On Facebook you can indicate whether or not you are in a relationship or whether “its complicated”. In my experience a relationship is per definition complicated. As soon as you open your heart the trouble starts. The fear for rejection manifests itself full-size. Apparently we are so sensitive to the recognition and appreciation of our loved ones that we let it determine our life’s happiness. Our whole existence. Apparently within each of use resides the deep longing to be seen, recognized and understood. As though only then it is possible to truly shine.

Between the ages of 14 and 21 I had lots of boyfriends. I was in a permanent state of infatuation. I only experienced the highs, the rapture of being liked. I carefully avoided the lows. For this I developed an effective strategy. I only allowed myself to fall in love when I was sure the other had already fallen for me and I would be on to the next before the other had the chance to dump me.

With this ‘survival strategy’ I built an identity, which I considered to be completely ‘me’. I was fun, attractive, free, adventurous, cool, independent, brave, active, smart, understanding, nice. And my smile had a magic effect. An identity, which was encouraged by the outside world, as they experienced me as very pleasant to be around. For years it made me feel great.

Fun and attractive no longer sufficed

The cracks appeared after my fortieth birthday. Relationships didn’t last. New encounters became more scarce. Fun and attractive no longer sufficed. In relationships that did stand a chance, I saw sides of myself that were very unpleasant. I was terribly critical. The other needed to be at least as fantastic as I was. Just as spiritually developed. Just as aware. Facing my own shadow sides wasn’t something I was willing to do. As this would call my whole existence into question. But this I hadn’t yet realized.

Meanwhile I felt more and more exhausted. And unhappy. And lonely. Until one day I came to the realization that I was still trying to fill the emptiness I had experienced as a child, with love from the outside. I was still looking for love and recognition. By being an understanding coach. By setting up a successful practice. By being a brave student of the spiritual path. Just look at how well I allow myself to feel my emotions. How much pain I can tolerate. I had given myself an impossible life’s mission, which completely exhausted me.

The attention and recognition I had missed as a child (which to a certain extent occurs in every family, seeing as parents are also just human beings) is a lost loss. Developing a strategy to disguise the pain of this loss, can be healing during childhood, but works against you in your adult life. The only way to heal the pain, is to embrace it. And the only place where transformation can take place, is in a relationship. Exactly where we want to fill the void. This is where the challenge lies, in taking responsibility for your own pain, instead of leaving it with the other.

A relationship is the most fruitful place for spiritual growth

It was high time to truly let someone into my life and shed myself of the most subtle layers of my protection. To peel off the remaining thin yet tenacious shell around my heart. ‘Love will push every button, try every faith, challenge every strength, mock every value, and then leave you there to die” Marianne Williamson writes in her book Enchanted Love.

Hence the romantic relationship is the most fruitful place for spiritual growth. If you stay, if you don’t run away but open your heart. If you confront and dare to embrace your pain and fears, without wishing the other would comfort you, this is when you create a true existence for yourself. When you gain strength, when your heart will grow, and when you feel your love naturally streams in all its greatness.

At the moment I am involved in a ‘complicated’ relationship. But for the first time in my life I am not walking away. I accept the lows, the disappointments, the frustrations, and keep them on my own plate. I cry my tears, stamp away my anger and practice letting go of expectations. I am incredibly happy with this new spiritual practice ground, where I learn to remain open and curious and step outside the box. I practice letting go of images of the future with a smile. I haven’t felt this connected for a long time. Nor have I laughed so much.

Love isn’t about eternal faithfulness and saying I do, about you are mine and I am yours and you make me happy. Love is a universal energy that is always present. It is up to us to be completely free and transparent so this love can flow fully. Right here and now.

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