How do we know if our relationships are authentic + healthy? This is a scary question to ask because we risk losing people – or losing our idea of them. With this question, we put the foundations of our safety to the test: Are the people around me really good for me? Am I good for them?
For those that are courageous enough to dive down into the depths of these questions, truly authentic relationships become possible.
I came to a very sobering + painful realization about a relationship I was in. It had taken me years of both personal experience + studying relationships to realize that I had (unintentionally) been using someone for their qualities. Specifically, I was magnetized to them for their ability to be fun, childlike,
open, and honest – all things that I didn't feel like I had access to.
Though I was conscious of the fact that I admired these qualities in them, I didn’t realize that my relationship with this person was an expectation. I expected that by being around them, they would share these qualities not only with me, but for me. Subconsciously, I felt that being around them would allow those qualities to rub off on me – that I could be free + uninhibited like I was as a kid.
This may sound naïve, but it's what most people are doing in romantic relationships, usually unconsciously. When we're not self-aware, we can easily slip into a pattern of using people or expecting them to integrate certain qualities for us. Let me explain..
Especially in romantic relationships, we’re attracted to opposites or polarities. A very simple + common example is the masculine/feminine polarity, or the introvert/extrovert polarity. This attraction to people who are somehow our 'other half' doesn’t have to be a problem. But what usually happens is that we try to fill a specific void through the other person - We try to integrate the lost aspects of ourselves THROUGH them. This puts the other person in a sort of invisible prison - They are unaware of what we expect and thus doomed to fail at meeting our precise expectations. Oftentimes, they are doing the same thing to us - So what does this ultimately mean?
The relationship has no genuine foundation. Instead of real understanding and trust, you are projecting an idea onto the other person and they're doing the same. Thus you can't fully know who that person really is. Oftentimes, relationships end once the façade cracks and each person has to come to terms with how the relationship actually is. This is why several studies have shown that most relationships fail after 1-2 years.
Because our subconscious is always seeking wholeness (or a state similar to how we were in childhood, before trauma + conditioning), it automatically magnetizes toward external representations of what we need to integrate. In other words, when we meet people who EMBODY the traits that we have lost, we subconsciously want to merge with that person in order to regain those traits in ourselves. It can feel like falling in love, coming home, being saved, or even addicted to someone (Studies show that breakups affect the brain like drug withdrawal). We can’t help but want to be around these people, because we sense they have something we need. And in a way, they do. But the way we play it out is often very toxic.
Hard truth: These kinds of relationships end frequently + painfully. Once the smoke and mirrors subside, people are left with the harsh reality that they want + need totally different things. The only healthy option is to separate in this case - Otherwise, one individual will tend to abandon their own needs to please the other, while the other tends to pull away.
However, this doesn't mean that all relationships that experience challenges are doomed. You don't have to be some perfectly 'enlightened' being to make a relationship work. In truth, sometimes all that is needed is two open-minded + caring individuals who can communicate well.
Considering humanity's current level of consciousness, this relationship trap is natural and nothing to beat yourself up about! The vast majority of relationships today have at least a slim element of codependence (frankly, we'd all be pretty polyamorous otherwise). This is just part of the learning process in relationships.
It’s important that we continuously integrate the aspects of ourselves that are suppressed (this is what the Shadow Workbook is for), and it's important that we do this on our own. No matter what is going on with the other people in our lives, we need to individually move toward wholeness + self-fulfillment. If we don’t, our relationships will never be truly authentic, healthy, or satisfying. When we seek to fill voids through a partner, we usually end up bored (best case scenario) or filled with resentment + trauma (worst case scenario).
I'm someone who has always been a student of psychology + sociology. And yet I was still playing out these patterns without fully realizing what I was doing or why. It can be so subtle, and because much of society treats relationships this way, there are few people who can call us out. It's simply the norm.
This is why we often see seemingly happy couples split up. Their devastated friends say, “We never saw it coming! They seemed so happy..”
Subscribe to the monthly newsletter + start breaking free of your conditioning
As I mentioned earlier, the main solution to this will always be personal integration – doing the work on your own to heal and understand yourself better. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but it’s what will give you genuine long-term happiness + solid relationships. The more subconscious material you bring to light, the more you learn about your own needs + preferences, the easier it is to line up with a partner that suits you.
No expert on earth can tell you what your particular wounding issues are, your fears, your coping mechanisms, etc. Start exploring these things through the triggers that pop up most often for you.
Another good thing to consider is: What qualities do you find attractive or repulsive in other people? What do you wish you could be, but you feel you can’t embody? (funny? free? spontaneous? responsible? outgoing? organized?)
If you're currently in a relationship, a great practice is to start realizing when you expect things from people – How are you trying to control people? How are you not fully accepting them? Do any of their actions/decisions make you feel threatened, insecure, or disappointed? This is huge. If we’re trying to get very specific needs met through someone, we can actually start to limit and suppress their wholeness in an attempt to achieve our own. This is when things get toxic. It's also important to realize if you're with someone who is doing this to YOU.
Recognizing this in the middle of a relationship is a great thing – Now you can move forward more authentically. If you want the relationship to continue and both people are willing to talk openly and work through their issues, there’s no reason why it can’t continue. However, bear in mind that once two people realize they’ve been trying to integrate through the other, they may simultaneously realize that they're incompatible. Teal Swan has a really informative video on this: Incompatibility: A Harsh Reality in Relationships.
Get 3 free pages of the Shadow Workbook -->