How do I know if a relationship is sacred?
Look across the dinner table, the classroom, the parking lot. Is there a living being there? Your mom, your husband, your teenager? Your neighbor, your step-dad, the police officer ticketing your car?
It’s that simple.
No litmus test. No spiritual hoops to jump through.
Every. Relationship. Is. Sacred.
In a world where all things and all beings are sacred, how could it be otherwise. That said, sometimes relationships just suck.
What to do when it sucks:
1) Pay attention.
Ask yourself: What exactly sucks? what would you like to change? Tell the truth. Do you hate the way s/he breathes? Do you want to change that hairstyle, those glasses, that incredibly annoying habit?
2) Ask the magic question: Why?
Why do you want or need that quality, habit or behavior to change? What’s in it for you? What would be the payoff if your spouse/child/boss/friend/significant other suddenly morphed from the imperfect couch potato/nerd/geek/socially awkward/unkempt person you can’t stop picking on into your ideal mate?
- be able to be more social – attend parties, see foreign films, sip a decaf latte in that fancy bistro on the upper west side?
- feel more loved, cherished, adored
- be more likely to engage in wild, hot, sweaty sex and do that one thing you are holding out on doing; that thing you would be happy to do if only s/he would change
Write it down.
If Joe/Mary would only change in this particular way, I could be happy in this particular way. I could:
- have the house I want
- lose the weight
- have kids
- take more vacations
- get a better job
Be really specific. Write it ALL down.
Now listen carefully – there is alchemy here.
3) Look in the mirror
That’s the person who wants to change. Notice I didn’t say: That’s the person who should change. Cuz there is no should in this formula. There is only you, longing for change – and me, illuminating a simple truth that’s been keeping you from experiencing that change.
This is that simple truth: You are using this relationship/person as the excuse for your unhappiness.
I know that this doesn’t make sense yet. I know that Joe/Mary really can be annoying, lazy, selfish, boring, frivilous… I hear ya.
The thing is: What does that have to do with you? How does Joe/Mary’s hairstyle have anything to do with your enlightenment, your joy, your happiness?
It doesn’t. Unless you tell yourself that it does. Which is a lie.
A lie that causes you to withhold the fullness of your beautiful, shiny self in the hope that somehow, Joe or Mary (or your boss or your estranged uncle/sister/parent) will somehow pull it out of you.
A lie that makes you believe (or hope) that a day will come when they will suddenly develop magical x-ray vision that can penetrate all of the layers of pretension that you wear – the costume that you use to cloak your beauty, your talent, your wisdom.
A lie that makes you hold them accountable for your happiness. That makes you wait until their devotion and undying love for you – in spite of your meanness and pettiness – will draw you forth into your own life.
- As if they could ever love you enough to fill your emptiness.
- As if you would let them.
- As if that were their job.
There’s a story here (and by ‘story’ I mean, again, a lie – or better yet, a fantasy) that by some miracle, your lack of enthusiasm, your criticism and/or silent suffering will be the secret key that unlocks the key of their potential.
A key that will suddenly make your partner (mother or teenager) get their act together so that you can FINALLY get yours into gear.
Oh, if only they would!
The fantasy that some day, your partner will morph into the perfect soul mate (or your child will transform into a straight A student or your boss will suddenly recognize your brilliance) and pull you like a sword from your stone of fear to the surface of your own life.
FINALLY, you believe, you’ll be free!
I know you think you want this. But you don’t.
This is a story built of projection, powerlessness, passivity and fear. A story in which someone else has to free you, lift you, release you, change for you before you can be happy. This is the story of the damsel in distress, Rapunzel in her castle, aimlessly plaiting her hair.
You are better than that. And this is not a fairy tale.
The change that you long for has nothing to do with the being across the table; nothing to do with what they say or do or how they spend their paycheck. It’s yours.
With that in mind, I will now share the secret all alchemists know.
That list you made earlier: therein lies your freedom.
It’s a blueprint to transformation that outlines (in detail, if you’ve done the exercise) every element of your soul’s longing: the things you wish you could do, the places you wish you could see, the you that you wish you could be… if only the people and circumstances of your life would change.
They can. But only you can change the way that you think about them.
And here is the part where we turn your lead into gold…
By understanding the sacred mirror of relationship, you see, right before your eyes, the lie you’ve been telling all your life: Other people are responsible for making me happy.
You learn that they’re not – and that you are. You come face to face with ‘the other’ and you love them, just as they are: each a sacred, blessed child of the Universe who is just like you, imperfect and longing to be recognized, supported and loved.
I have lived this story.
In fact, writing this post was like writing a letter to my old self. I married my husband because he was the most beautiful human being I had ever seen and I thought, God help me, that by marrying him, I would become beautiful, too.
When we met it was like oceans merging. When we kissed for the first time, in the kitchen of my parent’s house, both 18 and new at love, we didn’t know what had hit us. But how it hit us. That kiss knocked us both to our knees.
It was sacred.
For the next thirty-five years we tried to destroy each other.
And then, this simple truth saved our marriage. It is not his job to complete me, to make me better, different, beautiful, whole. That’s my job – and it’s not my job to do that for him.
It rearranged the molecules of every relationship I had: the ones with my kids and my sisters and my boss and my parents. It made me crystal clear about what I wanted and didn’t want for my life – and whose job it was to create it: Mine.
It may surprise you to learn that when I finally took hold of my own life, I didn’t leave my husband in a cloud of “So long sucker!” I didn’t say, resentfully, “Well, since he is NEVER going to make me happy, SIGH, I guess I will have to do it myself.”
I didn’t have to. I didn’t want to. Now, no matter what he did or didn’t do – for himself or for me – I could still be happy.
I loved him without conditions (unconditionally) just as he is: Imperfect, beautiful – and sacred – just like me.