We get an energy high in our initial time with someone but the going can get rough when we settle into life together. Most of us are deeply wounded with shame, insecurities and fears, full of mistrust but at the same time desperately needy for love. We bring this woundedness, often unknowingly, into our relationships and they show up as strategies, demands, avoidance, conflict, disappointments and even betrayals.
There are mine fields to step on and ditches to fall into and if we go into this adventure blindly, we will encounter these mines and ditches.
For example, sooner or later, we will run into our betrayal wound. Something happens in our relating that makes us feel that we can no longer trust the person we are with. They have done something that suddenly makes us realize that the person is not as "trustworthy“ as we hoped. Or perhaps they turn out to be different than we imagined – we start to see that they are not so reliable or honest, and they lack integrity, or they are not enough in their energy or closed and unavailable or clinging or demanding. We feel betrayed.
The problem is that we entered into the relationship full of expectations whether we realized them or not. Someone once asked Amana and me in a workshop if it wasn’t natural to expect the other person to be a certain way. We answered that we can expect all we want but the only expectation that holds water is to expect the other person to be 100% who they are.
When we enter into our relationships, most of the time, we have not seen the person accurately. What we saw and probably continue to see is what we want to see, something that fits our fantasies and hopes. Then we get disappointed and feel betrayed. It is tough to drop our fantasies and expectations. It is a bit like dying. But once we find the space to actually see and accept the other as they are rather than as we want them to be, we have survived the "trust ditch."
We will hit a mine or a ditch when we try to make contracts in our relating. We are naturally terrified that if we open, we might be rejected or abandoned. But to make a contract out of our relating to feel safe only invites suffering if it does not correspond to what is. For example, a woman we worked with was deeply disappointed because her boyfriend broke their "commitment" and made love to another woman.
But when she looked more closely at the situation, she could see that he was not being honest to himself and his energy when he made the monogamy contract.
Another form of this particular aspect of love’s shadow is getting stuck in a role. For example, one person becomes the parent or teacher and other person becomes the regressed child or student. It feels comfortable and secure for a while but sooner or later, it kills the love. Most intimate relationships play these roles to some extent but it becomes a problem when we are identified with one of them. It is a prison and eventually one person will do something to break the bonding – like having an affair. But if we can become aware of these roles initially, we can avoid the ditch.
One of the widest and deepest ditches comes up around sex. At first, we may have passionate and fully alive sex but as people come closer and become more vulnerable, buried wounds start to surface and it affects our sexuality. Most often, we miss the initial freedom and aliveness and desperately try all kinds of ways to get it back. But the relating has gone deeper and depth means that shame, fears and dysfunction will surface. Without an understanding for this, a space to share and a way to include it in the love, one or both people sink into deep shame and feelings of betrayal.
We also encounter problems in the ways that we come close and give each other space. We come together with another person both with powerful memories of being emotionally or physically abandoned as well as being engulfed and possessed in the name of love. So we are highly sensitive to being demanded upon or not feeling that the other is there for us. Many conflicts revolve around these two wounds. With more understanding that both people need love and need space, we can learn to give each other what we need while also being sensitive to the other person’s wound.
These are only some of the areas where lack of understanding of our inner world can sabotage love and friendship. There is perhaps no greater challenge than to open to another because it is so easy to get hurt and some of us have been so hurt that we may have given up on love.