The Secret of a Transformative Relationship
I have been on a quest to explore the art of relating.
Like many, when it comes to intimate relationships I have known heaven on earth, but also I have tasted hell on earth. That sweet bliss of being in love and sharing experiences with your beloved one. That painful place when you feel separation or disagreement, and all of that love seems to have vanished from sight! Somehow it is even worse to feel separate from someone whom you once could not stop gazing into the eyes of.
I find it useful to consider relationships as a process rather than a fixed experience. It is not so much a noun, but a verb…not a relationship, but more like relating. Thus they have their highs and their lows, their peaks and their challenges.
The question is, what helps us to navigate the challenges?
Is it possible to return a clunky situation back into a loving one? Should we just expect arguments and disagreements, or is there another way to do things?
And here is what I have learned.
My classroom has mostly been Tantra workshops, as well as my real-life relationships of course! In workshops I have learned the arts of processing communicating, moving emotions…as well as ways to connect deeper, and thus resolve that uncomfortable feelings of separation.
And my conclusion is that one factor appears to be much more crucial to a healthy relationship than any other: The art of expressing one’s own vulnerability.
This skill is the big one…the ultimate heart opener, the healer, the connector. It is the bridge from that place of separation, judgment and projections back into connection, love and compassion.
You see, the walls that we build in relating are actually defences that we bring up to hide our vulnerable places. At moments when a vulnerable place becomes exposed, such as the deep fear of being abandoned…before we even know it we are acting out some sort of defence pattern, usually projecting onto our partner and concluding that our pain is all their fault somehow.
But when we can take a deep look inside, and find the parts that are fearful; when we can really own those places without needing to blame someone else for them; when we can have the courage to open our hearts and express our vulnerability…this is when there is a possibility to return to love.
A big one for me is feeling challenged when my partner is sharing a lot of attention and sexual energy with someone else in front of me. I get triggered. The defense is jealousy: possibly judging him for being too flirtatious, or insensitive. But when I have breathed deeply and dived in under that defence layer, what I find is an immense vulnerability: the fear of being rejected.
Once I access that fear, I can stop being so busy judging him; I can let go of my anger towards him. Instead, I sit with that deep ache at the base of my belly that is knotted into pieces at the possibility of being rejected. I breathe with it, give it space to be.
And actually to fear rejection is just a deeply human part of me. Who wants to be rejected?
After some time of sitting with the fear, I can then go to my beloved and look him in the eyes. I can take that essential deep breath in and express to him my vulnerability: “Dear one, I am so afraid of being rejected. And I notice this is causing a deep ache in my belly. I also notice that I contract inside when I see you with that sexy woman from yoga class. I don’t need you to change, but would you be willing to witness my fear?”.
And it’s all about being with the raw deep part inside that I am afraid to show.
Being with it and showing it.
We can sit and I let him look into my eyes. I breathe. I feel myself. He feels me. We connect. Love is there, and love begins to heal that deep vulnerable part. Love heals the fear.
The moment before expressing vulnerability is often the most terrifying…there is this sense of holding on really tight. And then suddenly…I express it, and the pressure valve is released. Maybe some tears. But a flood of relief. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I don’t have to carry a mask over that fear.
And then we begin to see that for a relationship to be transformative, it’s not about the outside event. It is about the inner transformation. Any even can occur in relating, but how do we meet it and process it when it arises? Choosing to find and express our vulnerability in every challenging situation is a powerful way to let every experience open us rather than shut us down.
And the magic thing is…once one person reveals a deeper layer, the other one is much more likely to feel safe to open up too. Trust is built and then both people feel naturally safer to open up more. This is the best, possibly only, way to deepen intimacy in relating.
Relationships can be a nightmare of confusion and pain, projections and anger. But they can also be a healing path. They can be a vehicle of spiritual growth. They can give us the chance to heal all the parts that have been unloved somewhere along the way in our life. They can be a chance to support that in another person, in someone that we love.
So now this is the most important factor that I look for in those I relate with (whether intimate or friendships):
How are you with vulnerability? Can you own it? Can you express it? Can you hold space for it when it is expressed by another?
If you can, then let’s dance! There are no limits to where this relating can take us…