Why can't I find a relationship that works?

This is the question of the hour, the question of these times. This question arises with people more than any other. There is, of course, no simple answer, especially not in a general sense. Each person has his or her own karma, the pattern that is brought to relationship. For some people the particular thread they are working with in the pattern may have to do with the need to be alone for a time, to experience this human life without the intimate partnership over time. While it may be painful or lonely, it is sometimes so that a people need solitude to discover themselves. Some people have been very solitary in the past and are trying to shift that. Their heart takes them into relationship and the old pattern takes them away from it; they are drawn back into the safety and familiarity of solitude.

Very often the inner dialogue is an important aspect of preparing the ground for relationship with another. If you are having trouble entering into an intimate long -term relationship, if you go through successive relationships and they don't work out, and you sincerely want one, look within and see if there is a part of yourself that is holding back. Is there perhaps a monk, that wants the seclusion of the forest, that believes that relationship will take you away from God, from your deepest, truest, highest self? Is there a child who experienced intimate relationship as threatening, overwhelming, and violating? That part may still be resisting intimate relationship, with good reason. It may need to be reassured that it will be protected, that you, the adult you, is strong enough to set boundaries and limits, create structures for safety within relationship. There may be a part of you that believes you always make bad choices in relationship, that no matter how hard you try to be aware, you end up with someone that hurts you, someone that is negative, abusive or distant. Finding the part of yourself that believes in yourself, that believes that over the course of many experiences you have developed an awareness that can work for you, serve you, help you to choose a partner that can really respond to you equally, this is so important.

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There may be a part of yourself that believes it is not worthy to be loved. We find these days this is quite common. That part of yourself needs love and attention from you. It needs to be brought up into consciousness. Often it takes the form of a hungry child. So many people do have unfed, unloved children in their beings. That is another reason why it can be difficult to find a relationship that works. If that child is still looking for a mother or a father, if that child is still looking for the kind of love it didn't receive as a child, it will look for it in familiar places. It will look for it in people that aren't likely to give it. This is one of the greatest ironies and dilemmas of the human search for love. If you learn as a child to look for love in a parent that doesn't know how to give it, until you become aware of that tendency in yourself, you will keep looking for love in people and situations where you are least likely to find it. So recognize that what feels familiar to you, even at times what feels attractive to you, may be that which is least able to love you as you want to be loved. This is an important knowing. Go back, again, and be with the child. Let go of the fantasy finally that you will be loved by whoever it was that didn't love you as a child. Let go of the fantasy that if you are just good enough, if you do the right thing, you will be lovable and loved.

For many, this is an important step in being able to enter into intimate adult relationship. The difficulty is these days that often one unfed, unloved child meets another unfed unloved child and each of them wants to be fed and loved by the other but neither of them has the inner experience, the inner resource, of being nourished, so it is difficult for either of them to provide the nourishing. If both people are conscious of that starvation in themselves, the longing, the need, and are willing mutually to give themselves up at times for the other, to put aside their own hunger for the moment to respond to the need of the other, then two people can help each other heal. But if each is in the infant stage, where their own need is absolutely primary, and neither of them are aware of where they are coming from, then over and over they will run into walls in each other.

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People often say these days, how can I find someone who will really meet my needs, or, well, I love this person but there are these needs in me that just aren't being met. There is a level at which this concern is very valid; one has to look at a relationship in this light. If one is feeling starved in it and by it over a long period of time, if there is no mutual effort to feed each other, then this may be yet another relationship that does not work for you. However, it is so important to recognize that no one person is going to meet all the needs of another person. It is unrealistic to expect that. When there is love between two adult people there is room for an unmet need or two. There is room to recognize a hole in oneself that cannot be filled by the other person. What fills that hole is the love for the other. What fills one is this awareness: Yes, this need is not met and the love that I feel for you is far greater than that need.

This response only develops over time and it is best that it be a mutual experience. If one person is sacrificing all their needs to support the other emotionally and isn't feeling a return, that's not a working relationship. However, again, long-term relationship demands that people adjust themselves to each other. It is not a weakness to try to change something in yourself to meet the need of another. These days we hear so often this philosophy of relationship: you have to accept your partner just as he/she is; your partner has to accept you just as you are. You can't change anyone. You can't. But you can ask another to change, and you can change. Two people, in order to be together and grow together, adjust themselves for the sake of the other, and for the relationship.

Many people are afraid of losing their own identity if they do this. This is a complicated one. It demonstrates how fragile the sense of identity is in the modern western culture. To give up something of oneself for love is not, from our perspective, to lose one's identity. It enhances one's identity. It can make one a richer, deeper, stronger person. There is a balance, yes. But love involves risk, sacrifice, giving up aspects of one's own being, transformation of oneself, and constant communication.

One reason why so many people experience difficulty finding a working relationship is because this is a tall order. Perhaps it used to be simpler in the human history. Marriages were arranged, or undertaken for social, economic or political reasons. People stayed together for the sake of the family, because of societal or religious pressures. Often in that framework people were unhappy with each other. They found things outside the relationship, friendships, extended family, lovers, community, tasks to be done, religious duties. These days for many people all that holds a relationship together is the two people actually involved in it. If each of those two people is expecting that the other person is going to meet all their needs, then, they are almost destined to be disappointed in each other. People used to stay together out of a sense of duty and obligation. A relationship that "worked" was not an issue. Now, what holds people together is love. What takes them apart is the difficulty of truly loving.

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To accept oneself as one is, to accept the other as they are, and yet to be willing to be fluid, flexible, and able to transform: all of these are necessary for a working relationship. To have a strong enough sense of who one is so that one can give up some of who one is without feeling threatened: this is also necessary. To share a spiritual grounding makes an enormous difference in relationship. So many people these days are lost in that way. The intimate relationship is asked to serve as the spiritual life, the giver of meaning. The partner has to take the place of God. That's a big strain to put on any relationship.

We see many people who are already afraid, in the very beginning phase of a relationship, that it won't work. This is another problem, that people anticipate failure. The relationship never has a chance because from the outset the two people are so involved at looking at their issues, trying to avoid old pitfalls, working so hard at the relationship that they never have time to enjoy each other. There is no reason why you can't find a relationship that works. The structures that in the past have supported the institution of marriage have crumbled and are continuing to do so. Relationship has to come from a place of love rather than obligation. To love, over time, day after day after day, is a great spiritual challenge, an exercise in giving up self. As with all spiritual practices, if it is all work and no joy, it may not be the right path, the right person, for you. It's not easy. To come to a place where one can ask oneself, day after day, how can I truly love this person today -- when this happens, when two people make it their focus to ask themselves how they can best love the other, then the relationship transforms, takes root, and blossoms.

For a relationship to work without being held together in a surface way by the old structures from the past, it is also, from our perspective, very important that both people look at and be aware of their childhood patterns of relationship. Inevitably they are still acting out those patterns, and they will project onto the partner the old issues, the unmet needs, the fears, the hopes and the dreams of the child. If both people aren't entering into some awareness of these patterns, current relationship will be a lot harder.

And finally, love yourself. Love yourself, love yourself, love yourself. Sit down meditatively, bring up all the parts of yourself, which are countless, bring up all that you can find and hold them in your consciousness with love. This means those parts that are hurt, angry, resistant, fearful. Just hold them with love. The more you experience doing that for yourself, the more you will be able to do it with a partner. The more you do it with a partner, the more you will be able to do it for yourself.
Patience is also a necessary quality in long -term relationship, and it is not one that is supported by the modern culture. Everything is supposed to happen fast, everything is supposed to be new, exciting, stimulating. Needs are supposed to be filled instantly. Developing patience is a prerequisite for a relationship that works.

And of course, there is the media: movies, novels, TV, all the deeply ingrained images of superficial relationship, ideal relationship, romance. Take a moment now and just let the ideals dissolve away, all the ideals of what relationship could be, should be, might be, just let it dissolve away into one simple knowing: that you would like to share your life with someone, that you would like to share love with someone. Period. That's enough. People put too many limitations on what the person has to look like, be like, not have, have. To truly share love with another person is not an experience dictated by any outer form, any particular personality type. To have a relationship that works, the ideal has to go. And please, above all, the idea that you are going to meet one person that is your perfect other half, that makes you feel whole and complete, that meets all your needs, this is the idea above all that has to go. The "soulmate" in our experience, is a concept that blocks people in relationship over and over. There are soulmates, people who have known each other lifetime after lifetime who come together and who help each other to be whole, to grow. It isn't always what one thinks it's going to be. It doesn't always mean you're going to spend this whole life together. It means there is growing to be done, love and experience to share. Sometimes when there is a deep connection at a soul level there can be difficulties, clashes, differences and conflicts at the personality level because each individual has things to work out. The soul connection gives them the deep foundation to work out the more surface issues.

So, please, whatever your ideal is, let it dissolve into the light. Open yourself to the unexpected. Whatever your fear is in relationship, let it dissolve into the light. All those old, negative, obstructive patterns, let them dissolve into the light. Make room for the unexpected. You want to share love with another person who also wants to share love. Affirm that.

May all beings be happy, peaceful and free of suffering.

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