In Western culture, we expect a lot out of our relationships. Just turn on the radio, and you will hear such phrases as “you complete me,” “I would be nothing without you,” or “I would die for you.” We are looking for someone to make us whole, to provide those parts of ourself that we think are lacking. We are looking for someone to make us strong and brave.
That is a lot to expect from one person. But expect it, we do. In our relationships, we “need” the other person to be a certain way, because we think that if they are this way, they will better provide us with the things we are lacking. When they are not that way, we take it personally and conflict arises.
The problem with this is that no person can complete us. We are complete already. If we think that we are not, then that is due to our own misunderstanding. It is our own mind that does not see us as complete. Another person can not change our own mind—only we can do that. The solution to “completeness” is to look inwardly, not outwardly.
When we look outwardly, we become dependent on the other person's praise and actions. They need to constantly “build us up” to make up for the lack in our own understanding. But they can not make up for the lack. So instead, we devour praise like candy, craving it more, than more we eat. We get addicted to our partner's words and actions, and that addiction is not love. We panic during conflict, because we fear losing our “fix.” We fear that we can not live without this person building us up, and we fight with them if they even appear to be changing.
So what is the solution? The solution is to search within ourselves for the completeness. How is it that our partner makes us feel different? How is it that we are seeking to feel about ourselves, in a relationship? The answers to those questions will guide us as we look inwardly, and learn to see our own completeness. As we learn to clear up misunderstandings we have about ourselves, we will stop looking for the answers in other people.
As we undergo this process, the purpose of our relationships changes. We are no longer seeking to be “complete,” and we no longer fear that we would die without the other person. Instead, we are able to see them in their wholeness and allow them to grow and change in any way that they need to. We are able to support them on their journey, to learn and grow together, rather than clinging to a temporary feel-good fix.
This new awareness, this new function that the relationship serves, is love. Love is allowing each other to grow, and sharing the journey. Love is looking past assumptions and working to communicate clearly. Love is not needing the other person's journey to be a certain way.
While we look outside ourselves for love, it truly does begin within. Once we do love ourselves—once we are able to clear up our misunderstandings and see ourselves for who we truly are, and to see our completeness—then we are able to love someone else. We are able to approach those around us without seeking anything that we are unable to provide for ourselves. The focus moves away from what we need, to how we can grow together.
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