The spiritual path can often take us down a rabbit hole of infinite depths, resulting in us questioning everything that we once believed to be true of life. And one of the most important questions often has to do with how to navigate and experience love and relationships within a newly awakened connection to consciousness.
It is not uncommon for a period of isolation to ensue, where the seemingly frivolous and ego-driven notions of relationships are looked upon with frustration. The awareness that a relationship isn’t the magic potion that can fulfil the inner longings of your true being can make dating seem pointless. It can also make a conscious relationship that aligns with who you truly are seem somewhat elusive.
While many spiritual seekers have sought transcendence from the need to be in a traditional romantic relationship, this path is not for everyone. Most of us still have a considerable desire to connect in a meaningful way with a romantic partner, while concurrently understanding the limits and transient nature of relationship to another. This two-fold desire can make relationships tricky to find and sustain. As a sense of inner connection strengthens, the type of relationship that you require becomes increasingly different and seemingly rare in the current landscape of dating.
Here, we reveal some insights to help support the conscious and genuine navigation of love and relationships.
1. It’s okay to be alone.
In our current society, it is becoming increasingly simple to use others to escape from one’s self. A quick swipe right on a dating app can result in a comforting relationship of convenience or lust, with little thought of the true nature and needs of each partner. Dating can make people feel like commodities, designed to fill the voids or plug the wounds that are innate in us all. Most people have been in a situation where they have used a relationship or partner to fulfil a sense of self that they don’t feel they can fulfil themselves (regardless of whether they are conscious of this or not).
This means that while often what we feel is love, can often be the addiction to feeling wanted, needed or attractive in another’s eyes. These can be deep-rooted patterns that appear in relationship after relationship, making it tricky to break the cycle of inadvertently using another to gain a sense of security and worth.
Spending time alone, however, can give you time to truly nurture the inner self to a degree where it isn’t necessary to use some-one else to make you feel fulfilled. Don Miquel Ruiz, author of Mastery of Love, uses the ‘Magic Kitchen’analogy of a person near-starving being approached by some-one who is willing to give them food. However, the caveat is that in accepting the food, they must then be willing to do anything that the provider of the food asks, essentially relinquishing control of their nourishment and happiness to this provider of the food. Ruiz outlines the fact that when we are desperate for nourishment from an external source, we will cling to anything, no matter how unhealthy. On the other hand, if we are already full, we have the ability to invite love in with no need to use the other to fulfil our unmet needs.
Only you know how much time you may need to be alone and it will look different for everyone. An individual’s path can’t be defined by anyone else. Instead, it’s important to listen to the wisdom of the heart to help ebb and flow between relationship and aloneness at the right times. While many relationships can be important experiences for growth, often it’s just as important to cultivate the internal and learn to understand and appreciate your relationship to yourself.
As much as we may feel pushed to explain ourselves to others, it’s never necessary to let others’ expectations define the trajectory of your relationship status. Do what feels right for you in the moment, with conscious understanding and care and compassion for yourself.
2. Self-worth is paramount
If self-worth isn’t integrated fully, any relationship will ultimately continue to present challenging situations. This may include being in a relationship that is unfulfilling, continually choosing partners who treat us badly or finding ways to sabotage promising relationships.
Each individual is designed to recognise and acknowledge their inherent worth. Experiences are constantly happening that are designed to help us probe further into our true nature and intrinsic value. Essentially, experiences are always serving as markers to help bring us closer to our inherent wholeness and worth.
Self-worth should not be confused with a superficial self-confidence or superiority, which is based on judging external appearances, personality traits and achievements and measuring the self as comparatively higher in relation to others. This type of basis for self-worth will always deteriorate, as it is ultimately transient and unsustainable. True self-worth is generated from deeply appreciating yourself as a unique and non-comparable expression of life within the universe.
In cultivating self-worth, it is necessary to de-condition yourself from the many things that society teaches us. From a young age, we are often taught to repress our true selves in order to gain the approval of those we love and trust. There is a constant barrage of stimuli trying to convince humans that we should be more, do more, look better, be healthier, earn more- the list is endless. Over time, we subconsciously develop a void of lack that we are taught can only be filled by the validation of others. And gaining a romantic relationship is often perceived as the pinnacle of this validation.
Taking the opportunity to discover yourself deeply is key to developing a stable sense of worth. Finding the time to self-inquire and meditate, can allow subconscious patterns to arise and help the wounds around self-worth to heal gracefully. Through this process of self-discovery and contemplation, there will often come a point where we consider the paradox of the self; the fact that on the one hand the individuated self is actually an illusion, while on the other, this self is entirely necessary if we are to appreciate our existence as a human in its totality.
The self is how we are able to experience the physical world. So ensuring that the self is nourished as a unique and intrinsically worthy expression of life, will allow us to engage wholly in relationships and the broader world in the way that we were innately designed to.
3. Stay true to your authentic self
Compromise in a relationship is always necessary, if both partners are to mutually support each other’s growth and needs However, betraying your true self to gain the approval of another is something entirely different. Doing this can diminish not only the connection with the other, but also deeply compromises the connection to the self.
It is so easy to believe that we have to hide parts of ourselves in order to be truly loved. As we grow up, we unconsciously develop measures of who we should be in order to gain recognition and approval from others. As a result, we often don’t feel comfortable truly expressing ourselves to others. While it is not necessary to reveal every single part of ourselves to everyone we know, romantic relationships can serve as a safe place for us to reveal the inner depths of ourselves. A beautiful part of relationships is that they can often provide the context to help us appreciate our inner worth and unique value.
However, if we are presenting an inauthentic expression of ourselves, then it is very difficult to feel safe and truly loved in a relationship. Inauthenticity in dating or a relationship manifests in jealousy, insecurity and controlling behaviour. Ultimately, at a core level, the individual seeking approval feels that they need to present a moderated version of themselves to the other in order to be loved. Of course, this then becomes unsustainable as the individual feels like the love is based on this false version rather than their true self.
Entering a relationship with another isn’t about being more or less worthy than anyone. It’s about compatibility and true connection, which can only be established if both people are willing to put forward their true selves. However, in this modern age it can seem so easy for people to find something seemingly better or more shiny if we don’t constantly prove to them that we are worthy. Problematically, the more we try to prove our worth, the more we remove ourselves from embracing our authentic selves and being loved for who we are.
Remaining authentic is paramount to our connection with others. Being rejected can feel dreadful; but if we are rejected for being our true selves then this serves us far more than being accepted and loved for a false self that we present. Remaining authentic means being aware of when you’re attempting to mould your being in order to gain approval, and instead taking the time to reconnect with your true self. This may be through a meditation practice or through engaging in a ritual or activity that serves to remind you of your unique way of being in the world.
The more you allow your true essence to radiate, the easier it is for the right partner to appear in your life.
4. Growth is essential to life
It can be easy to wake up one morning and realise that you’re in a relationship rut. Often though, the case of this rut isn’t the relationship, but rather, the fact that one or both of the individuals within the partnership have forgotten about their connection with themselves.
Generally, in between relationships, we are more focused on our relationship to self. We become responsible for our own fulfilment, and as such, make the time to nurture the things in our lives that generate energy, creativity and love in us. Sometimes, we focus on dating, which also enlivens and excites us due to the constant new romantic situations that present themselves. However, once in a relationship, it can be easy to forget the importance of nourishing our relationship with self, alongside our relationship with our partner.
In our culture, being in a relationship is often seen as ‘settling down’. This can translate to; stop living an exciting, connected and expansive life and instead revel in the illusionary security of comfort and safety that can be found in the other. Often two people become so intertwined in the narrative of settled couple, that they begin to neglect the fact that they are in fact two separate individuals who (like any living organism) require continual growth in order to thrive.
To generate true intimacy and longevity in a relationship, each individual must take responsibility for their own growth. This can feel contrary to our beliefs, as we often expect external sources to save or rescue us from ourselves. Taking responsibility for our own growth is one of the most empowering acts an individual can participate in, and will only serve to make any external relationship that much more fulfilling.
Settling down doesn’t mean stagnating as a person and defining oneself only as a couple. Instead, a relationship allows both individuals to expand within the intimacy of a trusting connection with each other.
5. You’re allowed to want a relationship
Often we hide behind masks of independence, feeling that needing or wanting a relationship makes us somehow weaker. But truthfully, the need for connection and relationship is part of our human make-up. Even those who truly choose not to engage in romantic relationships, have the desire for some sort of affinity with something beyond themselves. This may be spirituality, God, charity, children, family, work or a connection to a group, hobby or external interest.
The desire for a relationship is the natural unfurling of our innate desire for a sacred union with the self. It’s just that we have been conditioned to understand that we can only find this union with another. At the heart of this union, regardless of how it manifests itself, lies a desire to be accepted. Feeling accepted generates a feeling of belonging and makes us feel safe within the world and ourselves. Finding love from another gives us the sense that we are whole again- that it is okay to be exactly as we are. But even if we are in a relationship, we find that this search for inner wholeness still continues. This is because the human existence is an ongoing pilgrimage towards wholeness; a journey that is perfect at every point, yet never complete.
It is entirely possible for the desire for relationship to exist alongside a deep understanding that true wholeness is generated from within and is an ongoing process. The tenuous relationship we have with others is what makes it all the more beautiful, as we can never have complete assurance that the other person will always be there. Regardless of best intentions, people change, people grow apart and people die.
The deep desire for a relationship serves as a signpost of feeling to help guide the self towards deeper integration. Essentially, any relationship that we create beyond ourselves is designed to help us connect more deeply with our true natures.
In understanding this, we can balance the delicate dance between the desire for relationship and the longing for the true self, recognising that they can co-exist in integrated harmony with each other.