When we fall in love it’s all sunshine and roses. But down the road, we may find that we are getting sunburn and pricked by love’s thorns on a regular basis. Why the drastic turn around?
As part of a committed couple, your partner cannot help but hold a big shiny mirror in front of you whenever you interact. At the “love and roses” stage, we get to see our strengths and beauty, which feels very affirming. But later, our limiting patterns, protective habits and wounds are reflected back to us more often. This is when passion and desire begin to fade, which makes the journey even thornier. While we may not like what we see, a conscious relationship begins by looking straight into that mirror.
It’s completely understandable that we might miss the passion and ecstasy of new love. Of how we used to be when we first met.
But we can’t go back, and we are not designed to go back either. Whether we like it or not, we are designed to grow, wake up and transform. We are designed to unfold into our authentic selves—our wholeness.
And, here’s the kicker, there is no better place to do that than in the intense microcosm of a committed relationship.
Bringing Our Whole Selves In
Perhaps, like so many of us, the idea of becoming conscious sounds like the plot of a bad, scary movie. Many of us fear that the “real me” is not loveable, so why would I want to be even more aware of my flaws? Prompted by shame, or threats from our partner, we might instead decide to do something to become a better partner and/or lover. We may struggle to become fit, look younger or be more successful to become more desirable, but these strategies typically reinforce rather than relieve us of feeling flawed. They also turn us away from what is, which is like putting a cloth over the mirror.
If you happen to land in one of our mindful sexuality couple’s retreats, you will find that it’s not so much about doing and improving as showing up and allowing. Mindfulness is the practice of being present, aware, and conscious. The transformational potential of mindfulness is in seeing our patterns directly and finding more loving, kind and choice-full ways of relating to ourselves and our partner.
The Call of Conscious Relating
In an intimate long-term relationship, our calling is not to eternally fix ourselves or to find fault, or even to grope blindly with our so-called inner shadows, but rather to become conscious, and to both grow up and wake up to ourselves.
Conscious relationship helps us wake up like nothing else. As John Welwood puts it, “…the challenges of forging an authentic connection with another person inevitably spur us to become more conscious, to examine ourselves more deeply, and to develop greater intention, courage and awareness in the way we live.”
Sadly, unconscious relating is everywhere, turning relationships into entanglements between each partner’s defensive parts. The good news is that when we mindfully explore beneath our protective patterns, we quickly see the raw experiences of hurt and unlove that are waiting to be embraced by our awareness and care.
Erotic Teamwork is More Than a Turn On
In a committed relationship, the erotic realm is the great stage upon which our most fundamental beliefs are acted out. When we look at ourselves, honestly and deeply, we can begin to unravel patterns that contribute to our suffering. These are patterns of feeling “less than” or “too much,” or whatever has convinced us that we are fundamentally unlovable and flawed. Patterns such as these play out in our ways of giving and receiving pleasure. They determine what we can and can’t open up to sexually. They determine how expressive we are, how much we share about our fantasy life, and what meaning we make when our partner is “not in the mood.”
For this reason, the erotic realm is also a playground for deep transformation. By looking at our behaviors and reactions, by observing our inhibited impulses, self-judgments and shame, we have the opportunity to see ourselves with fresh eyes. We can choose to work in tandem to meet all the barriers to our Pure Erotic Potential made visible in a committed relationship.
As part of an Erotic Team, we can choose to allow for our fullest unfolding and personal growth. We can choose to tap into an expanded experience of ourselves, our desire, passion, love and life– becoming more authentically ourselves as part of a couple.
Passion Loves Compassion
In our Passion & Presence retreats couples discover how an undefended and conscious way of loving calls for, and opens the door to, profound compassion. In my experience, it’s the greatest love offering that we can give ourselves and our Erotic Teammate.
Passion is embedded in the word “compassion” and both are inextricably linked to feeling. Passion is a description of intense feeling, while compassion can be defined as “feeling with.”
When we think of consciousness-raising, it is often about having new feelings towards a person or thing. We care about them. Once you feel truly connected to another person, you just don’t want to hurt them. It’s like feeling connected to the earth and then realizing you can’t litter. It hurts your heart. Once you see the toxic effects of “losing it” on your own sense of esteem, you don’t want to hurt yourself that way. It just feels bad to act blindly and unconsciously.
Compassion is probably the main reason we have been so successful as a species. Forget “survival of the fittest”—that’s a misreading of Darwin. Recent research has shown that it is about “survival of the nurtured,” as Louis Cozolino puts it.This explains why we have such finely honed “resonance circuitry.” All kinds of neurons fire as we feel into another person’s pleasure or pain.
As Kristin Neff puts it in her book Self-Compassion, “Mindfulness brings us back to the present moment and provides the type of balanced awareness that forms the foundation of self-compassion. Like a clear, still pool without ripples, mindfulness perfectly mirrors what’s occurring without distortion.”
So when we start to be more conscious of how we are relating, we will inevitably repeat the same old mistakes, but we can choose to be compassionate with ourselves when this happens. In this we are not excusing ourselves, but are finding a high level of consciousness that can meet our own wounded parts with compassion, even when these internal parts rely on more primitive ways of protecting themselves.
How Do I Build Compassion as Part of Conscious Relating?
For more information about experiencing a vital, passionate and compassionate relationship, we have videos, regular webinars and hold couples retreats that can transform the way your relate to both yourself and your partner.