I am amazed at how many articles are published on how to experience happiness and true love in an intimate relationship. I’m even more amazed how many of those articles miss the mark.
What concerns me is that most of the relationship articles I find in popular magazines are primarily focused on fixing the symptoms of an unhappy relationship rather than healing the underlying cause of the unhappiness.
Kindness and respect are certainly an important and necessary part of any healthy relationship and I’m aware that many unhappy relationships reflect a serious lack of basic kindness and respect in the behaviors and attitudes of one or both partners.
So what happened to the initial kindness and respect? What turns “in love” into broken dreams?
Given that over half of all marriages end up in divorce, the cause for relationship unhappiness and conflict has to be a fundamental part of what makes us human.
I believe that most relationships would choose to remain healthy if they understood “why” the loving, kind, and hopeful behaviors and attitudes present at the beginning of an intimate relationship so often deteriorates over time into hurtful, mean-spirited, painful divorces and separation.
The Basic Problem
To understand “why” this happens to so many intimate relationships, we need to take a trip back to early childhood.
As young children it’s common to experience the adult world as confusing and frightening. Children learn that if they simplify things by splitting everything into dualistic categories of either-or, good or bad, and right or wrong, life makes more sense and feels safer.
It doesn’t take long before everything that we encounter in childhood goes through our dualistic filter and is judged in terms of these dualistic categories.
This system worked well for us during those early years of childhood, but unconsciously we were developing a very dangerous habit. Our young ego was learning to be judgmental. Stated simply, our primitive (young) ego was learning to dualistically “judge” and “label” every person, every experience, and every event that had the misfortune to enter into our world into either good or bad.
Those things that made us happy we judged or labeled as good, and right. We quickly became addicted to the good, the right and the happy. We held them close.
Those things that we experienced as hurtful or uncomfortable, those things that made us unhappy, we labeled as bad and wrong. We resisted those things. We used denial and avoidance to push them away.
The bad, unhappy, painful parts of ourselves, we buried in the shadows of our unconscious dark nature. To avoid having to deal with those unwanted, bad, painful, unconscious parts of ourselves, we simply projected them out onto others around us and then labeled them as those bad people. That way we didn’t have to deal with them or own them as part of ourselves. We could totally avoid and deny they even existed.
This tendency to project our shadow material, and then label others as deficient, can be seen very clearly in all of our conservative mainline religions.
As we grew older, we began to identify with our various beliefs. They defined who we were. They made us feel real. We experienced our beliefs as being right and true. Of course anyone who disagreed with our beliefs was quickly labeled as bad, wrong, and hurtful. We emotionally referred to them as the enemy. “Those” people.
The more others challenged our beliefs, assumptions, and certainties, the more we poured concrete on them. We began to close our heart and our mind to new input. We stopped growing and learning. Why search for the new or be open to change when our ego was already comfortably in possession of a self-identity and the truth.
The Basic Problem Enters An Intimate Relationship
Life had its ups and downs, but in general things were going along reasonably well.
Then we met our perfect life partner and entered into an intimate relationship that resulted in marriage.
Everything was good at first. Our hearts were open. Our ego was comfortable letting go of control. The world was warm, fuzzy and wonderful. Love was grand. Life was perfect. Happily ever after was just over the horizon.
Then one day, we began to see those parts of ourselves hidden in the psyche of our unconscious shadow. Not in ourselves of course. We saw them in our partner! Our ego quickly moved into defensive mode and began emotionally judging them. Over time we came to experience them as one of “those” people. We felt betrayed and confused.
Of course, our partner began to feel our judgment as hurtful. It wasn’t long before their ego moved into defensive mode and began to experience “us” as one of “those” people. They saw the things buried in the dark nature of their psyche—-in us! They too felt betrayed and confused.
You can see where this is going.
The more the pain and disillusionment grows in a relationship the more both partners begin to judge, harden their beliefs, become more inflexible, and emotionally push away from the relationship. When both persons in a relationship feel they are living with one of “those” people, their unhappiness, pain, and conflict grows rapidly. Divorce or separation is not far behind.
The basic problem is not our partner. The basic problem was not in the choice of our partner.
The problem is dualistic thinking; the unconscious need to judge everything that life brings us.
The problem is dualistic thinking that has us addicted to only one half of reality—-the good, right, happy side of reality. Everything else in life, all the bad, wrong, unhappy part is avoided, resisted, denied, and pushed away.
When we are powerless to avoid the dark side of life, the suffering side, we feel emotionally devastated. We become depressed. We rail against it. Our spirit crumbles. The more we resist the dark side of life, the more we suffer. This shouldn’t be happening to me. I guess I’m being punished.
Unfortunately life always comes in both categories. That’s reality. Embracing both sides of reality leads to the spiritual wholeness that most of us search for almost all of our lives.
Unfortunately when we don’t find perfection and wholeness in one partner, we look for it in another. We don’t drop our unrealistic expectations and dualistic thinking—-we drop our partner!
The Solution: Embracing A Middlepath Consciousness and Spirituality
Life happens. It comes in the form of light and it comes in the form of darkness; one indivisible unity. Wholeness means we get to experience both the dark and the light.
Until we drop our addiction to dualistic thinking that attempts to embrace only the good, happy side of life, our resistance to the dark side of life is going to be a struggle with unhappiness and suffering. In other words, until we drop our childhood addiction to dualistic thinking, virtually all of the unhappiness, pain, and conflict we experience in our lives will continue to be created inside our own mind.
Think about it for yourself. If your ego is at war with one half of life and reality, and compulsively addicted to only the light half, how could we ever experience wholeness or true happiness? To paraphrase Alan Watt, “ we are attempting to divide in thought what is undivided in reality”.
Let me state it clearly. Dualistic thinking is the source of all conflict, violence, unhappiness, judgment, lack of self-esteem, feelings of failure and inadequacy, prejudice, bias, intolerance, bigotry, closed-mindedness, racism, religious intolerance, discrimination, sexism, greed, class and ethnic violence, rigid beliefs, and war—-and they are all nourished, held, and created in the human mind!
These categories are not found in middlepath thinking.
A Middlepath Consciousness
A middlepath consciousness is a both-and way of thinking; an evolved and matured spirituality able to live life with full consciousness in the gray of paradox, ambiguity, uncertainty, and not knowing; a psychological place of ego emptiness where Jesus, Buddha, and all the great spiritual teachers of human history are encountered.
Both-and thinking represent a higher, more aware, adult state of consciousness.
Unconditional love and compassion are non-dual qualities found only on the middlepath. They cannot co-exist with dualistic thinking.
Experiencing life with full presence in the “now” of the present moment is possible only through a middlepath consciousness. Pure experience is always non-dual. A sustained presence in the now is not possible for a dualistic mind.
This is the way of seeing and living that all of the great religious and spiritual teachers have been trying to teach us for the last 3500 years.
They were not teaching us what to believe, they were teaching us how to see!
All categories of “otherness” are created by dualistic thinking in the human mind. There is no duality in nature. Our universe and all of creation is one seamless, inter-connected system of ultimate unity.
The ability to create a healthy, unconditionally loving, compassionate relationship with others, or with reality itself, can only be achieved and sustained in the unity and non-dual spirituality of a middlepath consciousness.
Healthy relationships and dualistic thinking cannot co-exist.
When you’re ready, you can awaken and learn to see this simple reality for yourself.