An excerpt from Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together

All of our relationships, particularly with those we love, exist for a single beautiful purpose that expresses itself in two different ways. First, our partner — whether spouse, that “special” someone, or even a would-be companion — is in our life to help us grow, to provide just the conditions we need to become that better, truer person that they see in us, just waiting to be brought forth.

But the other and equally important half of this same purpose and promise — without which the first part can’t be realized — is as follows: our partner is also there in our life to help us see everything in us that now stands in the way of our realizing this same higher possibility.

Find helpful insights about how to fulfill the true purpose of relationships in the following Q & A.

Question: I don’t get it! Honestly, how can a better understanding of myself keep me from having the negative reaction I do every time I see my husband do something stupid, especially this one behavior that literally drives me up a wall?
Answer: The next time you want to jump on your husband for his misstep, try this: instead of unconsciously remembering all the reasons you have for opposing him in that moment, do your level best to remember where and how you have missed the mark in a similar way. Consciously choosing to recollect your similarity (with your partner’s character) not only disarms the part of you about to pounce upon it, but this level of self-honesty also dispels the illusion of difference imagined between the two of you, replacing it with a compassionate consideration born of wisdom and love.

Question: My husband does things that make me so angry. Are you saying it’s wrong for me to step up and to speak my mind about how I feel?
Answer: Of course not: it may seem subtle, but there’s a big difference between bringing up an issue, some concern you have with your partner, and striking back at them in pain over what you would blame them for. In other words, it’s not so much what you say, but “who” — what part of you — starts talking for you in that moment.

Here’s one good way to ensure that you choose the right time for engaging your partner over any problem brewing between the two of you: wait, patiently — even if it takes 24 hours — until whatever part of you that feels compelled to blame, or that wants to complain, subsides. By following these instructions, you’ll be aware of your negative state, instead of acting as its unconscious instrument.

Question: My wife has a real problem with anger; honestly, I think she likes to fight! Try as I may to stay detached, she always manages to drag me into an argument with her…and I mean we can argue over nothing! What can I do? How can I get her to see what she’s doing to our relationship?
Answer: Blaming someone else’s anger for our inability to remain above and untouched by its negative influence is like resenting a rain cloud for getting us wet when we walk outside and into its downpour. The only thing that can drag us into a fight with our partner, regardless of what he or she wants to fight with us over, is an in-the-dark part of us that’s secretly been waiting for a good fight.

If you really want to stop fighting, and free both of you at the same time, then set the following intention, here and now, as if your life depends on it: No matter what, refuse to climb into the ring the next time she wants to rumble.

The more you’re able to observe these parts of yourself that are so easily enticed to fight, the clearer it will become who you can no longer afford to be. And once you’re able to stay out of the ring, then who is left there for your wife to fight with? No longer having any opponent, she will be able to see — and hopefully set down — the same parts of herself that you did. Peace will fall onto your house.

Question: It feels like my partner and I have come to a dead-end in our relationship. I don’t think he’s aware of it, but I sure am. I do love him, but…I can’t let go of an old resentment that always rears its ugly head anytime he acts out one particular part of his nature that I just can’t stand. I’ve spoken to him about this, but he just doesn’t see what I’m talking about. It seems he won’t change, and I can’t seem to drop my resentment. How can I break these chains?
Answer: Any growing feeling of resentment toward our partner begins with closing our eyes to just how similar is our own character to the one we judge in them. Here’s a big hint: weakness always pounces on weakness. The end of feeling this kind of resentment comes with seeing the above as being true. In this same revelation is also the birth of compassion.

As far as your feeling of having reached the end of your road together, never forget the following: Nothing in the universe has the power to stop you and your partner from starting your relationship all over; nothing, that is, except for one thing: the temptation to identify with unconscious parts of yourself that want you to believe that the limit of your present understanding about your unwanted situation is the same as the limit of your possibilities to transcend it.

Question: First, I’ll admit to being a little put off by some of your ideas about what it takes to be a more loving, considerate partner; however, I also have to admit that neither have my own ideas proven much use in the “better relationships department.” So, I’m trying to be open to some of what you suggest, but there’s a very doubtful voice in me saying, “What’s the use? You don’t have what it takes to make it to the end of this journey.” I feel stuck, so any comments would be appreciated.
Answer: For one thing, it isn’t your job to make it to the “end” of whatever you imagine is the “end” of love’s possibilities, for love and its possibilities are endless, in every meaning of the word. So forget everything else but this: Your job is just to take the first step, nothing more, nothing less. The rest happens naturally, as the illustration that follows makes clear.

Imagine a man trekking up a steep mountain path. All he sees ahead of him is what looks too hard for him to climb. But he takes one step at a time until — with what feels like the last step he can take — he summits a small ledge. Waiting there for him, spread out before his grateful eyes, is a view so beautiful it almost moves him to tears. He’s thankful he took that last step because, otherwise, he’d have never known such a place exists for anyone who will suffer the challenge it takes to reach it. All of his doubts, even his fatigue, falls away. He looks up, and can’t help himself from wanting to climb higher.

The fact that there are real places like this, not just on some distant mountain, but also waiting for you in the depths of your heart, is why your lower nature speaks to you in disparaging tones; it wants to discourage you from embarking on your journey to know higher love. It senses, in some strange way, that even the smallest step you take in this upward direction is the same as walking away from its influence over you, and your relationship with the one you love.

So, take that step, no matter how small, shaky, or uncertain. Take it. Let love prove to you that whatever it asks of you — no matter how impossible it may seem at the moment — it will provide you in your time of need.

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