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?

Boom. Sacred.

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?

Would you:

  • 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.

IMG_3671It 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.

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Showing 19 comments
  • tracey

    Speechless over the brilliance spilling onto this page, but not surprised. 🙂 Off to make a list.

    And, how cute is Matthew? He must really love you to comment on one of your blog posts. 😉

  • linda

    profound wisdom on a day that had me making a mental list of things I needed others to do. Sometimes, the universe speaks to us through blogs, through friends, through angels. Thanks Amy.

  • Lisa

    You must really love Matthew since you wrote a beautiful blog about him.

    35 years is an amazing accomplishment. Congrats to both of you!

    Very thought provoking post (as usual).

    Thanks for pushing me out of my comfort zone. xxoo

    @ pbajmom

  • sara R.

    Gorgeous! I’ve been struggling with this for, well, my whole life, and am just starting the process of unlearning the untruth that “Other people are responsible for making me happy.” thank you for this!

  • Carol

    wonderful post! thankyou!!!

  • Edie Weinstein

    Such profound wisdom. We are indeed each responsible for our happiness and unhappiness with the other Humanly Divine and Divinely Human Beings that we call into our lives. I tell couples I work with that relationship is not 50/5o; it is is 100/100 with each one bringing in their issues, history, baggage, vulnerabilty (I prefer that word to ‘weaknesses) and strengths. The line from the movie Jerry Maguire that touches on the subject matter you addressed, “You complete me.”, makes me want to gag, since we are not incomplete without a Beloved other. When we experience our own wholeness, then we attract others who mirror that for us. <3

    • Amy

      Yes. “I complete me and together we create – and continue to craft – a third, complete being, our relationship.” That would be more accurate.

  • Suzie

    You hit the nail on the head…. “No one is responsible for my happiness” I’m in control of that! I loved how you pointed out about – the changes I want in the person who is annoying me….the scary part… WHAT changes do they want me to make!
    I have made many changes in my life to move to the next level of happiness and fulfillment but you have clarified what I need to be “doing” instead of “thinking”
    Thank you, loved your post.

  • Dawn Waldron

    A post to print out, blow up to life size and paper the walls of your home with. It is so difficult to know the truth and even harder to speak it when it touches things as deep as this. I’ve also struggled for 20 years to reach this conclusion, but when you do, your life changes immeasurably and becomes so much lighter to carry. You’ve expressed it with such beauty and, even better, created a pathway to finding the gift contained in the post. I’ve always loved your blog but today it has made my day.

  • Julie Daley

    Dear Amy,
    This is really beautiful. I can just see the two of you in your parents’ kitchen…and 35 years later, in your kitchen. Simple moments that are all sacred.

    • Amy

      Ever since I read your comment, I’ve been searching for a photo, this shot of Matthew and me standing in the kitchen, so young – all of 19 or 20 years old – so open-eyed, so in love. If I can find it, I’ll add it to the post. 🙂

  • Matthew Oscar

    I have a recent joke with Amy when she tells me she loves me.
    Since she is out in the blogosphere and the “Twitter superconscious.”
    Occasionally I am swept away admiring my wife – and when she happens to be stunned by a shooting star that she wasn’t expecting in our night sky together or the beauty of the hurricanes caused by the weather between us, she says, “I love you.”
    I reply, “If you really loved me you’d blog about me.”
    I imagine a continuous blog stream where married people would post uplifting comments about how blessed they feel by being with the other.
    It is personal but it could charge up the spouse-to-spouse universe.

    • Amy

      Heart. <3

  • Andrea Maurer

    Okay, so maybe we’re sharing a brain. I just wrote a blog post (TODAY) about this very same subject. Well, I didn’t say it like you did (all sophisticated and poetic and stuff) but I did have an epiphany or two this week along the same lines.

    Here’s what I said about the hubs…
    “I need to learn to take care of myself. Mr. Maurer’s purpose on this planet is not to provide me with my every need at the drop of a hat. Nor is it his job to act as my on-demand CFO/gardener/errand boy/handyman/babysitter/tech support/etc. He’s my partner. That shouldn’t have any strings or responsibilities attached. I’ll have to rescue myself.”

    Interestingly isn’t it that when I make people jump through my hoops as a condition of being in my life, they end up feeling more like performing circus animals than they do sacred, irreplaceable, integral pieces of my life.

    Thanks for helping me silence the circus music! XO

    • Amy

      Wow, great minds really DO think alike. Running to read your post (love the part you posted here) – and thank you so much for reading mine. 🙂

  • Kat Jaibur

    This is 100% right on. Years ago, I was told that whenever I point the finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at me. Of course, I argued, “But you don’t understand !” Then went on to rant about the other person’s crimes against humanity (meaning ME). But today, I know that those rants only hold what I want away from me. (Oh, i still do them, but not for as long.) When I turn my attention to myself, my spirit and God and ask what can I do or how can I grow….ah, the miracles start unfolding.

    • Amy

      Unfolding miracles are a very nice outcome. 🙂

  • Stacey

    Love, love, love this post.

    A guideline that I feel is indispensible in any relationship, I learned from one of my (other) favorite writers, Eckhart Tolle. In his fabulous and (for me) life-changing book, A New Earth, he writes, “Whatever you think people are withholding from you – praise, appreciation, assistance, loving care, and so on – give it to them.”

    I’ve found that this guideline really goes for everything with everyone at every time. It’s also one that requires a lot of practice on my part to achieve anything approximating proficiency. 🙂

    Conflict with my husband often revolves around the feeling that we don’t appreciate each other enough. As parents of a young, highly spirited child, it usually takes the form of arguing for more “me” time because “if you appreciated my contribution, you’d understand my need for more time alone and find a way to meet it.”

    I argued for it because I cared for needy patients all day. He argued for it because he cared for a needy toddler all day. We used to act resentful of the time the other got “off.”

    Finally we stopped looking at what was being “withheld” and simply focused on finding creative solutions to “give that thing” that would meet our needs – first, appreciation for the valuable contribution each of us was making, and second, for time alone.

    And that has made all the difference.

    Thanks again, Amy, for shining a bright in the dark places.

    • Amy

      I love this comment (and that quote from Eckhart Tolle). What I keep learning from my husband (and I have to learn it over and over and over) is that he is not standing in my way, not thwarting any of my lofty plans. He is just standing there, loving me. We met at 18 – and are still together at 53 – and all of this time, there is this love – flowing under every argument, every silence, every misunderstanding. He’s much better at opening to it – and often opens it for me. This is love. This is a soul mate.

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