A New Way of Living Relationships

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By David Lion

I am currently in love with a woman.

Basically from the moment we met, I’ve been aware of a deep connection I find hard to put into words. When I see her or think of her, it feels like my body is saying “yes” to her. Not necessarily in a sexual way, although that is part of it.

I cannot find words for this experience. It feels like a mixture of deep familiarity and curiosity to experience unknown adventures together.

I’ve been honest about my feelings with her from the beginning, which in itself has been an incredible journey; the level of honesty we share is such a treasure! And such a challenge too. Our connection has changed a lot since we’ve known each other. I’ve been quite clear that I feel very open about committing to a romantic relationship with her on whatever terms we would both find enjoyable.

But for now, she does’t share this wish to commit, which has been a major source of self-discovery for me.

Over the last year, I’ve been confronted with very deep levels of pain. An incredible sense of disconnection, profound loneliness and hopelessness. I’ve gotten in touch with an inner part who, for the sake of ending my suffering, saw suicide as the only option. I was far from committing suicide, but the loneliness in me was desperately in pain that to consider suicide was tough to admit to myself.

For these old wounds to come up, this woman was my trigger. Not the cause. Through my exchange with her, I learnt about the many unrealistic expectations I had of potential partners.

  • “Tell me you’ll always be there for me.”
  • “Tell me whatever I’ll do, you’ll always love me.”
  • “Tell me I’m the most important person in your life.”
  • “Tell me I’m the only one you could ever imagine being with.”

Coming Back to Myself

As long as these hopes were functioning on a subconscious level, I was programmed for suffering because no one would ever be able to fulfill these hopes. No one, besides myself.

This is a radical idea I’ve heard so often in spiritual contexts, but to experience that as a truth is profoundly different. To realize that all I’m expecting from another individual I can only get from myself.

These child parts, or wounds from our childhood that come up (I’m referring to the pain and the wishes mentioned above), want to be seen and held. No one else can do that for you. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t be able to do that. All they can do is support you in the process of holding space for these wounds.

You’ll never feel whole if you expect an external circumstance to give you that feeling. Momentarily, yes. But to experience a stable sense of self-love and connection, your relationship to yourself is the only place to look for.

And it’s painful because it means acknowledging how often you’re functioning from a childhood wound that wants the world to be a certain way in order to feel okay and loved. And here comes the tricky part: It’s so easy to judge yourself at this point. “Damn, I’m so un-evolved, constantly looking for approval outside of me!”

If you identify with your self-judgment, you’ll stay stuck in your stories about yourself. Instead, if you learn to witness the judgmental mind and realize you can even love that part, you’ll find no inner experience has to leave for you to feel okay.

This is at the heart of the spiritual path that I am walking: it’s not the experience itself that makes me suffer; it’s my reactions based on expectations of how the world should be that brings upon suffering. I can feel deep grief and be okay with it. I can feel intense pain, but still I can feel whole. The moment I stop resisting—and that can mean I accept that I am resisting—I realize I am so much more than all these inner experiences. I am like the screen on which all these experiences appear.

My New Understanding of Relationships

Once I internalized this insight, namely that no one else can do the self-love thing for me, my perception of relationships changed completely. I no longer look for distraction from how I feel. I no longer expect the other person to make me happy. Instead, I want to show myself as I am in this moment. And I want to see the other person as they are in this moment.

From that point, we can dance. We can see how we can be with each other, from that place of self-connection and authenticity we can find ways to support each other, and find activities we both like OR decide it’d be better to not spend time together.

Such freedom in that! By realizing the other person cannot give me anything I cannot give to myself, I can meet them from an open space. I can be curious. Heck, I can even take risks and show myself vulnerably! Because deep down inside me, I know that if things don’t work out with them, I’ll be there for myself.

Acknowledging that relationships will never fill the void I feel does not mean turning away from them. I see connection as one of the most important aspects for a fulfilled life. Our brains are literally wired to live in community, while in reality most of us live in quite an isolated way.

Back to the excitement of my realization about relationships. I don’t owe anyone my presence. And I don’t want anyone to spend time with me if it doesn’t come from a place of freedom or to engage in a committed relationship from that place. In each moment anew, I choose to be with someone because I want to, not because I have to.

That is a radically different way of how I see relationships being lived mostly around me. It takes courage to live them differently. It has taken me going through a lot of unprocessed pain from relationships with my caretakers to come to this place of clarity. I can’t even tell you how much it is worth the pain as it has changed how I relate with anyone I meet, whether it’s a random person on the street, a family member, a close friend, or an intimate partner.

Outcome Unknown

So, coming back to the woman I love, I understand that I am not in control of how things will turn out. If at some point we will be in a romantic relationship, it will be coming from a clear YES from both sides. And it will be glorious for the time it will last! And if she doesn’t feel that way or if my feelings change, I don’t want it to happen, which will be okay too. I’m still struggling with the situation at times, but I’ve learnt to take care of this struggle myself and not blame her for them.

Can you relate to this way of being in relationship with others?
Is it in alignment with how you live them?
What would you need in order to be fully yourself in intimate relationships?
What’s holding you back?
What could you lose and what could you gain from it?

David Lion lives in Germany and is passionate about writing, dancing, music, men’s work and so much more. His latest project, Evolving Men, aims to empower young men in finding their unique expression of manhood.

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