“The purpose of relationships is to help awaken you to the inherent balance existing within and around you, and to assist you in acknowledging your own magnificence and wholeness.” John F. Demartini, The Heart of Love: How to Go Beyond Fantasy to Find True Relationship Fulfilment.
Some of us were introduced to love through Cinderella, Mills & Boon, and religious indoctrinations or by observing our parents. Depending on how you learnt to receive love, we start early in life to seek that which we believe to be true. We start early to find people who will complete us. Another being that will love us into loving ourselves and fulfil all known and unknown desires. We get in and out of relationships in search of “The One” in a world of over 7 billion people. It is no mean feat to finally find that one, only to be disappointed by the intense dualities the relationship brings.
The first relationship quarrel is usually perceived as the end. The pain is too much to bear. We struggle to make sense of a love gone cold. It is supposed to be all rose flowers and sunshine, isn’t it? Still, like all marriages or civil partnerships, the honeymoon ends and all that is left are two people trying to figure out “why” they committed to such an unknown journey. The chemical reactions at the beginning does not allow for in-depth analysis. The critical thinking sometimes start after the huge cake, pictures, destination wedding, social media obsession with the event, as we commit to stay together with a relatively unknown human till death.
That endless declaration of love becomes issues with in-laws, old habits, career, raising children, waiting to have children, sickness, terminal illness, financial woes, insecurity, fear and all those emotions that drive us to the brink. Then we start to ask the “why” with a little more intensity.
“Why on God’s earth, did we choose this human?”
I think the question can be reframed as “why is the universe presenting me with this mirror?”
RELATIONSHIPS AS MIRRORS
According to Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences Brett Steenbarger, an important theme in developmental psychology is that relationships act as mirrors. An infant is not born with a sense of self. That sense is acquired over the course of many interactions with others, especially caregivers. The child that is loved and nurtured internalizes those experiences and feels worthy of love. The child that is neglected or abused internalizes those negative experiences and later might find it difficult to accept love from others. Many of a parent’s interactions with a young child are of the variety, “You’re such a good girl!” and “Look how big you are!” Those mirroring statements form an important support for the developing sense of self when the brain is most plastic.
As we grow, our relationships become mirrors through which we navigate our internal world. Our choice of partners reflects back to us who we are. This realisation is one of the most profound life lessons I have had the priviledge of learning. It freed me from the victim mentality, where I spend useful energy feeling hurt in a relationship that I chose to have.
Once we fully internalise how relationships can serve as powerful mirrors, we move from victimhood to where we ought to be which is learning from our unique experiences of life. A good relationship is not what Cinderella or some character in Mills & Boon had, rather, your own unique creation. There is no relationship standard other than your own. Seeing that the Universal Intelligence created so many unique finger prints and what reflects back to us in the mirror is so different, it stands to reason that we will have experiences that are not standardised yet deeply meaningful.
COULD THIS BE LOVE?
Personally, I think it is hard to tell at the start of a relationship if you’re truly love a person, even though many of us lie about it on our wedding day or at least think we do. We are in love until the challenges come. No I am not talking about sickness or job loss. I am more focused on the difficult challenges that lead to “self evolution.” How many of us are willing to learn and unlearn?
That time he wanted you to improve your personal hygiene or you needed him to become more financially responsible. How did the two of you handle this feedback? Did you take it on with lots of love and empathy, choosing to review what your mirror is reflecting back to you? Or did you choose to go the emotional blackmail route, holding on to behaviours that no longer serve you?
This love we profess, how do we nurture it? Seeing that plants grow when watered and children with nurturing parents grow up to become more self fulfilling adults. Or we live our love to the cosmos to fix for us until we decide that divorce or separation is the best option. Whilst some relationships end once the learning cycle is completed, it is important to be aware from the beginning of our relationships that lying beside us at night is a beauty mirror reflecting ourselves back to us. When these kind of relationships end, you will rarely find two humans who use their kids as pawns against each other. Or people bent on maligning the other, because they know that they cannot successful destroy their ex partners without damaging themselves.
The beauty in our learning experiences is that we will be provided with many more opportunities to grow. If we are tireless it might be 30 relationships down the line, until we finally relax into the lessons in love. Whenever we are ready to grow, the universe is here to support us.
So what is love?
This definition is up to you. Love is what you think it is. Most people who are in truly loving relationships know and from my interactions with some of these people, I find that they are mostly those who have created their own rules. They are more committed to being in love than the idea of love. Honouring their chosen mirrors, by going inwards and healing each other, so that they can show up in those relationships as they are. These are the individuals that look back and see how much growth their relationships afforded them and her eternally grateful for the gifts of their learning partners some call spouse.
In closing, I would share one of my favourite quotes on love and life, by one of my favourite authors.
“I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
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