Healthy Romantic Relationships - part 9, The Greatest Arena for Spiritual growth

"A romantic relationship is an adventure in growth, an joint expedition into intimacy.  A relationship cannot "fix" us - is not the goal where happily ever after begins.

A relationship will be work.  It will be challenging and exciting, frustrating and painful.  It will help us to access Joy and get us in touch with grief."

***
"Until we start learning how to be emotionally honest with ourselves, we do not have the capacity to be Truly honest with another.  If we are reacting to old wounds and old tapes without learning how to process through those issues - then we will end up feeling like a victim.   If we cannot see ourselves clearly then we will not be able to see the other person clearly."
***
"The other person is a teacher for us, as we are for them.  Seeing a relationship as a joint adventure in growing and learning to Love is the key to creating healthy intimacy with another human being.   It will not be easy, it will take some effort and energy, but it can be the most wonderful, incredible adventure of your life."
On this page is the ninth in a series of articles by Spiritual teacher/codependency therapist focused on healthy romantic relationship behavior.
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This series of articles was originally published online on the Inner Child/Codependency Recovery page that Robert edits for Suite101.com Directory (link at the bottom of page.)  Some of the articles in this series are expanded and updated versions of columns published previously.

Healthy Romantic Relationships - part 9

The Greatest Arena for Spiritual growth

"The way we change the dance of Codependence to the dance of Recovery, the way we tame the dragon inside, is through integration and balance.  One of the ways we do that is by stopping the dysfunctional behavior of looking for the Prince or Princess who is going to fix us and make us whole.

The Prince and the Princess exist within.  That Prince, the Masculine Energy of Manifestation and Action, and that Princess, the Feminine Energy of Creativity and Nurturing, exist within us in perfect balance and harmony.  They always have - and they always will.

As has been stated, we are not broken - we do not need fixing.  It is our relationship with ourselves which needs to be healed; it was our sense of self that was shattered and fractured and broken into pieces - not our True Self." 

Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney


Romantic relationship is the greatest arena for Spiritual growth available to us - as I have said.  A romantic relationship is an adventure in growth, an joint expedition into intimacy.  A relationship cannot "fix" us - is not the goal where happily ever after begins. 

A relationship will be work.  It will be challenging and exciting, frustrating and painful.  It will help us to access Joy and get us in touch with grief.  It will offer lots of opportunities for helping us learn about our self and our wounds. 

In order to have the opportunity to become healthier in relationship to romance and intimacy, it is vital to start building a solid foundation within ourselves upon which it might be possible to have healthier relationship.  Healthy relationship starts at home, in our relationship with ourselves.  Unless we are in recovery, doing our emotional healing, there is no chance of having a healthy relationship. 

(I want to restate here, that recovery is not a black and white, 1 or 10 process.  The goal is not to have a perfectly healthy relationship - the goal is to become gradually healthier in our relationship interactions. Progress not perfection is what is possible. 

I also want to note that there is nothing bad or shameful about being in a relationship that doesn't meet the criteria I have talked about in this series.  Progress in recovery means learning to Love ourselves by gradually stopping the self judgment and shame.  Each of us needs to decide what works for us on our path.  No one has a right to tell someone else what their path is - or to judge someone else's path.  You may be in a relationship that works for you on some level - financial security for instance - and you are the only one that can decide if the payoff you are getting is worth the price you are paying.  It is your choice and you will be the one who lives with the consequences - so do whatever you need to do to be at peace with yourself.  Living our life according to anyone else's values but our own is dysfunctional.)

If you are striving to be healthy in relationship, it needs to start with learning how to Love self.  If we are not respecting, honoring, and Loving our self - then it doesn't matter how much someone else Loves or respects us - it won't work to make us happy and at peace.

Until we start learning how to be emotionally honest with ourselves, we do not have the capacity to be Truly honest with another.  If we are reacting to old wounds and old tapes without learning how to process through those issues - then we will end up feeling like a victim.   If we cannot see ourselves clearly then we will not be able to see the other person clearly.

It is also important to see romance clearly.  It is vital to have clear and realistic expectations of romance - to have a perspective of romantic relationship that is empowering to both people

We need to put some energy into changing our definitions of what a romantic relationship is supposed to be, so that the dysfunctional perspectives and expectations we learned in childhood will not set us up to react defensively and personalize the other persons behavior.

For each of us, our first commitment needs to be to Self. (Self as in True Self, Spiritual Self.)  We are each responsible for our own life.  If we allow ourselves to give away power over our self esteem, we are being the victim of our codependency - and we will end up feeling like a victim of other people.  Empowerment involves seeing reality as it is and making the best of the choices we have available to us.  Each of us has the power to improve the quality of our own life by being committed to our self/Self.

If we decide to enter into an interdependent partnership, a relationship, with another person who is open to growing - then our commitment to self/Self will serve the relationship.  As long as our commitment to be and become all we can be, is served by a relationship then it is very important to be committed to working through the issues that arise.  To sacrifice your higher good in the name of commitment to a relationship is codependent and an act of dishonesty to, and disrespect for, self/Self.  Commitment to a relationship is important - but it comes second to the commitment to Self.

The other person is a teacher for us, as we are for them.  Seeing a relationship as a joint adventure in growing and learning to Love is the key to creating healthy intimacy with another human being.   It will not be easy, it will take some effort and energy, but it can be the most wonderful, incredible adventure of your life.

I am going to end this article and this series by listing the characteristics of Love vs toxic love that I included in the dysfunctional relationship series.  The ones labeled toxic love could also be labeled codependent.  Focusing on cultivating the ones labeled Love will lead to healthier, happier relationships with your self/Self, with others, and with life itself.  It also will open you to the possibility of having a healthier, more Loving romantic relationship.

1. Love - Development of self first priority.
Toxic love - Obsession with relationship.

2. Love - Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow.
Toxic love - Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen as proof of love (may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)

3. Love - Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships.
Toxic love - Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.

4. Love - Encouragement of each other's expanding; secure in own worth. 
Toxic love - Preoccupation with others behavior; fear of other changing.

5. Love - Appropriate Trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature.) 
Toxic love - Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects "supply."

6. Love - Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together.
Toxic love - Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation.

7. Love - Embracing of each other's individuality. 
Toxic love - Trying to change other to own image.

8. Love - Relationship deals with all aspects of reality. 
Toxic love - Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant.

9. Love - Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent on other's mood. 
Toxic love - Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.

10. Love - Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.)
Toxic love - Fusion (being obsessed with each other's problems and feelings.)

11. Love - Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship. 
 Toxic love - Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification.

12. Love - Ability to enjoy being alone. 
Toxic love - Unable to endure separation; clinging.

13. Love - Cycle of comfort and contentment.
Toxic love - Cycle of pain and despair.

(List compiled with the help of the work of Melody Beattie & Terence Gorski.)

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Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is copyright 1995.  Material on Joy2MeU web site (except where otherwise noted) is copyright 1996 thru 2008 by Robert Burney  PO Box 235401 Encinitas CA 92023.

This is an expanded version of a column that was originally published on March 14, 2000 on the Inner Child/Codependency Recovery page that I edit for Suite101.com Directory.