The Challenge of Relationship

It is our nature to love and be loved. We are all drawn to be in close, loving relationships with others. Yet, harmonious relationships still elude most people. It is common belief that relationship is naturally a struggle. It is expected that we have to work very hard to have lasting love and harmony in relationships, especially intimate ones. Yet, I do not believe that we must accept this as “just the way it is.”

It is true that relationships bring up all of our relational wounding and conditioning, which can be very challenging, to say the least. And, awakening to our true nature does not automatically eliminate this conditioning or wounding. Yet, awakening does make it possible to do the one thing that will finally resolve it—to allow it to be as it is and release in the presence of being. This takes a deep commitment and a deep understanding that doing anything else is futile.

Without awakening to our essential nature, we are left with three choices when painful conditioning arises in relationship. These are the habitual strategies that we continue to do until we know the fourth choice, and commit to that. 

  • Avoidance:  There are seemingly endless ways we can avoid painful experience. We can go into denial, repress it, tune out, numb out, shut down, go to the refrigerator for food, turn on the TV, or be passive aggressive.
  • Indulgence: When painful conditioning arises in relationship, it is common to indulge it through reactivity, anger, blame, attack, projection, demands, judgment, and criticism.
  • Fixing: When the first two do not work (and they won’t) we go about trying to fix or change our experience, our self, or the other. We might try to replace anger with compassion (while steaming inside). We may also apply many methods and techniques to change our behavior (or theirs). This takes a lot of effort and has some usefulness—up to a point. But in case you haven’t noticed, it never truly releases and liberates us from our wounding and conditioning.

The fourth choice is to allow everything to be as it is. This is the only choice that will fully resolve, release or transform our relational wounds and conditioning. First, it requires direct recognition of the aware presence that pervades all experience. Once that is recognized, it requires a deep commitment to rely on that rather than the other strategies mentioned above. All other choices cannot ultimately bring harmony and healing because they are forms of resistance to what is. Life is not intended to flow in a beneficial way when we are in resistance to what is. The natural flow of life is found in resting as the vast presence that is already and always allowing everything to be as it is.

Even with awakening, this can be extremely challenging if our conditioning is particularly traumatic. It may require therapeutic assistance in addition to resting as the awareness of being. Sometimes both are needed. But there is only one thing that is essential, and that is direct recognition of our essential nature. That is where the solutions are to all of our relationship  (and other) struggles are found. We will not find solutions in thoughts, emotions or strategies.

Awakened relating involves actually relying on the vast resource within us that is an infinite source of love, wisdom, power and everything else we ever need or seek in relationship. We rely on that and that alone—one moment at a time. Then if any thing needs to be said or done in the relationship, or with our self, it will be obvious from a place of clarity and kindness, rather than from resistance to what is. From within the openness of our own awareness, solutions and skillful means are provided as needed.

The challenges of relationship are precious gifts in that they provide tremendous opportunities for awakening to our deeper truth. Since nothing else will ultimately work, the challenges point us to this truth relentlessly, lovingly, and with compassion, until we find our way home to true freedom.

About Lynn Marie Lumiere, MFT

Lynn Marie Lumiere, MFT is a transpersonal and somatic psychotherapist with over 20 years experience in private practice. She has been actively involved with the community of therapists exploring nondual wisdom and psychotherapy for 15 years. Lynn Marie is one of the authors of the first book on that topic, The Sacred Mirror, Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy. She is also co-author of The Awakening West, Evidence of a Spreading Enlightenment.

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2 Responses to The Challenge of Relationship

  1. Robert Cowart says:

    Thanks, LM. I tend to agree. I appreciate that you include both the ‘waking up’ and the ‘waking down’ approaches. It seems to me that both are necessary.

    Taking stock, watching myself go through reactions, while trying to stay aware of a tendency to pull out and disconnect is challenging. I don’t want to hide in the Self, although retreating into the ‘witness’ or transcendent can be useful as a resource for refueling before coming back into the fray, I suppose.

    Nor do I want to descend completely into the body and go for broke indulging in emotional reaction, just to ensure that I’m not repressing some opportunity for catharsis. Been there, done that, too. The outcome usually isn’t what I had hoped.

    There seems to be a sweet spot that can be elusive at times, but where I’m still engaged, not dissociated, yet still observing what is going on, from deep inside (or outside, I can’t quite tell where). I don’t really want to use this term right now because of recent events, but it occurs to me that this is the sense I’m fishing for as I describe my experience: “Stand your ground.” It’s literally accurate, I think. I try to stand in my groundedness while still being available to the other, keeping my heart open, even in a very charged and messy moment.

    This reminds me of child development theory. Very young children will stray from the parent for increasing bits of time, looking back to see if s/he is still there and watching. This is a kind of refueling before taking the next risk of exploration. When the anxiety gets too high for the child to endure s/he returns to the parent for touch or praise, replenishing its ‘narcissistic supplies.’ After a bit of time, the child ventures out further, exploring more of the world, trusting that mom or dad are there to help spur him/her on. The theory is that the child, if given enough support in the formative periods learns how to internalize this mother/father trust, that eventually evolves into the ability to provide ‘self soothing’. The human security blanket of the parent is no longer needed because it’s been internalized.

    In the context of awakening, our having access to an infinite field of consciousness is analogous to the parent being there for encouragement, only this field never gets tired, bored, or angry with us. It’s always available as a resource. It’s just a matter of building little bridges to it (as Peter Fenner says), by dipping back into the mystery, the unbounded place where consciousness rises out of, or as you say, Lynne Marie, “…the aware presence that pervades all experience.”

    I hadn’t really thought about this approach consciously until I read your column today. I think I was already using it from time to time. Maybe a lot of people do, not just those practicing meditation, etc. Or maybe not. I’ve certainly met people who have a very short fuse and seem to ‘lose it’ easily, presumably because their resourcing is limited. When the gas tank is empty, you can’t get very far on fumes.


  2. B0b,
    Thank you for your insightful and clear comment. Yes, access to an infinite field of consciousness is analogous to a parent always being there for encouragement, love, support and unconditional acceptance. Except, as you said, this Field never gets tired or or spaces out, etc. It is always here. That is what we are all looking for in relationships that we never quite find there. It just isn’t possible with another human being, only with the essence of each of us that unites us all.

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