mean to you? What might it imply about your abilities? What kind of power does your partner have over you if you allow them to help you?
3. No one ever seems to show up when you need them.
If you find yourself constantly single or going on one unsuccessful date after another, you might be harboring some fear of connection or the “messiness” that comes with relationships, or you might be a perfectionist who fears failure.
Let’s face it: romantic relationships trigger our insecurities more than anything else. Because of that, they can either be paralyzing, or we can accept that they will be messy, and learn from our mistakes.
For a long period of my life, I found something wrong with every man I went out with — even the ones who, looking back now, were great. I spent years and years single, thinking it was what was “out there” that was to blame. But when I got quiet, I saw that, also to protect me from my fears of intimacy and abandonment, staying single defended me from failure in the form of broken relationships.
Do any of these scenarios resonate with you? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
It is only through an honest awareness of ourselves that we can shift out of our default love patterns and begin to experience love in a new, different, more complete way. Your relationships, if you allow them, can be the greatest teachers you’ve ever had.
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