So you've committed to a journey of personal growth. Whether you're new to this path or you've been on it for years, a challenge that can arise is what to do when you're on a path of mindfulness, self-awareness, and spiritual growth—but your partner isn't.
Dedicating yourself to your own growth can be filled with excitement and discoveries, but it isn't for the faint of heart. If you're doing the internal work, you know it doesn't feel like you're skipping through a field of wildflowers every day. There are times when you may want to turn in your pass and get off the ride. During the past 24 years on my personal journey, there are moments when I thought, if someone would have told me it would be like this, I may have said, "Screw that, no thanks!"
Of course, you make it through the darker moments and learn more about yourself in the process. However, without the support of your significant other, it can feel like a lonely journey to make. You want to be able to share what's happening, both exciting and hard, with the person you love and have them understand.
Having support on the journey is not only helpful but necessary. Becoming self-aware and being responsible for your thoughts, words, and actions is a 24/7 job at times. When your partner isn't in the same place, it can feel like the Pacific Ocean resides between you. They don't understand the highs and lows you're likely experiencing on the trip of your life.
When I met my ex-husband 16 years ago, I'd been on my personal growth journey for eight years.
When we were introduced, I felt a wave of excitement rush through my body. There was something intriguing about him. He had kind eyes, a heart-melting smile, and raw charisma. I felt instantly drawn to him.
I wasn't looking for a relationship, but as we got to know each other, I made a decision that I'd be open to what was pulling me to him, even though I was discovering that he wasn't into yoga, meditation, or healthy living, like I was. I thought about not continuing to see him, but I trusted in the internal guidance and flow in my life. I took the emergency break off and allowed myself to discover what was between us. I surrendered, we fell in love, and eventually we married.
Throughout the marriage, I remained committed to my spiritual path and growth. I studied with a Lakota shaman for a year, dove into Kundalini yoga for another year, saw energy healers, and continued working with personal coaches on energy clearing, self-mastery, emotional intelligence, and more. I learned to trust my internal guidance without question. My husband was willing to follow where we were led and supported me, even though he didn't always understand it. We created a beautiful life.
For a long time, it didn't matter that my husband wasn't on a similar path. I learned to extend beyond my comfort zone and reach out to find community no matter where I was. I connected with people who understood me and what we'd been learning on our respective journeys. We'd talk about all the exciting discoveries in our lives, the magical synchronicities and amazing things that transpired. We'd talk about the challenges and the difficulties too.
It took the place of not sharing it all with my partner, even though the desire remained that I truly wanted to have those conversations with him. When you talk energy, have a daily meditation practice, or are a conscious eater, and your partner isn't where you are, it can cause you to question whether you're in the right relationship.
There were times when his eyes glazed over as I talked about my experiences. Those were the occasions when I knew I needed to be OK with sharing myself fully or take it outside the relationship to my friends. It didn't always feel good, but I learned I didn’t need to share everything with him.
How to cope with spiritual misalignment.
In my work with clients, some walk away from their relationships while others choose to stay. What they all commit to do differently is put the focus on themselves and shift how they show up in the relationship. When they apply the tools we work on, so much in their relationship and life changes. It contributes to their personal growth journey in ways they never dreamed possible.
Here are four tools you can utilize to find your center and strength within the relationship when you love your partner, you love your spiritual path, and the two have yet to meet:
1. Let go of the expectation that your partner needs to be a certain way.
When you wish your partner was excited about your spiritual growth and discoveries, you "show up" in the relationship differently than you would if you weren't looking for them to fill an expectation you have. It's helpful to understand what's missing and decide if you can provide that for yourself.
Taking responsibility for your own desires and needs is a powerful practice that allows you to release your partner from the subconscious "wants" you've placed on them. When you can make this subtle yet impactful shift, you meet your partner with a different energy than when you're wishing they are someone they aren't. It frees you up from a needy energy and allows you both to meet each other where you are.
2. Seek support outside your relationship.
Seek a support network where your interests lie—yoga, meditation, qigong, energy work, or whatever else. Attend a retreat or a weekend workshop. For many on the personal growth journey, "family" becomes the people you surround yourself with. Friends, mentors, and colleagues can be the ones you turn to when you want to discuss all your experiencing and learning. Through these relationships you can find the conversation and connection you seek. It takes the pressure off your partner to provide something they're unable or uninterested in providing.
3. Have a courageous conversation.
Does your partner know how much your personal growth journey means to you? Have you had a courageous conversation about why you've chosen this path? Have you explained how it feels when it seems like you're on opposite sides of the planet?
A heartfelt conversation may be in order. You might need to be vulnerable and share yourself and your desires more openly with them. I have clients who didn't make it clear with their partner how important their spiritual path was to them. They had it in their mind that their partner wouldn't understand or, worse, would ridicule them. Even so, they needed to express it to them with compassion and an open heart.
When they allowed themselves to have the courageous conversation, they realized much of the distance was coming from them, because they felt like they had to hide what was going on in their life, for fear of what might happen if they shared themselves fully.
Find a time and a place where you won't be interrupted to allow yourself to express where you are and what it truly means. It could be that your partner doesn't understand how much your spiritual path means in your life. By expressing it, you break down the invisible wall you put in place to protect yourself from getting hurt.
4. Avoid pressuring your partner.
If you're the type of person who's broached the topic of your spiritual differences with your partner in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, you may have found yourself having the same, "Maybe you'd feel better if you…meditated, didn't eat that, exercised, etc." conversation, again and again. That can leave you feeling more alone and disconnected as it only serves to reinforce your differences. It's not wrong to care about them or be concerned about their lack of interest in bettering themselves. What is wrong is constantly reminding them of what they're not doing right in your eyes.
What you focus on expands—place your attention on something and you'll get more of it. No matter how much you believe they would be better off living a more conscious life, it's a rare person who is willing to change because they're pressured into it. If they manage to create the change you desire, they'll most likely resent you for it unless they come to it on their own.
You may be having a positive impact on your partner; it just might not be in the way you expect. My partner acquired a more healthful approach to eating, and we found commonalities there. It's possible to find the places where you do align, no matter how big or small they may seem.
5. Use your differing approaches to life as an opportunity to develop your relationship with self.
We often hear the most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves, but that's not super helpful to hear when you feel disconnected within your relationship. You want to feel clear, connected, and aligned with your partner. However, the differences may be the perfect opportunity for you to go within and cultivate the relationship with yourself.
You can utilize what you feel in the relationship (both positive and challenging) to help you discover more about what drives your choices and actions. Relationships are an excellent source of personal learning. Notice when you feel neglected, angry, or hurt. What's happening in these moments, and what choices do you make out of habit or comfort?
I created a number of habitual patterns in my relationship that served to buffer and shield me from hurt. It wasn't coming directly from my partner. He wasn't interested in being on a personal growth journey, and there was no reason I needed to be hurt about it. It helped me see where I had some additional work to do with myself.
You can answer the following questions and gain some clarity.
- Why do I need to feel like my partner shares this path with me?
- Why do I feel compelled to turn them into someone they're not?
- Is there something I'm not providing for myself that I believe they should be providing for me?
- What am I making it mean that they're uninterested in hearing about my path?
- What would change for me if they were on a similar path?
Be open to discover the answers. It's not always easy to feel hurt or upset while simultaneously being willing to look at your part in the moment. Be patient with yourself as you explore these questions.
You can choose how you want to feel. If you want to get out of the hurt feelings, you can make a different choice than you might usually make. If you lash out when you feel hurt, you can observe yourself feeling hurt and choose to express to your partner that you feel hurt, without any expectation that they will make you feel better about it.
In addition, notice when your partner is providing support. When these moments happen, acknowledge them out loud with thanks and gratitude. This allows you to see how they support you in their own way.
Be open to doing things differently. Experiment with how you express yourself and see how that shifts the relationship with your partner. Just because you feel hurt or neglected by their behavior doesn't necessarily mean they're doing something wrong. Look within, and you may discover more about yourself than you ever knew.
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