Life, we use this word all the time. But what does it mean? What is life made of? The answer is relationships. Your life is only ever as happy as your relationships. This includes your relationship with yourself. And relationships are the heart of our expansion in this life. Expansion was the purpose for this life. Expansion is all about contrast. Wanted and unwanted. Light and dark. So, we find that relationships are the source of our greatest joy and the source of our greatest pain.
In relationships you are going to run into problems. You are going to run into aspects that are unwanted. You will feel the pain of it. By virtue of having those experiences, you are going to get very clear about what you would prefer instead. You are going to find out what you really want and need.
Pain in life is the universe speaking through you. It is the universe saying that whatever you are focused on or doing or whatever is happening is a contraction. Contraction is the opposite of expansion. Once we know that the pain is signaling us to go towards expansion, towards what we would prefer instead, we are called to do that. If we do not, that pain turns into suffering. Suffering is a state of perpetual contraction. It is what happens when we have felt the pain telling us what we would prefer and still we continue to focus on and think things and say things and do things that feed the pain (and thus contraction) instead of the expansion.
Where are we going wrong with relationships when they are causing us pain? We are getting stuck in the trap of suffering. We feel the pain within the relationship. We are aware that the relationship is contracted and in need of expansion in some direction. We need change. Yet we continue to feed the pain and the contraction with thoughts that tell us that change is impossible. We continue to tell the other person that we are in a relationship with, what they are doing wrong.
Many of us grow up in situations where the people in our lives don’t put any effort or energy into change so that we can feel good and expand and line up with our wants and needs. We were taught that improvement was not an option. It’s the mother who says, we have no money for a bike so you cannot have one instead of brainstorming ways to get a bike. It’s the dad who takes his son to the psych ward to get on medication for his depression rather than tries to find a way that their relationship can feel better. Take a look at your life. Chances are as a child, you continued to line up with the message and subsequent belief “there’s nothing I can do or will do to make it better”, “this is just the way it is” “you’re stuck”. This belief plays out in relationships. The minute they become painful in any way, we spiral into an emotional place of doom because we feel like this is how it’s going to be. When we feel powerless to create a change we are desperate for, we begin to criticize. We tell the other person everything they are doing wrong. We are screaming for them to change, but they don’t know what that change looks or feels like so they immediately go into defense. They keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We end up facing the choice to exit the relationship or to commit to unhappiness. It is at this moment that we have to stop ourselves dead in our tracks. We need to remember the sacred directive of relationships.
The sacred directive of relationships is to use the pain in the relationship and your awareness of what is going wrong to decide clearly what you would prefer. Use the contrast to decide what you need and want. Make the changes you want to see as practical as possible. And communicate that very clearly to yourself and to the other person. This is actively and intentionally creating your life. This is the opposite of powerlessness.
By doing this, you invite the other person into the vibrational frequency of the expansion instead of the contraction. You invite them into the ‘improvement’ and tell them how to get there. Instead of showering them with what they are doing wrong, clearly lay out what doing it right would look like to you. If you are meant to have that relationship in your life, the other person will open to you instead of close to you. They will move into the expansion and shift. If they do not, that person’s place in your life needs to change and potentially that means ending the relationship.
Here’s an example. Let’s say a woman falls in love with a man. Soon after the honeymoon phase ends, she realizes that he is a workaholic. The relationship becomes more and more painful because of all the times that she has to realize that she is not his priority. Her soul is telling her through that pain that she wants and needs something different. Let’s say that what she wants and needs is for the man she has committed to, to put the relationship and the sacred space of the partnership first in his life. He does not have to choose between his work and the woman he loves. He can have both. But obviously having both must look differently than it does in order to meet her need. At this point, the woman will probably spiral into torment because she is believing her thoughts that tell her that she is unloved and unvalued. She will complain to friends. She will criticize him and tell him everything he is doing wrong. He shuts down, which makes matters worse because he disconnects from her more when she does this. And she is now suffering. The relationship is headed towards an end. They are suffering because neither person has used the sacred directive. They have not used the pain to conceptualize of and create the improvement. They are telling the story; this is just how it has to be.
If this woman were to use the sacred directive, she would sit down and decide exactly what this pain is telling her that she wants and needs. She would then lay that out for him. For example, when she realizes that what she wants and needs is for the man she has committed to, to put the relationship and the sacred space of the partnership first in his life… She then tells him this and tells him how to do it. She may say, “I need you to commit to a solid time at night when you put your computer away and the work day ends and instead your energy goes towards our life here, together.” And “If our relationship experiences a rupture, I need you to make repair your number one priority and cancel your other plans”. And “I need you to stay connected to me instead of disconnect and so I would like to go to counseling together to figure out how to stay connected.”
It is up to the man in this scenario to say yes or no. If he says no, he is saying “I cannot meet this need”. That’s a problem because you cannot un want what you want or un need what you need. If the relationship you are in cannot meet your needs and if you cannot think of any creative ways to meet those needs and stay together, the relationship will inevitably end.
Sometimes, this is how we find out that we are truly incompatible. That our needs diametrically oppose each other’s needs. But most of the time, what we find is the opposite. What we find is that our needs are in alignment with their needs. Using the above example, often a workaholic is obsessively working so that their success can get them love and thus get them the connection they want. So, by prioritizing their relationship over their work, they actually do get what they wanted all along. We often meet a partner or friend whose needs are a perfect match to our own expansion. So making the changes that need to be made are in both of our best interests.
In a relationship, once we know the wants and needs, it is up to us to brainstorm how to meet those wants and needs in ways that work for us both. We need to be as creative as we can be. And if we cannot, we need to be honest and part ways to create space for people whose needs and wants are a match to our own. Relationships force us to be adaptable. But one thing must be said for partnerships, if the health of the partnership isn’t the first priority, you are in a lifestyle arrangement, not a partnership. Which is fine provided that the other person also wants and needs a lifestyle arrangement. So be super honest what your true priorities are.
So the next time you get into pain in a relationship, remember the sacred directive. Instead of succumbing to the belief that no improvement is possible by spiraling into a bottomless pit of what is going wrong, use your pain to decide what you would prefer. Consciously design your relationship and life. And give your partner the opportunity to step into that expanded place.