Why do relationships fail or end badly?
The number one reason all relationships fail or fall short of their potential is lack of personal development and capacity on the part of one or both parties.
Let’s begin with the 7 Deadly Sins of Relationships:
Failure to Communicate: Discuss with and explore, not talk at, deep listening with empathy
Compartmentalization: Head/Heart split, Mind/Body split
Lack of Relating: Lack of contact, lack of extending toward
Emotional Immaturity: Lack of awareness of primary emotions, lack of capacity to hold emotional charge, limited range of emotions
Paranoia & Projection: Cynicism & Doubt, lack of capacity to see the past functioning in the present
Inner Critics Dancing: Compensating for each other’s emotional needs, cycle of judgment and negative merging
What a list! These are deeply ingrained patterns of ego activity that defend against vulnerability and diminish the potential for real relationship.
Addressing each of these requires a book and there are many good books out there. The intent of this article is not to explore these in depth, but to give some general contrast between the aspects of functional/real relationships and image-based/dysfunctional relationships.
Affairs of the Heart & Relationships
While heart and emotions dominate in love relationships, instinctual drives and cognitive functioning play their parts as well. All human relationships are an interplay between heart and mind, reason and emotion.
Cognitive scientists like Antonio Damasio showed us that emotion is not the opposite of reason; it’s essential to reason. Emotions assign value to things. If you don’t know what you want, you can’t make good decisions.
Furthermore, emotions tell you what to pay attention to, care about and remember. It’s hard to work through difficulty if your emotions aren’t engaged. Information is plentiful, but motivation is scarce.
Most of our relationships have layers of dust on them from our past. We spend more time in the past and the imagined, wished for future than in the present with our relationships and we rarely see that this imagining and reactivity has become normalized as ordinary experience.
There is a branch of psychology, object relations, that focuses on how the mind structures the past and projects it on immediate experience. It’s one of the primary mental processes the mind employs to understand and interpret our stream of experience..
Cinematic Happy Ever-after Love
We don’t have to look any further than the movies to see that 90% of what we believe about relationships and our expectations from them are formed by idealized stories, not reality.
Most people have unrealistic expectations for their relationship.
Ruth Westheimer — better known as Dr. Ruth — has seen it all, having counseled thousands of people about their relationships and sex lives. One general conclusion she's reached? Most people have unreasonably high expectations for romance. "Hollywood and the movies tell us that the stars have to be twinkling every night," adding, "That's not reality of life."
When it comes to love relationships, most people live in an idealized world of fantasy and magical thinking. We can be in our twentieth year of marriage and still be actively engaged in attempts to manifest our idealized relationship.
Real lives and real relationships are flush with the good, the bad, the ugly and the ordinary - hohum - of daily life.
Our idealized images of love and magical thinking around love actually speak to deep truths about love and relationship, but getting to those truths requires freeing our hearts and minds from the past and many, if not all, of our cherished beliefs.
5 Questions to Ask Ourselves About relationships
Can I speak my truth?
Do I trust that we can work to understand or do I fear reactivity and judgment?
What do I avoid and why?
Do I “know” the other person and use that “knowing” for control and security?
How open, intimate and contactful am I in the flow of relationship?
Relationships are like Banana Splits
You can’t have a banana split without a split banana and most, if not all, relationships are based upon a primary psychological split - good versus bad.
We want the goodies, the ice creams, syrups, nuts, whipped cream, and cherry, but they can cover up a very bruised banana we’d just as soon avoid awareness of. Not that bruised and overripe bananas don’t taste great, but bruises and blemishes, challenges and difficulties, frictions and negativity are not part of the idealized relationships most of us seek.
True relationships are rarely purely positive and that is where the problem starts.
The mind tends to see relationships in black and white—a relationship is either purely good or purely bad. It’s difficult to allow ourselves to have both at the same time.
We have a very deep tendency to want to make relationships either all good or all bad, even though we know that a relationship is never one or the other; it is always a mixture.
When you see a relationship in absolute terms of all good or all bad, it cannot be a real relationship. It is a mental relationship—something in your mind. It is not what is actually happening. - A. H. Almaas
What we want is a fairy tale, not a real human relationship. A real human relationship is like a banana split on a 110 degree day - a sticky, gooey, yet, mostly, totally delightful mess.
The 5 Pillars of Great Relationships
Trust - confidence in the good
Communication - listening, hearing, speaking, sharing
Acceptance - openness, not the opposite of rejection
Curiosity - love of getting to the real
Light-heartedness - lots of laughs together
In a real relationship, you laugh your ass off
The number one predictor that relationships will last…? You might think it's communication, or mutual respect. You might think it has to do with having similar values. Nope. It's about laughter.
It turns out laughter is a somewhat unexpected yet unnervingly accurate bellwether of relationship health:
"For couples who divorced on average 13.9 years after they were married, it was the absence of laughter that predicted the end of their bond," stated the research. "In the early stages of a marriage, anger and contempt are highly toxic. In the later phases of intimate relations, it is the dearth of laughter that leads individuals to part ways."
All we need is
love… to find the love underlying everything.
The following is condensed from Diamond Heart Book 4: Indestructible Innocence by A. H. Almaas. Chapter 11: The Courageous Heart
What is a real relationship?
The relationship that is actually there. Now, saying that the real relationship is the relationship that is really there is not necessarily the same thing as saying it is the relationship that you perceive to be there. That is the crux of the problem. Most people tend to do everything possible not to perceive or acknowledge the real relationship. We always try to make it something that fits with our mind or our ideas.
The difficulty is that we do not see the relationship that is actually there, and we do not even experience ourselves to be engaged in the relationship that we are actually engaged in.. So we are distinguishing a real relationship from the relationship that a human being usually perceives.
you need to see what is happening, what the relationships are. If we do not clarify, perceive, and live according to the true relationship that is actually happening, there will be no contact. There will be no real relating. There will be only mental interaction, one image interacting with another image. There will not be a real human being relating to another human being; there will be your past interacting with someone else’s past.
And when it becomes negative, isn’t it the same kind of negative feeling that you have always had before in relationships? If you see the person as rejecting you, it is the same way you always feel whenever a relationship gets bad. It is rarely different. Some people are perpetually engaged in negative relationships where they feel rejected. Some people are always the rejecting and angry one.
That same old flavor must be something you bring with you from the past.
3 Basic Mental Relationships
Idealized Relationship - totally positive, all-good
Frustrating Other - the other is the yummy one that you always want but you cannot have.
Hostile Relationship - you feel unwanted, rejected, or hated.
What do we want from relationship?
Because we usually engage in mental relationships instead of real relationships, we are not present and we are not in contact. Contact requires real relationship. Contact means contact with what is actually there, with the actual relationship. The moment you split it, make it all positive or all frustrating or all hostile, you are not in contact. You are in your mind then. You are operating through your thoughts, and emotional reactions which are reacting to your thoughts.
What is the resolution of this situation? The resolution is to be aware, and to allow, accept, and acknowledge the real relationship that is actually happening, instead of trying to make it something different from what it is. But to be able to do that you need to manifest what I call the courageous heart. The real relationship is the relationship of the courageous heart.
So true relationship, real relationship is based ultimately on love, and does not exclude anything else. The courageous heart does not exclude negativity. If your heart is loving, you do not have to exclude the negative.
The courageous heart is the heart that is always present, regardless of what happens.
That does not mean that the frustration and difficulty will go away, but they will not be as powerful. They are never really as powerful. Difficulties are powerful only because we are identified with the negative relationship. Our nature is love. We are, in fact, the source of love. So the most powerful force within us is the loving force. That is the reality.
Real love is courageous, it is strong, it is no bullshit. If someone does something hateful to you, you deal with it with strength, but you do not stop loving. You do not eliminate the good just because there is bad. You do not eliminate what is really there just because there is also something you do not like. So your courage is in being real, and in being real, you are truly courageous to see the other person as who they are, the whole package.
The real person has real relationships.
Having a real relationship with yourself allows you to have real relationships with others.
How do you experience your relationships?
Being Real in Relationship
See what is.
Acknowledge the facts.
What is the actual relationship?
Acknowledge all of the feelings.
Take on the totality of who you are and the totality of the relationship
All the time you are creating something that is not there. You need to see through your creation and see what really is there.
Being in contact does not mean you will experience only love. To be really in contact means to be in contact with whatever is there, all of it in all of its dimensions.