“The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.” -Joan Baez
There comes a time in every relationship where you feel you are at a crossroads. The point at which you question who you’re with and who you’ve become. It’s long after the honeymoon haze of dinners and impromptu flowers. And after the power struggle stage that acts like a minefield of seemingly innocent traps. For me, it often comes at the moment right when I have to go “all in.” The moment when I get hit over the head with a cartoon-like anvil and say, “Wow! This person is not the person I signed up to be with!”
Being the former codependent and self-help junkie that I am, I tend to blame myself or pathologize the situation. “Why am I like this? Why is HE like this? Why don’t we get each other?” And each time, it comes down to the same issue: we teach people how to treat us.
As I fantasize about kids’ names and curtains, I tend to forget that relationships are sacred contracts. Each of my relationships have been spiritual assignments I unknowingly chose to teach me lessons I cannot learn on my own. The problem for me has always been that I enter into this contract largely unaware of what I’ve signed up for.
For example, in a contract with a former boyfriend, we made an unspoken deal: I had abandonment issues and what I needed from him was safety, certainty, and constant reassurance that I was loved. He, on the other hand, was emotionally constipated and could not deal with his own emotions, let alone mine. Thus, in this unspoken agreement, I promised not to push him on his feelings and in return, he agreed to stick around. And while that hardly sounds like a recipe for love, it served us both. He held me safely in my cocoon so I could “heal.” In return, I did my best not to rock the boat. Not surprisingly, it slowly and epically fell apart.
“How could this happen? What changed?” I asked myself.
The truth was that I changed. And, like any contract, it expired. The “safety” I sought soon led to stagnation. As a human being, it is only natural that I would grow and evolve. Thus, the contract needed to be renegotiated.
I came to realize that a relationship contract can only work when it allows both people to be their truest selves. If the cost of being in the relationship meant silencing my voice and my truth, the price was too high. Self-love needed to be the cornerstone of all my relationships. I needed to truly believe that self-love is not selfish, but is instead the highest expression of self. Having wants, needs, and desires didn’t make me a bad person, it made me a whole person.
The key to a beautiful and rich relationship is two whole people who are willing to write and rewrite contracts that are aligned with each other’s highest truth. Had we showed up for our relationship in a mature space of self-love, the contract would have demonstrated the integrity of our love for each other and the assignment that our souls had agreed to learn together.
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” -Thomas Merton
The Desire to Change
Of course, knowledge and awareness are not the same thing. I knew I was not expressing what I wanted in a relationship, but I didn’t have the awareness to change it in real-time (Hindsight is 20/20!) As I repeated the cycle of unconsciously signing relationship contracts, I began to notice that my life resembled the movie “Groundhog Day.” Sure, the cast changed, but the plot always remained. I stopped growing and began feeling stuck in all areas of my life. And it was at that moment that I knew that blame was only going to get me so far. If I wanted to change my relationships, I’d have to change myself.
I’ve spent the past few years renegotiating many of the sacred contracts I’ve unconsciously agreed to, be it with parents, friends, coworkers, and romantic partners. I’ve learned not to sign the metaphorical contract with the belief that people should be able to read my mind, and that I, in turn, can read theirs. I no longer set myself up for unmet expectations and disappointment. I’ve finally learned that communication is the key to connection.
So what does renegotiation look like?
At first, there was a bit of trial and error.
I tried changing my behavior.
Fumbling through awkward conversations.
Walking away with love.
The relationships that grew stronger were the ones where BOTH of us had the courage and willingness to look at our agreement and update it. That meant I had to decide:
- What wasn’t working for me
- How I contributed to the issue
- How I could set boundaries
- How I would maintain them
And when a new behavior broke from an old pattern and merited a conversation, I had it. I openly discussed what wasn’t working for me and what I needed. I then gave the other person the space to do the same.
Of course, many did not go this route. Some contracts that expired. And that’s where the magic happened. After all, awareness creates choice. And once I got honest, it became too clear to ignore that I had already learned what I needed to from those relationships. On a karmic level, they were complete. Thus, it was time to release each other with love, cutting the cords and surrendering the outcome.
And while that was painful, it was an opportunity for me to realize how much I had grown. I was no longer the girl who feared abandonment. I was the girl who had the ability to choose herself.
As I enter into new relationships, here is the clause I mentally write in bold:
“I will do whatever I can to meet your wants and needs, but only as long as they are in alignment with my highest truth. No guilt trips. No blame games. No power plays. No sacrificing either of our desires to please the other.”
The ultimate commitment is trusting each other to share our deepest desires while setting and respecting our own boundaries.
So what does it take?
Courage. It takes deciding to be vulnerable and being brave enough to express what you want in a relationship. And yes, it’s scary to lay out what you want. But isn’t it scarier to turn your back on your truth? Once I decide to get out of my own way, I do the following:
- Clean up my side of the street. I look at my relationship from an outside perspective. I imagine stepping out of my body and into my higher self. This pulls me out of the drama and allows me to see how much of what I’m expecting him to give me is what I could be giving myself.
- I get clear on why I’m doing this. My intention in entering or redefining a contract is to have two people come together as equals. Its establishment says that we will both make an effort to meet each other’s desires as often as we can without sacrificing our own desires or self-care. If one person is constantly expressing desires and the other is repeatedly saying no, the contract expired and needs to be updated or torn up. Internally, I clarify whether my intention is love or to quell a fear inside me.
- I create space for the other person to express his or her needs and check my ego at the door while I listen.
- The sacred contract is about love, not the ego. And if the loving thing to do is to adjust my behaviors without adjusting my values, I’m in. If the loving thing to do is to terminate the contract, I do so knowing that I learned everything I was meant to from the partnership.
- I keep showing up. I keep doing the work. I honor my needs, maintain my boundaries, and remember that no one has the ability to read my mind.
“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
This process has allowed and continues to allow me to be even more discerning with the people I choose to surround myself with. I, like you, deserve to be able to freely express what I want and need even when it leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed.
And, the reverse is true. This process allows those who are in my life to feel that they, too, can be vulnerable without the fear that I will not meet their needs. This is where an evolved relationship begins.
“You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”
-Barbara de Angelis
Amita is the Owner and Founder of AlignedHolistics.com, a coaching services company that empowers individuals to create a life they love from a place of self-love vs. self-discipline. As a coach, writer, and wellness expert, Amita works with individuals to break through their barriers and embrace lifestyle change from the inside-out. Her unique approach combines nutrition, physical activity, relationships, career, and personal philosophy. Amita has been featured on CBS, NBC, and the Huffington Post. She received her Master’s Degree from New York University and her Health Coach Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Want to learn more? Book your initial breakthrough session today to identify the blocks getting in your way. Download your free copy of “10 Tips To Become The Happiest Person You Know” and receive weekly tips delivered straight to your inbox.