Our shadows are in love

How well do you really understand Romantic Relationships?

Have you ever wondered why romantic relationships can be so challenging and confusing? Why so many people just don’t seem to get romantic relationships? The answer may surprise you and challenge many of your beliefs about love and relationships. Let’s examine some fundamental facts about relationships in order to better understand them and to make sense of some of the most commonly experienced challenges that couples face. Many of the challenges discussed below are almost certain to show up in every romantic relationship at some point during its evolution.

Before I get into deconstructing the underlying mechanics of romantic relationships, let me address the common erroneous notion that over-analyzing a romantic relationship will kill the magic. In my experience, and that of our clients, the better we understanding the game we are playing, the more likely we are to be successful at it. I maintain that anything which can be destroyed by understanding was never real in the first place.


How to Understand Romantic Relationships as a Mirror of Ourselves

All our relationships with others (inter-personal) are essentially an extension of our relationship with ourselves (intra-personal). We are not able to love another person more than we love ourselves, we simply don’t know how to love until we learn to truly love ourselves. Similarly, being loved by someone more than we love ourselves makes us extremely uncomfortable, often to the degree that we sabotage the relationship to reduce their love to a level that we feel more comfortable with. Relationships always challenge and encourage us to accept and appreciate ourselves in new ways, and romantic relationships are usually our most intense growth environment because our attachment and commitment to them encourages us stick around and work through the challenges.

“To love someone without knowing how to love wounds the other person” – Thích Nhất Hạnh, famous Buddhist teacher and poet.


Romantic Relationships always begin with Infatuation

All romantic relationships begin with some level of infatuation, its how we form that initial connection with a partner. We “fall in love” with a fantasy ideal in our minds, and not with the actual person onto whom we have projected our fantasy, and with whom we have become infatuated. As long as we recognize that it is fantasy based and is therefore not sustainable, we know to make an effort to expand on that connection so that when the infatuation inevitably dissolves, we have built a more meaningful connection that we can continue to develop. When infatuation is confused with love and a person mistakenly expects it to last, there is always a rude awakening when they realize that the object of their infatuation does not live up to their fantasy ideal. We have all heard comments like “they are not the person I fell in love with”. The reality is that they never were. Completely losing oneself in infatuation is a trademark of a juvenile understanding of romantic love and relationships. So is not recognizing that we set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations, and then blaming that failure on someone else.


The Mechanics of Infatuation

We are attracted to traits, qualities in others that we believe we are lacking ourselves. Similarly, we are attracted to another person’s empowerment in the areas of life in which we are less empowered. Our egocentric persona wants to fill the voids that we perceive in our own lives with benefits derived from partnering with another person. On a practical level, their empowerment provides us with support in our weakest areas of development, and it also provides us with a blueprint to empower ourselves. Psychologically however, their empowerment in specific arenas of life challenges us to empower ourselves, constantly reminding us of our own dis-empowerment in those same arenas. A person who avoids learning, growing and empowering themselves will slowly build resentment towards their partner because the traits and qualities that first attracted them to their partner inevitably become the traits and qualities that trigger them the most.


Relationships and Challenge

The challenges we face in our relationship are inherent to us, rather than to our partner or to the relationship itself. This is why after ending a relationship due to some specific issue or challenge; we often encounter the very same or similar issue in successive relationships, or even in some other area of our lives. You simply cannot run from yourself. Have you ever wondered how someone can be a very different person with someone else compared to how they are towards you? This is because we draw out of others the traits and behaviors that we most urgently need to learn from. All challenges provide an opportunity to learn some lesson or to empower ourselves in some new way. The definition of challenge is “the reality that we are experiencing does not match our expectations”. Our own resistance to our inherent growth process, or our seeking only experiences which gratify or support us while also trying to avoid discomfort and challenge, causes our suffering. Not to mention the successively more severe challenges we tend to face until we yield our inflexibility and become open and willing to adapt and grow.


Exploding Some Common Relationships Myths and Fantasies

Myths and fantasies about romantic relationships are ubiquitously embedded in our mythology, our folk lore and our popular culture. The society around us conditions us to assimilate and internalize many unrealistic ideals and expectations, but the more we question and disavow such erroneous beliefs, the wiser we become about choosing a partner and the more capable we are of building lasting healthy relationships.


It is no secret that many romantic relationships are based on the juvenile expectation that our partner make us happy or fill some void in our life, but the fantasy that a partner or relationship will make us happy or somehow complete us is a recipe for disappointment. If you are not happy in and of yourself, a relationship is far more likely to complicate that situation rather than remedy it. No one else can peddle our bicycle for us. To find lasting fulfillment each of us must empower ourselves in the various arenas of our own life. Placing unrealistic expectations on our partner just makes them resent us and pull away from us.


The pervasive myth that our “perfect partner or relationship” is waiting out there somewhere is a tremendously dis-empowering fantasy. We might presume to blame this particular myth on Aristotle, who introduced the idea of soul-mates into the mainstream in one of his writings. What generally doesn’t occur to those who subscribe to this fantasy, is to ask whether they themselves are perfect enough to satisfy their perfect partner. A slightly less juvenile version of this myth is the “happily ever after” idea that once we overcome the challenges in our romantic relationship things will get easier. The truth is that our relationships will always include some challenge to provide an environment for growth, and our romantic relationships are where this growth dynamic is often the most intense. Each successive partnership we engage in offers us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and to understand relationships better. Relationships don’t stand the test of time because of some inherent mystical quality of the relationship, they last because we consciously choose to make them last, and because we have learned to love ourselves and consequently are truly capable of loving another.


A self-righteous stance is another common mistake. The idea that our perspective is the correct one, and that we can “fix” our partner is a juvenile self-important position, but all such efforts are always an exercise in futility. The more we try to change a person, the more resentment they build up towards us, and the more they tend to resist. In the event that our partner does submit to our efforts to change them, we immediately find ourselves no longer able to respect them. This desire to change others derives from our own repressed self-judgment. When we accept ourselves as we are without condition or reservation, we no longer feel the need to judge and fix others.


Another erroneous belief is that successful relationships require sacrifice. There is no place for sacrifice in a healthy relationship. Whenever we sacrifice our needs so that our partner can fulfill their needs, we build resentment towards them. At the same time our partner loses respect for us because we have devalued ourselves. How can they respect us if we don’t respect ourselves enough to stand up for ourselves and our needs? But there’s often more to sacrifice than meets the eye… Self sacrificing is almost always a subversive and manipulative attempt to get what we want, and it always comes with unspoken expectations. If we continue to make sacrifices without getting our unspoken expectation met, our resentment grows until we eventually become explosive. In the same way Compromise is also very thin ice to tread in a relationship, it is always best to aim for a win-win scenario if possible, and it almost always is possible.


There will Always be a Learning Curve in your Relationship

Through each successive relationship we have an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and to accept and appreciate ourselves more completely. The more we learn to do this, the more capable we are of accepting and loving a partner for who they are, as they are. The partners we choose reflect our both our understanding of ourselves and our underlying beliefs about relationships, so we cannot make a wrong choice. Whomever we are attracted to and ultimately choose as a partner will be the right person to educate us about relationships and ourselves, and about why we make the choices we make.

With experience we learn to understand romantic relationships better, until we have gathered the wisdom to choose a partner wisely and build a lasting fulfilling relationship. Gaining such wisdom shifts our attention from an egocentric acquisitive focus on how we can benefit or profit from our partner, to a genuine appreciation of our partner for the role they play in our personal evolution.


Romantic Love can Never be Truly Unconditional

Unconditional love does not require that someone love us back, that they do anything for us, or even that they acknowledge our love for them. It defies reason and logic, and is something we freely give, with no concern about receiving anything in return. Unconditional love transcends the egocentric persona and is never self sacrificing or self-minimizing, nor is it self-aggrandizing. Unconditional love is the hallmark of an evolved human being, whose complete and utter acceptance and appreciation of themselves overflows to embrace all those around them.

Although romantic love can never be truly unconditional, the more we grow and evolve as individuals and the less we are governed by our egocentric persona, the more our love for our partner can evolve to accept and appreciate them, just as they are, almost without condition or reservation. The more our love matures and approaches unconditionality the less passionate and romantic it is in its nature and expression. The egocentric part of us that is addicted to drama and excitement, that clings to misguided fantasy ideals and is itself a fiction, mistakenly perceives such mature love as diminished, boring or even broken, and will try to “shake the tree” or “rock the boat” in order to fulfill its need for excitement. If we give it license it may discard something of true value in pursuit of a transitory illusion.


Effort will Always be Required

As long as we desire to maintain a romantic partnership, there will always be effort required. In the beginning, when romance is spontaneous and effortless, the effort is required to maintain emotional balance and to build more meaningful and lasting dimensions onto the initial superficial connection formed by the infatuation. As your love deepens and evolves, the effort is instead needed to maintain romance and excitement in the relationship. Perhaps effort is not the best way to think about what a successful relationship demands of us. If we are thinking in terms of effort then perhaps we need to examine our motivations for being in a relationship and our expectations of our partner.


We hope you gained some useful knowledge from this article.
Please take a moment to comment below to tell us what stood out for you.

With love, Graham and Monika Burwise.

Graham is a leading authority on human behavior and modern relationships, and his insightful wisdom has helped countless couples to solve their challenges and revive their relationships. His refreshing perspective challenges society’s outdated beliefs and expectations about love and romantic partnership, and provides a detailed roadmap for building more fulfilling relationships. His compassion, dedication and integrity make him the ideal teacher and mentor for couples dealing with sensitive personal challenges.

Graham has invested more than four decades exploring personal and spiritual development. His natural curiosity and dedication to the pursuit of wisdom has given him a deep understanding of human behavior and relationships, human development and personal empowerment. He is a sought after teacher and mentor for those looking to repair or revitalize their romantic partnership, accelerate their individual growth or gain a more direct experience of their deeper (spiritual) nature. Graham’s studies have included psychology, philosophy, physiology and chemistry, and he has a keen interest in many areas of scientific research. He has also explored several mystic traditions and studied spiritual teachings from around the globe.

Graham and his wife Monika are co-founders of the Global Awakening Institute. They provide education and mentorship for those looking to master the art of building lasting love and truly resilient relationships.

Specialties: Human Behavior & Relationship Specialist, Personal Growth and Empowerment.

Special Interests: Personal Growth and Relationship Dynamics, Psycho-physics, Trans-personal Psychology, Spiritual Development and Evolution.

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