If you have lived in this world long enough then you realize that, at times, our personal relationships can deteriorate into something more than just a simple disagreement. They can progress into serious conflict and a major rift and things can snowball downhill quickly from there. The divorce rate of 50% is a testament to this fact.
What we must realize in these situations is a few things. The first is that most people, even though they are reluctant to admit it, enter relationships for the wrong reasons. These could be physical attraction or infatuation, to alleviate loneliness, financial security to name a few. Sometimes two people are so dysfunctional individually that they feed each other’s dysfunction which allows the relationship to work for a while. These relationships are bound to fall apart at some point.
The second is that when you enter a relationship or a marriage, even though it is for better or for worse, there is no guarantee that it will last. I lived under this illusion for the longest time and it was only when I was able to let go of the need for my marriage to last forever that I was able to start to heal some of issues that were sabotaging it which is a paradox in itself. The fact is that as we progress in age and understanding we are always changing and evolving and there is no guarantee that two people who started out a relationship on the same page will stay there over the years.
The third thing we need to realize is that any relationship conflict that we face is meant to teach us something about ourselves and/or the person you’re in relationship with that you did not previously understand. This is the main reason that relationship issues are so pervasive. Relationships are the greatest training ground for life in general because it is in their context that we can better understand who we truly are.
For example, you may not have realized how selfish you truly are until your partner points it out to you. We often need the context of a relationship to help us realize our strengths and our flaws to know where we should be focusing on in our personal development. This is both the beauty and the challenge of relationships and if we do not realize this early on we will be be constantly enduring emotional chaos and turmoil in their midst.
The fourth thing to understand is that most relationship conflicts arise because one of both parties are stuck in their ego. The ego is an aspect of the mind and is the lower self that is involved in survival and navigating the practical aspects of daily life. For example, it is the ego that will warn you that you are in danger and it is the ego that will motivate you to find the highest paying job to help support yourself and your family.
The fact is that the ego is not who you are but just an aspect of who you are, just like you are not your physical body, your thoughts, your emotions, your life story or the roles you play in your life. Like I have mentioned in previous posts, you are the deeper consciousness, being or awareness that underlies all previous aspects that I have mentioned. If you do not realize this in the context of your relationships then you will be constantly challenged by them.
So how do you deal with your relationship falling apart? The first step is to ask yourself what is the root of this conflict. Is it something superficial or a bunch of superficial things accumulating over time leading to your current strife? Or is it something deeper such as a fundamental difference in values. You see, if you share the same values over time then, often, you can resolve the roots of your conflict with your partner. I’m not saying that it will be easy but I’m just saying that it is possible.
However, if you both have a fundamental change in what you each value then it may be time to reexamine whether your relationship is serving your highest good. For example if you like to party and drink with your friends on the weekends but your partner has had a spiritual awakening, has started to meditate, spend more time in nature and has decided to give up alcohol, this could be a major rift in values between the two of you. Even though you may be able to smooth over your differences in the short run, your relationship will likely not serve either of you over time and may no longer be in your best interest.
The second step to dealing with relationship conflicts is to scrutinize where each of you is approaching it from. If you are both stuck in your egos then you will likely not be able to solve the conflict. If, however, at least one of you is able to see beyond this superficial aspect of yourself to your deeper consciousness or being then it is more likely that you will be able to see your way through your conflict.
Einstein once said that you cannot solve a problem at the same level of consciousness that created it and this applies directly to the ego. By approaching your conflict from the level of your consciousness you will be able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and see the situation through his or her eyes. This is a crucial step to, not only resolving your relationship conflicts, but to solve any problem that you face in life. It has to be solved at a level deeper than the one that created it.
You should do this by stepping away from the conflict for a short time and sitting in stillness. As thoughts arise, you give them the momentary attention that they desire and then let them go. You also feel any emotion you are having deeply without resisting it. By doing this practice for at least 5 minutes, if not longer, you will have a good chance to accessing the deeper essence of who you are, the consciousness, being or awareness. Once you tap into this part of yourself, you will be able to see and engage in your conflict from a broader perspective.
The third step is to see your relationship conflicts as a training ground for your life. What are they trying to teach you or to help you understand about yourself? They may reveal to your character flaws such as selfishness. They may be teaching you that you need to listen more deeply to your partner by giving her your undivided attention. They may be showing you what you are addicted to and need to let go of. In any case try not to see the conflict for what it appears to be but try to see beyond it and what it is trying to show you about yourself and your partner.
If you are able to see beyond the conflict to the deeper truth that underlies it, it will help you grow and evolve both as an individual and, potentially, in your relationship with your partner.
Our relationships have much to teach us but only if we are able and willing to open up to their deeper wisdom both in the heights of their ecstasy and in the depths of their despair.
Nauman Naeem MD