For so many of us, relationships are things we stumble into, and find ourselves deeply involved in, before realising that they are not quite what we want. Then we either cut and run, or put up and shut up - either blaming the other for the relationship not working or blaming ourselves.
But it’s not the searching for a relationship that delivers or otherwise - it’s what we believe. If we believe it’s easy to find a relationship, we’ll find one easily. If we believe that we can’t expect too much from one, then that’s what will show up for us. If we believe they are hard work, then that’s what we get. It sounds simple enough, but being both aware and honest enough to admit to our deepest beliefs takes considerable self-understanding and courage. Trying to change those beliefs is the subject of hundreds of books and the work of thousands of healers, but dreaming is a gentle way of opening the mind up to possibilities. And we quickly become aware of any conflicting internal voices we may be carrying as we start to actively dream.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do as an adult was to look honestly at the relationships I’d had. Although beautiful as some of them have been, in being completely honest with myself I could see that I had never been totally myself in many of them. Large parts of my deepest self had been shut down in a trade-off to make the relationships work - that old expectations ‘thing’ again - with the result that I never felt nourished in them.
To be fair, though, like so many of us I had no conscious awareness of what I had shut off. until a crisis appeared in my life. My spirituality was buried deep inside. My sexuality was subdued. The depth of love I was capable of was suppressed. And my feminine, intuitive, nature had been rejected at an early age in favour of the logical, analytical masculine - to the point that I thought it was just who I was. I was, in many ways, a watered-down version of my more authentic self. How many of us are similar?
But as I began to see what I had turned my back on, I began to regain my belief in what was possible and I swore I would never lose or betray myself again in the mistaken belief that it was necessary in order to make an intimate relationship work. I began to realise that I hadn’t been wrong in believing, as a child, that a relationship could be deep and fulfilling. I found others - though few and far between - who had written about such relationships. I began to develop a new vision of what it would be like to share my life with someone with whom I could have a deep soul connection, and who would also match me well in the physical world.
The only thing was, I didn’t have such a person in my life nor any personal examples around me of such relationships, so I had to assume they were not easy to find. All the same, I had no interest in participating in a relationship that was less than the one I was envisioning - it didn’t seem worth the effort any more.
I have a plaque on my wall which says ‘Dare to Dream’. As adults, we often forget how much fun it is to dream, and how liberating. And we also forget that it takes courage to continue to dream regardless of what is happening in life. And so I returned to a favourite childhood pastime of make-believe. Knowing how good it might feel to share such a deep love, I began to imagine such a partner being in my life. After all, why not, if it made my day seem that much brighter?
The greatest gift you can give yourself is to start dreaming - taking a half-hour here or there, lying back and letting yourself imagine the most glorious relationship you can - setting aside any critical voices just for that short period. Play with the details of how you would behave, feel, be in that ’ideal’ relationship - put flesh on the bones of the dream. And notice the differences between how you might act and feel, knowing that you are truly loved, and how you act and feel when you think otherwise. These are some of the thoughts I played with in my early days of visioning.
What would it be like to wake up in the morning and see their face beside me on the pillow?
How would I behave towards them, and they towards me?
Would I dress differently, treat myself differently, if I was in such a relationship?
How would I eat, exercise, live my life with a soul partner?
How would I hold my own space and they hold theirs so that we didn’t lose each other?
How would we respect each other’s differences?
How would I continue to hold my truth, after years of not being completely honest with myself never mind with others?
Little by little, with no specific purpose except to feel good, my vision developed. The ‘perfect’ relationship for me was one which had a strong spiritual side and also a strong sexual side. It was a light relationship, full of joy and humour. It was a growing relationship, with both partners committed to their own personal growth as well as to the growth of the relationship. Most of all it was an honest relationship, with deep integrity and acceptance of each other’s perfections and weaknesses, and little judgement. As you start to actively dream, you will create a vision that works for you.
Looking back now, I can see much of the details of the relationship I am living now were scripted by me at that time. And once I lined myself up energetically with the vision by believing it was possible, the door opened and the relationship ‘appeared‘. In a world which is now more familiar with the Law of Attraction and other similar concepts, this all makes perfect sense. Through light-heartedly imagining myself to be already enjoying a meaningful relationship, while also having given up any effort of searching for it, I had found a way of lining myself up with the vibration of what I wanted as well as of dropping any resistance I may have held to it.
But there is also another question worth considering if you’re looking for a new relationship - and that is whether you are honestly ready to have ‘the love of your life’ show up.
Are you ready to live up to your half of the vision?
The answer to this often surprises us, as we realise we’re not quite ready ‘yet’ - that we’re still waiting for something to change or happen first before we embark on a ‘serious‘ relationship, or that we haven’t considered that we ourselves have to match up to the potential partner. If we’re expecting someone wonderful to show up in our lives, we need to be ready to stand by their side!
This is a really interesting area for most of us to reflect on. If my ‘ideal’ partner is one who is self-sufficient, fun, enjoys travelling, is open-minded and adventurous, then it means that in order to match them, I have to be comfortable having a partner in my life who will want to do their own ‘thing’. They may want to try new ways of living, they mightn’t be looking to me for comfort, and may not even want to spend a huge amount of time with me. Am I really ready to be this person yet? If I’m completely honest with myself, how comfortable, confident and trusting am I at this moment with the thought of a partner just wandering off around the world without me? Perhaps this isn’t really what I want after all? Or maybe it really is what I want - to know there’s someone ‘out there’ for me, but not so close that they’re cramping my style? Sometimes if we look at what we want, but from the perspective of how we’d feel if we got it, then we can start to see how well it really fits us - or not.
Even for those in satisfying long-term relationships, there is a challenge in how we continue to feel loved no matter how our partner is feeling or behaving. If our feeling of being loved relies completely on another - even a close, loving other - we will continue to be subject to their human ups and downs, presences and absences. So we all need to work on a feeling of love that is beyond personal attachment - but which can, at its best, include the love we share with others. This love can come in many shapes and sizes, and sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping the feeling alive in whatever way works for you - music, dance, communion with nature, meditation, etc.
My relationship may be perfect at times, but it’s certainly not perfect all the time and those periods when I struggle with it most are usually the times when I’ve returned to relying on it as the main source of love in my life. It’s wonderful to enjoy the good times - but I’ve learnt by now to flow a little more with the changes and to find ways of feeling loved and loving even in the absence of a human lover.
The process of looking at what you want in a relationship starts with looking at what you want in life and why you want it.
It’s a process of looking at the values you hold, at the truths you tell yourself. Why is it that you want someone to share your life with? What could they give you that you don’t give yourself? How would your life be different in the ‘perfect’ relationship? We don’t spend 24/7 with our lovers, no matter how perfect, so how would the rest of our lives be any different if we are in the perfect relationship than if we‘re not? Could we not make the other changes now, finding some way of feeling good until the ‘right’ relationship shows up or the current one changes?
All of us, to some degree, look to another to love us in order to make us feel good. And shared love is particularly wonderful. But are there things about ourselves which we find unlovable unless someone else loves them? If so, our work is to find a way of loving them regardless - knowing that by loving ourselves unconditionally, we are ready to love another in the same way and open to receiving that unconditional love in return.
And what else do we look for in a relationship? Shared perspectives, perhaps? Common values and interests? As we get a clearer understanding of what we are looking for we also have an opportunity to start fulfilling some of those needs ourselves, rather than waiting for another to meet them. Sure, it can be more fun with another but the more we can meet our own needs, the more likely we are to step into a mature relationship with someone who is not looking to us simply as a source of comfort and self-esteem.
The more we can meet our own needs, the more we free up an intimate partner to truly bring an extra dimension into our lives - and free ourselves up to do likewise for them.
This work of developing a vision is not heavy - the lighter we make it, the better, which is why I like to think of it as day-dreaming. It can start whether you’re already in a relationship or not. It’s a masterpiece in progress, a work which is refined constantly even when you are happily involved with another. It is the process of consciously creating - setting energy in motion towards what we want through positive thoughts and feelings.
Day by day, as you go through life, notice the things you like - the ending to a book or film, a gesture between another couple, a memory, a dream. Even things you don’t like can be used to develop the vision, by turning them around and realising what you would like instead. You speak harshly to a loved one - so perhaps part of the vision for a good relationship is that both partners find a way of communicating more respectfully. Or you have a moment of intense passion for a piece of music and a deep desire to share it. By gradually noticing the things we like, or would like, in a relationship, the vision builds and the flow of our energy towards it also builds. I imagine it as stockpiling food cupboards with favourite ingredients, knowing that someday I’ll get a chance to pull them all together into the most delicious meal I’ve ever made.
And then the day dawns when that relationship we knew was possible appears in our lives - either with fanfare to announce its arrival or by the gradual morphing of an existing relationship into one which is happier and more fulfilling. Then our work is to continue to value and nurture it so that it becomes a constant source of nourishment for us over the years to come.
Originally published in Raw Attraction Magazine
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