Our friend David Bach of the “David Bach Show” over at KNFO asked Sally this question a few weeks ago on air during their discussion about relationships and given the fact that almost every client we’ve ever worked with over the past 15 years has asked us some version of this question, we thought it would be helpful to write about it.
Relationships are hard because we learn and (subsequently forget) so much in all our years of schooling: names, dates, graphs, equations, histories of entire civilizations even, and yet where is the class on how to navigate the mental, emotional and spiritual complexities of intimate relationships? Where is the class on how to navigate jealousy, on how to get resolved after a fight, how to be vulnerable, how to be honest with your beloved, or even how to make love?
Yes, some might say that the social dynamics of school in and of themselves prepare us for relating with others, in a kind of sink or swim, survival of the fittest social experiment, but here lies the first reason why relationships are so challenging: Nobody teaches us the tools in how to navigate them. We are literally left to figure it out on our own, mostly from our parents, who had to learn it from their parents, who learned it from their parents and so on. And if you take a look at the divorce rate of the previous generation, we really do get a picture painted for us of the blind leading the blind. We’ve said this many times before, but we are raised inside of the ecosystem of our parents' marriage. How they loved each other, as well as how they loved us, is imprinted into our subconscious mind. We literally learn what love is, isn’t and looks like directly from them. And nobody taught them either.
Relationships are hard because we are fed unhealthy and unrealistic narratives and expectations of love that still run like underground sewer systems through the collective consciousness of our entire civilization. So many of us live with an expectation of love and relationships that the reality of love and relationships can never deliver. To reduce it down to a simple notion, it’s the idea that once you find true love, then everything else should feel OK in your life. Hollywood generally stops there, right after the third act resolution, with our protagonists riding off into the sunset, propelled forward by the momentum of their love that should, in theory, conquer all. When it doesn’t, we feel betrayed, not just by our partner, but by love itself.
Relationships are hard because we are all humans and humans are broken and kinked and beautiful and imperfect and angry and jealous and worship at the altar of temptation way more than the altar of righteousness. It’s hard enough to be a human alone in the world, now add another with their own personal history, trauma and subconscious patterns and voila!
Relationships are hard because they are supposed to be! Just like a killer workout, or the Power of Four, or starting a business, or literally anything worthwhile in life, a great relationship calls upon us to face the parts of ourselves that we are most terrified of facing. Our deepest longings and our darkest corners. Our purest, most vulnerable hearts and our toughest and thickest layers of protection. This is actually the gift of love and relationships. They offer us the gift of our own spiritual evolution.
Relationships are hard because we are spiritual beings having a human experience and on some level we understand that what is possible in love, in fact the ultimate purpose of love is that by recognizing yourself in another, you are actually recognizing the one true self that is living both of you. The merging of two hearts, two bodies, two souls recognizing the oneness that is you both. That 1 + 1 = 1. Yet more often, we are more in tune with our separateness than our union. In our day-to-day experience of deciding what to watch on TV, going to work, grocery shopping, picking up the kids from school etc., we forget the truth of our oneness and our deeper hearts yearn for that union.
Like life itself is ultimately a terminal illness that none of us get out of alive, love itself is a wound that never fully heals. And yet this is the opportunity of love and relationships. We must stop relating to the challenges of relationships as a bad thing. There is a difference between a toxic relationship that is unhealthy and needs to end and a healthy relationship that mandates that we grow through the challenges of it. It is through the challenges, through the hardships that our hearts have the opportunity to expand their capacity for love and that our relationship has the opportunity to get stronger.