All of our lives we have been searching for the one thing that will ensure the quality of all experience and provide us with a “happy ever after,” free of the pain, anguish and separation we find in the world. The thing that seems to hold the most promise for us, as far as furnishing us with the ultimate happy-ever-after, is the “perfect relationship.”
We expect to have absent from the relationship everything we don’t like about life. Our expectations have been fed, since we were very small, a diet of Snow Whites, Cinderellas, and fairy godmothers, along with Prince Valiants and the Clark Kent-to-Superman transformation. We grow up believing that some day our prince or princess will come and stay forever, as we share a state of bliss, untouched by the harshness of the realities of the world.
A beautiful dream, an exquisite fantasy – let us now explore the reality. In a romantic relationship what I really want from you is a more joyful experience of myself. I will say “I love you” if in your presence I experience myself as a joyful, lovable and capable person. And this is actually what you want from me.
The Difference Between Being in Love and Falling in Love
When we say “I’m falling in love with you,” we are really saying, “I am becoming the effect of you, and it’s more fun than being the effect of the dreary stuff I am usually the effect of.”
This is a state of temporary well-being. It is the illusion that at last our prince or princess has arrived and the bliss is around the corner. It is the period of high hopes. It is the statement that “I am the effect of you at the moment, and things go better with you.” We are addicted to this feeling, a temporary feeling of exhilaration, for it looks as if our dreams are about to come true. We will have a relationship for as long as it takes for me to no longer be in love with you – to no longer be the effect of you.
I can go from one relationship to another on the basis that we’ll have a relationship for as long as things go better with you, without my having to do anything. When things stop going better with you, I will go on to the next one. Familiar? Yes. Satisfying? No. We are always preoccupied with what the relationship is doing for us, not with what we are doing for the relationship. I am not saying that being the effect of somebody in this way is bad or unpleasant. It isn’t. It’s wonderful. It is opposite from the experience of fear; it is a release. But we should be aware that in a relationship, the effect stage is just that, a stage. It is not a destination, or a way to measure the validity of the relationship.
“You are Me and I Love Myself”
When we say we are in love with someone, what is happening is that around that person we have an experience of our own essence. And we fall in love with that experience, because that experience IS love.
Unfortunately, we put the cause of the experience over on the other person, rather than recognizing that what we love is ourselves around that person. Something about them inspires us out of our act and into the direct experience of our own beauty and our own supportability. We really fall in love with our ultimate self.
If we attribute the cause or source of the experience solely to the presence of the other person, we rob ourselves of the possibility of owning our own experience and recognizing our own lovability. We become the effect of the other person. We cast them in our soap opera, and the possibility of the absence of the experience becomes a threat. Eventually, it comes to an end, usually a sad one.
When you give somebody else the ownership of your sense of well-being, it can only lead to the deterioration of your well-being. If you think that the experience you have of loving yourself around somebody else comes out of them, you will end up needing them. They will have to be around for you to experience your own true nature. What you love is your experience of yourself. Don’t give credit to the mirror for what you see reflected there.
Being in Love
To me, being in love is experiencing somebody’s essence and their expression of it, and being unwilling for them not to express it. I love you if I experience your essence and support your expression of your essence, and won’t allow you to hide the beauty of your real self. The experience of real love exists beyond any considerations we have for our own well-being.
Love is when I am concerned with your relationship with your own life, rather than with your relationship to mine. I love you, knowing that if your relationship with you and your own life doesn’t work, your relationship with me won’t work either.
Love is the experience of our unity, the experience that between you and me there is no separation and therefore no conflict. It is the experience that between you and me exists a fundamental harmony and balance in relationship, which is an expression of the fundamental nature of the universe.
My observation is that whenever you can get people to be themselves and express themselves graciously, and with an appropriateness that comes out of a perception of the reality they happen to be in, you experience them as loving people. They experience loving people and they experience being loved. When you are with a group of people who are really able to be themselves and do not play their acts, and do not hide behind their facades, and are not preoccupied with how they are going to avoid losing, you will experience a deeply moving sense of well-being – there is love. I am talking about the kind of people who feel that their lives have already turned out and now it’s all a bonus. These are people who really experience a love for others.
When we have the experience of being one with everything, we have that experience of being related to everything. All the separation disappears, all the conflict disappears, and we are left with a sense of fullness, joy, serenity – in short, an experience of love. It is love beyond attachment.
Love is Insufficient Grounds for a Relationship
Balance and harmony in relationships is the fundamental nature of the universe. We experience this balance and harmony as love. The experience we call love is the substance of all reality. Everything else is an illusion. Since love is the way it is, if you expanded your consciousness to the level required, you would experience loving everybody.
And somehow we think that is what we would have to do. We have gotten to the crazy place on this planet where we think that conflict is normal, separation is normal, alienation is normal – that a lifestyle that is generally unsatisfying is normal. The brief moments of exception are this thing called love.
The truth is, love is the normal state, and there are a lot of exceptions, called separation, conflict, and alienation. But to consider separation, conflict, and alienation as normal is to condemn humanity to what we have condemned ourselves to throughout recorded history: a tragedy of endless war and conflict in which millions die and suffer. Just because there is a lot of it around, it is crazy to say that it is normal. If we say that suffering is normal, we have condemned humanity to suffering. We must look at it this way instead: the beautiful, exquisite exception is normal and everything else is an aberration.
Love is the exquisite exception that is a reflection of what is normal; what we consider average and mistakenly label as normal is the abundance of the aberration, built upon illusions of separation created by our minds. We are related. When we are having a relationship, we are simply doing something about the fact that we are related.
If I experience being in love around you, it does not mean I have to do anything about it. Our craziness is that if we experience loving someone, then we feel we’ve got to have a relationship because we regard love as an unusual and scarce commodity.
We are so threatened by the absence of love, that when any little bit of it shows it’s head, we yell “Gimme!” and grab at it with attachment. Attachment destroys the experience of love. If we can recognize that love is simply the way of things, and that it will always be revealed when the clouds of aberration, separation, alienation, and conflict are blown away, then the threat of being without love no longer exists.
We have got to grow up when it comes to love. We have got to see that we do not have to do something with every person with whom we have that experience.
Once we discover that love is the way it is, we are no longer threatened by the possibility of the absence of love, because we recognize that the absence of love is no more than an illusion.
I am not personally threatened by being without love. I meet so many people with whom I would enjoy having a relationship, that I sometimes feel swamped by the abundance, rather than suffering from an illusion of scarcity. I may do nothing more than say “I really love you, and I don’t think we ought to do anything about it. I just thought it would be a pity if I experienced loving you and kept it a secret.”
The Difference Between Commitment and Attachment
If our relationship is going to work, there must be a commitment to each other’s well-being. Most people who say they have a commitment don’t; they have an attachment. Commitment means “I am going to stick with you and support your experience of well-being.” Attachment means “I am stuck without you.”
We need to be able to go into a relationship with commitment and without attachment, recognizing that love is not an issue, particularly. Love is what will be there once we get everything else working.
We Do We Really Want From Each Other?
What I want in my relationship with you is an experience of myself as a loveable and capable person, when I am being myself. Unless I am being myself, I can’t have the experience of being loveable and capable. I can’t have an experience being a loveable and capable person when I put my act out there. I may have a loveable and capable act, but if you go for it, I don’t have an experience of being a loveable and capable person. I am just a bad person with a loveable and capable act. And now the threat is that you’ll find out that the lovable and capable act is hiding the horrible me that is really there and if you ever see that, I’m in big trouble.
All we really want from each other is an experience of ourselves as lovable and capable people. We want the experience that we are capable of making some contribution that is of joyful service to ourselves, other people, and the planet that we all share. This is very important to us: it is what we all really want.
The Importance of Equality
In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran writes about the paradox between unity and separation. “Let there be spaces in your togetherness,” he says, “for the pillars of the temple stand apart. And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
It is vital to a relationship that we discover the balance between unity and separation. If we are totally together, we can’t experience each other if there is separation in the unity. But if the pillars of our temple are not the same height, the roof will slide off, which means there has to be a sense of equality in the relationship.
A relationship that works is built upon a commitment to and an appreciation for each other’s process and a recognition of our fundamental equality as beings, regardless of our relative positions and achievements in the process of our evolution. Love is not about gazing into each other’s eyes; it is about being together, gazing out at the world.
The All-Important Quantum Et Solace
Ian Fleming who created the James Bond character, once wrote a beautiful essay on relationships, in which he talked about a principle he called the “quantum et solace.” The quantum et solace means the amount of well-being in a relationship. Fleming said that as long as two people in a relationship genuinely care about each other’s well-being, and genuinely want to make a contribution to each other’s well-being, the relationship can and will survive anything.
The organizing principle of a relationship should be a commitment to each other’s well-being. We should not seek in each other an escape from living and life. We should not seek in each other support and companionship, passion and compassion for the adventure, love, and a sense of humor regarding the lessons each of us has had to learn and for the revelation of our own foolishness. That is an enormous commitment, but once it is made and acknowledged, the relationship will survive anything.
The Form Supports the Purpose
Most of us do not realize that the form of our relationship should come out of and support the purpose. Instead we go into a relationship with a great deal of rigidity about the form it should take. We are really trying to get the relationship to conform to the popularized image of what the perfect, happy-ever-after relationship is supposed to look like. It gets more confusing these days, because we have conflicting images.
We have somehow been conditioned to believe that a relationship should look a certain way for it to bring us the bounty of the relationship to match that form, rather than organizing the form to support the purpose of our commitment to each other’s well-being. The effort to get our relationship to conform generates the conflict that destroys any chance it may have of evolving into a form that would support our well-being.
It is as if we plant a rose bush and when we see thorns appear, we destroy it, because it doesn’t look like roses to us – when all we would have to do is let it grow and we would have roses. We must be willing to let the relationship transcend the limits of form – transcend the imprisonment, the rigidity, the separation and conflict that come when we try to put the round peg of relationship into the square hole of form.
A Fundamental Principle of Relationships
Once we realize that what is important in a relationship is the commitment to well-being, to let the form of our relationship evolve to support the purpose, then we can begin to see something else:Relationships can neither be begun nor ended; they can only be recognized and altered in form. Since the fundamental nature of the universe is balance and harmony in relationship, you and I are related whether or not we’re doing anything about it. What we call “starting a relationship” is really doing something about the fact that we are related.
We cannot start a relationship. We can just recognize it and start to do something about it. Now, if it is true that we can’t start a relationship, we can only recognize it, then it is also true that we can never end a relationship. If we stop doing something about the relationship, that does not alter the fact that we are related. Our relationship exists as a fundamental truth of the universe. Relationships cannot be started or ended, only altered in form.
If we could really see the truth of that, all the threat would disappear. I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the relationship from ending. I could stop playing from the fear of losing you. Once we discover that we can’t begin relationships or end them, we can begin to allow them to evolve, and assume the form that is necessary to support their purpose.
The Real Purpose of a Relationship
The purpose of a relationship cannot be the relationship itself. The purpose of the relationship can only be the commitment to each other’s well-being and companionship in the large adventure of life. If we are not experiencing the adventure of life, if we are not expanding beyond the limits of our own personal reality, then it’s not a creative relationship.
Most people’s relationships are just a dramatization of solutions to the avoidance of loss. The theory is that two people can protect themselves against life better than one. That attitude totally destroys the possibility of growth in a relationship. If we are to be vital and growing in a relationship, I have got to support you in your process, and you have got to support me in mine. I have to support you in learning the lessons that are there for you to learn, and you have to do the same for me. An integral part of that support is to allow me to discover that just because there is a lesson to learn, that does not mean I am a bad person. We can both laugh about it; we can both enjoy the constant revelation of our own foolishness as lessons unfold and the magical adventure of life reveals itself.
We then begin to see that life is experimental. Having a relationship with someone is experimental. The only way we are going to see how it’s going to turn out if we have a relationship, is to go ahead and have one.
Two Halves Make a Quarter
To have a relationship we need to have mastered our ability to support our own well-being. If I can’t support my own well-being, how the hell am I going to support yours?
A lot of relationships are made up of two people who can’t individually support their own well-being, hoping that together maybe they can make it. When you multiply one-half times another half, you end up with one-quarter. It happens mathematically and it happens with people. If two people are having a relationship and both of them are in the fractional area of being a person – if neither of them have a personal reality that includes an experience of their own wholeness – then the product of their coupling will be less than what they individually started with. In other words, the relationship will only diminish them. It will be a source of discomfort and further disillusionment. It will not add to the quality of their experience, it will detract from it.
Nothing is neutral in the universe. It either contributes or it costs. It is either part of the solution or part of the problem.
It is Not Nice to be Needed
Most people’s relationships are an expression of need, and they are disasters. Relationships built on need cannot work. A relationship built on need is a constant attempt to answer the eternal question “How do I avoid losing?” It is not “I want to be with you.” It is not “I want to be here and I want you to be here.” It is “I want you to be here and I won’t be able to make it if you are not here.” One is freeing and the other is binding. One is supportive and the other suppressive. One encourages growth and the other is threatened by it.
Once a relationship is based upon need, it becomes a question of who has more control. More specifically, “How am I going to control the source of the satisfaction of my need?” When that becomes the question, we stop experiencing the other person, and begin to think of ways to manipulate and control the source of the satisfaction of our need.
Once I come up with the idea that my well-being is dependent on you, and you come up with the idea that your well-being is dependent on me, we will then do absolutely anything to keep the form of the relationship intact. It is the beginning of suspended animation in relationship.
All possibility for mutual joy and adventure in life is gone. It is replaced by a total fixation on survival. We then devise an infinite number of ingenious and destructive ways to manipulate and control the relationship.
We may control the relationship by becoming a big problem: one of us will get sick or get fired, or engage in any one of a number of “help me” routines.
We may control the relationship by not letting the other person ever make it with us. Or we may have kids to bind the relationship together. There is a whole arsenal of weapons we can use against each other in the never-ending struggle to keep control of the relationship. Everything from money and sex to guilt and shame. All the great stuff that country-western songs and soap operas are made of.
But I am less interested in the content of the madness than I am in finding a way outward to sanity. And there is a way out.
If a relationship is ever going to work in terms of life, in terms of supporting each other’s well-being, we must surrender to each other. If you look up surrender in Webster’s, you will find that the first definition says, “To give up possession of or power over.”
Thus, surrender in a relationship would mean to give up possession of and power over the other. “Wait a minute! Are you kidding?! That is a horrendous notion to think about. If I don’t have possession of you and I don’t have power over you, what’s going to keep you around?”
Well, we really can’t have a joyful relationship until we have removed all of the reasons to stick around – all the reasons of need, and of form, and of living. We should only stick around if the value is there – if together we enjoy the adventure of life, if we joyfully support and acknowledge each other’s process.
In the early days of our culture, it was important to have a husband and wife and a retinue of children to help run the farm and keep off attackers. But things have changed. At a very deep level, we have failed to notice. We live in a society where it is relatively easy for the single person to get living handled. At the very least, we should recognize that relationships afford only very marginal benefits in terms of getting the mechanics of living handled.
We should celebrate this. We should stop and have a holiday to acknowledge this as an incredible opportunity. We’ve got the mechanics of living handled! There are very few people in all of history who could have said that.
We have got living handled; now we better find out the purpose. The purpose of getting living handled is to have freedom for the adventure and celebration of life, to have the adventure of experiencing love and passion in our exploration of each other and life. Freedom from concern for the mechanics of living provides with a greater opportunity to discover, without threat, the fundamental nature of the universe and the perfection of our relationship to it all.
Where to Begin
Since a relationship is about exploring each other’s realities, in the beginning, time should be spent listening to each other’s expression of that reality. We should be willing to express what we really want to the extent that we are aware of it.
In the beginning we have to sit down and realistically look at what we want, what we are willing to contribute, what our sexual preferences are, what level of commitment we are willing to make, and what contribution we can make in the area of living. We have to get the mechanics handled.
Often we seem to operate from the principle that if our partners really loved us, they would know what we wanted, and they would give it to us without our having to ask. Often we individually don’t know what we want and yet expect the other person (who doesn’t know what they want) to know what we want and give it to us without our asking. This is crazy. Thus, a fundamental component of a relationship is the free communication of wants and desires on all levels.
If You Want Something, Ask
Very few of us can ask for what we want in a joyful and open fashion, and without guilt. As children we are told that “It’s rude to ask.” It is somehow more polite to wait to be invited. Well, millions of people are still waiting to be invited.
If I buy the notion that it is rude to ask, I am never going to ask. And if I never ask, I probably will never get what I want. My life will be constructed out of what’s left over after I avoid all the things that I am afraid of.
If you think it is rude to ask, and you feel compelled to ask anyway, you are likely to ask apologetically. Whoever you ask will not feel good about giving you what you asked for.
One of the great keys to joy and happiness and results in life is to develop the ability to ask for what you want in such a manner that people are delighted to give it to you.
Not only do we need to be able to ask for what we want, we first need to be accountable for being aware of our own wants. A lot of us aren’t. A lot of us have never found out what we want because all our lives we have chosen what everybody else told us to want.
What we really want, of course, is an experience of ourselves as lovable and capable people, and support and nurturing in the areas of experience that are hidden from us as a result of our conditioning.
How to be Together
One of the things that goes on in most relationships is the attempt to control each other’s behavior, especially when we are not together. We demand that our partner be a certain way. We usually demand fidelity, which is foolish and has never worked.
I propose a new kind of agreement. It is this: When I am not with you, I will conduct my life in a way that supports my ability to be with you when I am with you. When I am not with you, I will not do things that will interfere with my ability to be with you when I am with you.
In other words, when I am not with you, I will conduct myself in the adventure of life in such a way that when I am with you again, the time I was not with you will have become a foundation for a deeper experience of well-being and even more enjoyment when we are together. And if there are certain lessons that you have to learn, which I am not in a position to support you in learning, you need to be free to go to where you will get that support. A relationship should not suppress our adventure or suppress the speed with which we learn the lessons that are there for us to learn.
If we are going to organize our relationships around value and support, each of us should conduct our own lives in such a way that we have more ability to be with each other when we are and so that we have more to offer each other, we have more of an experience of ourselves to share with each other. Our experiences of being apart can totally support our experience of being together.
One Person Can Transform a Relationship
It is nice if both people in a relationship are aware of the principles we have talked about, but it is not necessary. One person can implement what you have discovered here and make it work.
We may find from time to time that we are playing with someone who is not willing to play. Too often we take a dancing partner who just does not want to dance. Now, I think it is true that at some level, everyone wants to dance. It’s just hard to get some people to discover that about themselves. So we need to make sure when we start a relationship, we are playing with somebody who is a candidate for the game.
If we find that we are having a relationship with somebody who is not a candidate for the game, we need to be willing for the form of the relationship to alter. When that happens, we can maintain our integrity if we conduct ourselves in such a way that we know that we have done absolutely everything we can think of, to the limits of our consciousness to get it to work out, and it didn’t.
Good Loving Takes Courage
Having a relationship with another person that truly works is a great adventure. To be a great adventurer takes great courage. We have to be willing to take action (even though we might be afraid to ask for what we want), to manifest our love and compassion, and to be real. People who love life, themselves, and each other have the courage and the passion to make the game worth playing. To really have creative, alive relationships, we have to consciously foster and support that spirit of adventure.