The more time you invest in something, combined with the intensity of your emotional attachment to that which you desire, makes it harder to walk away. From intimate relationships to career choices, friendships and where you live – these are all situations that create deep emotional attachments. I wanted to examine this principle in the context of intimate relationships.
At the start of a new relationship one feels full of hope as the fairy-tale vision of the future feels possible. As you begin to open your heart and surrender to the experience your walls come down and suddenly there you are, in all your fragile vulnerability. You are exposed to the real potential of hurt and pain. If relationships were depicted as a line on a flowchart then most people recognise that all relationships peak, fall and plateau at different times.
The more you surrender to the relationship, the greater the emotional intensity. This stirs up baggage and unresolved stuff from the past and is then projected onto the new relationship. If relationships have endured the test of time then a familiarity creeps in that often drains away the intimacy.
When a relationship is flying, everything becomes exciting and life feels colourful and full of potent possibilities. But when the bumps, the problems and the challenges rear their ugly head we seek to adjust to the disappointment that ‘this perfect fairy-tale’ was simply an illusion.
If the relationship feels worth it then we learn to adapt, to compromise, to adjust and change so we can re-connect with that same intensity. If the relationship no longer causes our heart to sing then we no longer want to deal with the struggle, the disappointment and the mini-battles. In theory if we are connected to our emotions and we trust our intuition it should be a relatively easy decision to make. “Shall I hang in there or is it time to walk away?”
Often we stay in a relationship because we are either a) hoping that things will change or b) we feel scared about the unknown – what will life be like after the relationship? Sometimes we settle for something that is ‘OK’ or comfortable. The second guessing that goes on inside your head, “Should I stay or should I go?” can be an intense distraction and can leave us feeling confused and overwhelmed.
There are three sources of information that will impact on your final decision:
1. Your ego mind – we all have an ego because we are human. The ego likes to feel unique, special and different. We want to feel admired, appreciated and valued. We want the other person to see our specialness. From the labyrinth of our ego mind we create beliefs and assumptions about our partner’s different behaviours. “If he doesn’t text me very much then he can’t be that interested.” “If she really loved me she would stop drinking so heavily.” “If he doesn’t tell me how nice I look then he doesn’t find me attractive.” “She can’t care about me because we are living separate lives.” The ego has a strong need to maintain control and uses fear to achieve this control. Issues experienced within relationships are based on the perception that we are being treated in a way that is less than the way we think we should be treated. We attach meaning to the other person’s actions that may or may not be true. We create expectations of what a good relationship looks like so that when anything different occurs we judge it as bad or wrong. When we operate from a place of ego we become disconnected from the other person. The focus switches to ‘me – my needs – my desires’ rather than ‘you-your needs-your desires’. From a relationship perspective harmony can only be actualised when there is a balance of ‘me and you’.
2. Your emotions – you could make a generalisation that there are only two types of emotions. There are emotions that cause you to feel good and emotions that cause you to feel bad. When you feel ‘bad’ your unconscious mind is giving you feedback that you are not aligned with your inner truth. You are sailing your boat into unchartered territory and need to get back on course. If you are not paying attention to your emotions preferring to analyse everything in your mind then you won’t be able to receive this valuable feedback. However, the challenge with simply acting upon your emotions is that your emotional response is evoked because of the interpretation you are holding in your mind. For example; if one person withdraws in a relationship there could be a number of reasons: ‘She must be having an affair’ (will evoke anger and sexual jealousy) ‘She’s struggling to cope with her career’ (will evoke understanding and compassion). So although the ability to pay attention to our emotions is important, our emotional response will depend on the thought or the interpretation we are holding onto in that moment.
3. Your perceptions – Every thought we think creates an energetic impulse and there is growing evidence that thoughts have the capacity to change physical matter. Quantum physics deals with behaviour of the smallest things in the universe – subatomic particles. Scientists at the frontiers of research have proven that everything radiates energy. Thoughts are the exact same substance as the building blocks of the universe. So what does this mean for us and relationships? Because energy is transferable what we perceive about others is simply a projection of what we hold as true within ourselves. People, particularly those who bring up our stuff are simply a mirror for what we need to work on next. For example, if the behaviour of your partner causes you to feel insecure then you are receiving feedback that it’s time to work on your own insecurity. If you felt secure then there is nothing your partner or anyone else for that matter can say or do that will create insecurity within you. If another person evokes a negative emotion within you, when resolve it in you, you’ll notice that the other person appears to ‘miraculously’ change.
When you want to make important decisions about relationships or anything else that’s important to you, you will find it helpful to expand your awareness to gain different insights that will inform your ability to decide. The following questioning process takes you through all three aspects described above. Give yourself the emotional space to notice what’s going on for you in response to each question.
- What are you scared of?
- What does your ego want from this relationship?
- What does your partner really want that will cause them to feel loved and appreciated?
- What do you really want to feel loved and appreciated?
- Are you prepared to love and appreciate every aspect of you?
- Are you prepared to love and appreciate every aspect of them?
- How are you feeling about them right now?
- How are you feeling about yourself right now?
- What thoughts are you thinking about them that’s causing you to feel this?
- What other thoughts could you think instead that will change how you feel?
- What judgements and assumptions are you making about their behaviour?
- What limiting beliefs does your partner bring up in you?
- When did you decide to believe this?
- How does this belief benefit you?
- If you didn’t believe this and believed the opposite what would change?
- What has your partner taught you about yourself?
- How have you grown and developed as a result of knowing them?
- What new insights do you have about your relationship?
- What action feels right to take as the next step?
Difficulties in relationships are challenges because they provoke you to work on yourself. The very effort you invest in overcoming these challenges creates a change within you that elevates you to a higher version of yourself. Trust that you will know when to walk away and when to stay in the game. If you do decide to walk away then remind yourself that this relationship prepared you for someone better, someone more aligned to your truth. If you decide to stay in the game – take some deep breaths. Relationships are a catalyst for your own emotional pain to come to the surface for healing. Regardless of the outcome every relationship teaches you something about yourself.