Relationships – The Gift of Pain
Difficult relationships in adulthood usually mirror the core wounding of our childhood. Though it is natural to only see the flaws of the other person, the real work is to ask,
“Why did I choose this person?” and “What do I have to learn from this relationship?”
We only have power to change ourselves and often it is the dysfunction of those we choose to invite into our lives that points to the places that we need to be healed. There is an old Buddist idea: as within, so without. Our inner reality is reflected in our outer circumstances. That is the nature of the universe, even in relationship. Nothing comes to us by accident, though much of it comes to us unconsciously. We think we’re driving the bus, rolling along, looking good. We find this great person and then… quickly or slowly, all of our deepest stuff gets triggered.
It can be very challenging to see “our part” in a painful relationship, especially when we are feeling abused, neglected or victimized by a person or system that is particularly negative. The negativity that we experience and the terrible pain it can cause are very real. Often we need to take action to stop the abuse or neglect, like leaving the relationship, quitting the job or taking steps to fill our own needs. However, if we believe that the cause of our problem lies only in the other person, then we are missing the valuable gift each relationship offers, no matter how challenging. Often, the gift of a difficult lover or nasty boss is insight into our own deepest wounds. What we can’t feel, we generally don’t heal, and relationship, especially painful relationships, are often our greatest teachers. The pain wakes us up and if we pay attention, we will notice that the common denominator in all of our relationships is US. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are rarely victims. We choose the people and circumstances of our adult lives. Taking responsibility for these choices without judgment or self condemnation is the first step. The second step is to look deeply at our part in the dynamic that has formed in the relationship and see what needs to change or grow in us. The other person may or may not choose to change, but a relationship is like a puzzle. The pieces fit together perfectly, even if painfully. If we want real change, we can change. People are malleable, changeable. If we change the share of our personal puzzle piece, the partner will have to change or fall away because the pieces no longer fit.
This is the call of intimate relationship; to move toward our own highest good and thus call our partner to grow to their own highest good as well. This the the path of using pain as a blessing, of seeing discord as a red flag for needed change, rather than just a sign that this is the “wrong person.”
Here’s the path to insight:
Clarify the patterns in the relationship. What are patterns of relating, of power, sex, money. How do you handle disagreements? Do you fight? Avoid? Threaten to leave? See if there is anything familiar about these patterns in your family of origin. What is your part in these patterns? Seek to heal these patterns within yourself. This does not mean that one should stay in a damaging or abusive situation, but by only looking at the other person, we miss the gift of healing and insight available in all experiences. Nothing happens by coincidence. Water really does seek it’s own level. We need to become the kind of person we want to be involved with if we want to attract a worthy partner. Ask not, ” What can this relationship do for me?” Ask, “What can I do for this relationship?” and you will be pointed in the right direction.
Seek help in compassionate community, Alanon, Co-dependents Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, all offer sustainable help for relationship disorders for FREE. Good therapy is a wonderful tool, too. I am available in person in San Francisco, CA or by phone, Facetime and Skype for distance sessions.
Relationships – The Gift of Pain