Have you ever stopped to think about the purpose of relationships? Do you think they are just for our own enjoyment? Do you believe in soul mates?
Years ago I heard a phrase from a book that caught my attention. The name of the book was “The One: Finding Soul Mate Love and Making It Last,” by Kathy Freston The book went on to become a New York Times best-seller and was re-titled as “The One: Discovering the Secrets of Soul Mate Love.” Here’s the phrase:
“No matter what the question, this is the answer: we are here in each other’s lives to facilitate in one another a higher state of consciousness. We are here to open each other’s eyes to God. We don’t talk about that; it certainly isn’t the spoken goal of most partnerships. But that is what is at play.”
I don’t really know the purpose of relationships but do believe we are here to grow.
Being the curious person that I am, I just had to go buy the book. So, if you haven’t realized it yet, there is no problem-free relationship. People seem to think that if they just find their “soul mate” they will live happily ever after without any relationship problems. According to Kathy, that isn’t the definition of a soulmate. This is a little bit of what Kathy had to say about soul mates and relationships:
“A soul mate reflects back to us that which is unhealed while testifying to what is already perfect. Soul mates provide different things at different times: sometimes a safe haven from which we can branch out and explore, and sometimes challenges that bring us to our knees. In every case, they help us as we make our way along the path leading to the innermost sanctum where Spirit resides.”
“We need the challenge relationships provide by calling us out on our prejudices, and we need people – partners, friends, casual acquaintances, and even strangers – who will walk with us as we make our way to our soul’s potential.”
We want things to go smoothly, but it seems we need the challenges relationships present in order for us to grow.
Here’s some more food for thought from Kathy Freston:
“I realized that somewhere along the way, we as a society had lost sight of the truth. Instead of finding peace within ourselves, we looked for happiness in the form of another person, situation, or thing. We would work hard to “get” someone, but then the relationship would “fail.” Either the magic seemed to wear off or we never took the chance to commit to a partner because there might be a better deal just around the corner. Or, saddest of all, we suffered quietly in an unfulfilling marriage, dreaming of what might possibly set us free.”
“The challenge of finding and keeping a soul mate is the perfect impetus for our metaphysical maturation. Our love relationships bring us face to face with our demons, and we are willing to confront them and learn how to better ourselves because we want so badly to fulfill love’s magical promise. It is by using the experiences that arise within the context of partnership – both joyful and painful ones – that we come to embrace the enormous spiritual capacity that lies within us, making us capable of magnificent things, not only in the area of relationships, but in every area of life.”
“We can’t possibly know or dictate what will bring us our awakenings; no two people are exactly the same, and one soul certainly requires different lessons than the next. We simply have to rise to greet the occasions as they present themselves to us. The perfect set of conditions for bringing about your soul’s unfolding is always at hand, but you probably won’t recognize this while you’re going through it.”
“Our spiritual task is to calm our overactive ego, to catch it when it starts climbing into the driver’s seat and tell it when to get back where it belongs.In terms of love relationships, we need to become more focused on treating our partners – or potential partners – with respect, honoring the fact that they have their own higher mind to follow and we have no right to push our personal agenda on their lives. We need to stop insisting on getting our own way and allow them to be who they are. We can make suggestions and we can express our opinions, but it gets us nowhere to insist on having things our own way. We can’t change anyone else; we can only work on changing ourselves.”
“Power struggles are a major problem in love relationships, and I have found that whenever a power struggle develops between partners, at least one of the following aspects of ego is at work: 1. The need to be right; 2. The need to be in control; 3. The need to be distracted; or 4. The need to feel superior or inferior.
1) The need to be right pits us against each other. When we are attached to being right, we feel compelled to defend ourselves at all costs. We don’t want to see the other person’s side of the story, because if we did, it might threaten the case we’ve built. So we dig in our heels, hoping to wear the other person down. We do this because deep down inside we feel small and afraid. The ego believes only one of us can win, so it’s fighting for its life.
If we were to take a more spiritual approach and recognize that the Spirit in me is the same Spirit in you, we would no longer need to be right. Rather than fearfully clinging to our smaller, more selfish agenda, we could shift our goal to finding common ground.
2) The need to be in control is the ego’s way of urging us to hold tightly to the reins if we want to be safe. We’d better put things in their place, including our partners, says the fearful voice inside us. When I get into control mode, it’s usually because I am scared that things won’t work out as I think they should, and that, at the end of the day, I won’t be okay.
3) The need to be distracted is the ego’s way of coping with the anxiety of going it alone. There is a tremendous amount of fear and pressure that goes with the belief that you have to figure everything out for yourself. When the responsibility becomes too much, the ego looks for distraction; it is a way of surviving. And in our society, there is no shortage of distraction from the deeper issues of our humanity. Sensational news, demanding work schedules, lifestyle pressures, sports events, e-mail, computer games: these are just a few of the stimuli that compete for our attention. And trumping all of these is the drama we can create in our relationships; nothing beats a good knock-down drag-out fight to get our mind off the gnawing fear that we can’t keep it all together. When we sweat the small stuff, we successfully distract ourselves from the larger anxiety that the ego maintains of being separate and alone in a big, scary world.
In other words, you may make a big deal about your husband coming home an hour later than he said he would, or lay into your wife for not running the household as well as you think she should, but really, deep down inside, you are just trying to distract yourself from the absolute terror of not being able to keep all the pieces of your life together. But you see, we are not meant to hold it all together; we are not the glue of life. Spirit is. We are at our best when we accept our role as co-creators with Spirit.
4) The need to be superior or inferior is the ego’s way of keeping us apart from each other by focusing on flaws. It plagues us with attacks of self-pity or delusions of grandeur that keep us from the fundamental truth that we are all created equally and from the same source. Because the ego has no awareness of our inherent Oneness, it sets us adrift on our narcissistic wanderings. Our sense of worth should never depend upon how much better or worse we are doing than someone else. Rather, it should be rooted in the knowledge that we are all created perfectly by God.
These four ego-driven needs present obstacles to our awareness of deep and unconditional love because they keep us focused on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. They drive us apart rather than bring us together. Each time you see one of these needs arise in your thoughts or actions, recognize it as a warning to relegate the ego to the backseat.
Ego may present us with many pitfalls, but it also has its benefits. It assists us in recognizing and celebrating our differences. We are unique, after all, and this uniqueness works in concert with our core spirituality. As we learn to coexist and enjoy the different qualities we all have, Spirit is renewed and expanded. Life becomes more textured and lovely.
The question is not whether ego is good or bad, but rather to what degree we allow it to rule our lives and relationships. Ego is an aspect of the mind that serves a purpose; we just can’t let it get out of hand. If we keep choosing to stay alert and awake to all the forces at work within us, we can create a well-balanced and soulful partnership.”