The New Paradigm Of Intimacy
In Couples Relationships
By Chris Wright, M.A.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
In the last few years a new paradigm has emerged in couples relationships. One that is radically different from the earlier heights we all aspired to --that of a “healthy relationship.” This new conscious approach to relating intimately represents a complete shift in our orientation, the processes involved, and even the goals of our being together. And yet it offers a level of harmony, healing, passion and intimacy that is far beyond what we’ve come to expect. Or aim for.
This paradigm is so new to us, we rarely see it clearly laid out anywhere. Yet as we go through the dynamics, you will intuitively recognize it. Relate to it. Affirm it. For it represents more closely the archetype that lies deep in our hearts than any other model of a life partnership. But then you will also come to see why it has been, up to now, so rare.
To start with, what do we mean by a conscious couples relationship? And how is it different from what we’ve known in the past? Just as it implies, a “conscious” relationship is one where each of us stays conscious, or present, in our connection together. Through thick and thin. Staying conscious means keeping our hearts open, vulnerable, and connected to each other.
In a conscious relationship that connection is sacred. Something magical happens when you feel connected and truly present together. You can always tell when your hearts are open to each other. Just as you can tell when your partner shuts you out of his or her heart, and goes unconscious in the relationship. Consciously preserving this connection -- enlivening it, deepening it, and consciously resolving everything which arises that threatens it together --that’s a Conscious Relationship.
So what does it take? There are two fundamental dynamics that we will need to master. On the one hand, there are dynamics that enliven our loving feelings, and nourish our souls. They include all of the caring behaviors and shared loving experiences that foster connection together. And bring us closer to our true nature. Then there are contrary dynamics that are driven by tension which threaten the love in our hearts and our connection together. They distort our essence and true nature. This new path is about consciously working with both of these dynamics -- our love and our shadow. Gaining mastery in them is the key to a successful Conscious Relationship together.
Resolving Our Issues Together
What could threaten the love connection when people truly fall in love? Interestingly, when you are in love with someone, when you “surrender” your heart, you become very vulnerable in the relationship. “Vulnerable, ”however, means being “hurt-able.” That’s why the more you open your heart with someone, the more easily you can be hurt. And deeply. Those who have been burned know how hard that can be.
Also, the more you fall in love, the more exposed are your deepest insecurities, dependencies and unresolved needs. All of your emotional wounds since infancy and birth, in childhood, adolescence, and in your previous love relationships are exposed when you open your heart. The stronger the love’s radiance, the darker the shadows you can encounter.
Of course, in a Conscious Relationship we are committed to keeping our hearts open and being vulnerable in love together. Which means staying present, or conscious, to experience whatever emerges, or is exposed. The pleasure and the pain. This includes all the feelings that get triggered -- our innocent loving feelings as well as our fears, frustrations, and tensions associated with unmet needs and expectations. Not to mention our deeper, repressed insecurities and wounded areas that generate all of the issues that we bring into the relationship.
This is where a Conscious Relationship is as radically different from the “healthy relationship” as it is from the relationships of our parents. With a conscious couple the relationship is seen as a primary vehicle for personal and spiritual growth and healing. Those issues that generate tension are seen as areas where we need to grow and heal. They become part of our work that we are here to do towards wholeness. We honor the process, and use the issues as valuable opportunities for growth and the purification of our consciousness. This becomes our path to inner freedom and wholeness.
In a typical relationship, however, this is where things typically break down. As tensions emerge, we tend to blame our partner for the charged issues that are triggered. Or defend against owning them. In any case, there is little or no framework of safety for opening up. We lose our presence, and go unconscious.
In deflecting the painful issues, however, do they go away? Unfortunately, they simply go underground, where they continue to fester. Over the years, with each disappointment, upset, and disconnection, we can feel our hearts pull back. As issues mount up, they weaken our sense of intimacy and connection. How could it be any other way? So we grow apart and feel more separate. Of course, you can always tell. You can feel it in your heart. You may even forget many of the original jarring incidents. But the painful feelings and unmet needs that were registered still live deep inside.
Recognizing this, a conscious couple is committed to resolve the obstacles that emerge which interfere with their love and innocent connection. “Nothing goes underground, or is left unconscious and unresolved” is the mantra. We form a conscious alliance to work through these issues together safely. Not just to preserve and deepen our love together, but to heal and free our selves as well.
We come together in a conscious relationship to discover, “what’s the work we have to do together towards wholeness.” Psychologically, emotionally, and on the soul level. We recognize that our unconscious distorted structures will need to surface and dissolve in order to develop our true nature. What better place to do it? Each conflict, trigger, unmet need, or distorted behavior gives us valuable insight into what we’re lacking in the goodness of our Being. They are clues to what we need to heal within our selves. They’re not just another hassle. They tell us something important. They lead us to our pain. So we can heal our hearts. And free our souls.
Many of us are getting to the point where we
realize that we can’t hang out in those old, unconscious, distorted patterns
anymore. It just results in too much suffering -- within our selves, in the
Marriage, in the terrible effect it has on our kids, as well as on our whole society. In staying unconscious, these insecurities and distortions undermine everything we aspire to, and hold dear in our lives.
Clearly, this involves a commitment to knowing the self, expanding our self, healing our selves. We use the relationship to inspire and support each other to bring the light of consciousness to these binding areas of our unconscious. Where we establish safe frameworks that allow us to stay present in the face of our issues, as we discover and heal those lost, painful, repressed parts of our selves. As a result, we become more secure and loving as human beings, and with each other.
What About People Who Don’t Want to Work on Their Issues?
So what would be the reason people don’t want to work on it together? “I don’t want to have to look at my part in this,” or “I don’t want to have to face my limitations, my inadequacies and insecurities.” Isn’t it because people don’t feel safe? They intuitively realize that they don’t have the tools, shared understandings, and frameworks in the relationship that would make the process secure. Or that would ensure a positive and healing outcome.
They’re right. People have lacked the understandings and the tools that make them feel safe enough to be vulnerable together for the healing process to take place. Without these tools, they can easily get stuck in their projections, defenses, or blame. And lose the rich opportunity that is there. For most people in relationship, it’s right there, confronting them.
Actually, most people don’t even get to choose. They tend to draw in the perfect mate who will expose and trigger their emotionally-charged, wounded areas. It all shows up in the conflicts and tensions couples
experience together -- in the buttons that get pushed, in the arguments they have, in the areas they can’t discuss. It’s inevitable. Since everyone’s pretty much in same boat, with unresolved issues and insecurities inside to resolve, there’s little chance for a free ride.
So in our partner, we have met our match. He or she becomes the mirror that brings to the forefront our distortions and flaws. Knowing this, we realize that projecting everything back onto our partner -- making it his or her fault for the problems in the relationship, is not the solution for resolving them. Nor is denying or avoiding the issues that emerge.
Many are surprised to realize that the success of a relationship does not depend on finding someone without issues (Good luck). Rather, our success together depends on how healthy, self-aware, and conscious each of us is with our own issues, and how safely we deal with them when they emerge in the relationship, and in our lives. That becomes the basis for a Conscious Relationship.
This involves a revolutionary shift in how we see our issues. In this new wisdom, we develop together a “friendly” understanding to the flawed aspects of our selves that need healing. These new tools and understandings enable us to shift from feeling ashamed, victimized, made wrong, or afraid to own our painful wounds and patterns. They allow each of us to open up and be vulnerable with what shows up. Look at it. Own it. And consciously move through the issues to resolution. For healing takes place in this presence. The tools support us to stay present. Live from presence.
So charged issues that used to get us stuck, that would have become an argument or pulled us a part, are now transformed into a sacred process of healing together. Where we end up feeling peace in our hearts, and closer to each other. And in the process, we actually free up deeper qualities of our true nature. The result is a genuine humbleness in the relationship. And mutual appreciation, “Thank you for showing me this, and helping me heal.” The complete trust, closeness, and growth is incredible.
How is it in your relationship when differences and conflicts emerge? Certainly, without these understandings and safe tools the process can be hell. This is why Conscious Couples Relationships are rare. The concept has arrived, but it is new on the scene. Even still, gaining this understanding alone is not enough. Most couples need to learn together the specific tools, processes, frameworks that make the process safe. Tools that will enable them to stay conscious as they move through the, often times, painful issues that emerge. Processes that will ensure that they end up feeling closer, even more vulnerable and in love with each other each time.
These skills and tools can be learned and internalized by most couples as a natural part of their personalities and lives. But raising the bar to a higher standard of intimacy and healing requires training. Couples don’t usually realize this. “Aren’t we simply learning new skills?” Yes, but most find that supervision becomes important when you are learning to open up and share your vulnerability. Particularly in learning to move through your issues safely together. Opening your heart to where your true love resides is also where all your painful insecurities are registered.
Deepening Our Love Together
The second dynamic to master in a Conscious Relationship is the importance of consciously enlivening our positive, loving feelings together. In the old model, people married and then focused most of their attention on the never-ending projects that come up -- career, kids, personal projects. In a Conscious Relationship, however, there’s an awareness that relationships, and people, need nurturing to expand. We grow and are nourished when we connect vulnerably together, and share in experiences that enliven our loving feelings. The opposite -- where everything else seems more important, where we tune out each others’ emotional needs, where we don’t share in loving, rich experiences together -- will deaden the relationship, and our selves.
Of course, everyone brings to a relationship certain natural talents and abilities in expressing and receiving love. For some people, it’s easy to open up and share “contactfully” with their partner. So you feel connected in your lives together. Some also are inclined to reach out often and connect, touch, soothe, validate, affirm, acknowledge and nurture their partner -- so you feel “nourished” in your sense of self, and together. There are partners who make a point to learn to do fun, shared activities together, who regularly buy and wrap special little symbolic gifts and surprises for each other. Who know how to romance you, and be attentive to details that make you feel special and loved. Honored and respected. Some will know how to extend physical sex into emotional intimacy for ecstatic, divine lovemaking.
Most people, however, are not talented in the full range of skills necessary for intimacy to flourish. Again, training is required to develop intimacy skills as natural expressions of one’s personality and love. So if you notice that you’re in a relationship where the two of you are not consciously expressing your love easily or sharing in experiences that expand and deepen your love, then be sure to get training in these areas. Just as you would in order to be more successful in your career.
Learning the Tools Together
The only reason more people are not in a Conscious Relationship is that education in these tools and skills has been lacking. In personally wanting to live these conscious dynamics, and in teaching couples skills at various centers, I realized the limitations in the existing “healthy” tools used in couples programs around the country. They were not designed for this level of vulnerability, healing and intimacy to emerge. So over the years we developed and systematized a full range of new and innovative processes. Tools, skills and understandings that will help you transform your relationship into a safe, fulfilling, conscious one. They are taught in seminars, classes, workshops, and privately. They are important to learn no matter what stage of a relationship you’re in -- whether you’re single, newly married, or married for a long time. Whether you’re happy or feeling stuck in a dead end.
Just think if you’d had these skills together when you first got married. This orientation is so different from the commonly held belief that says your feelings of “falling in love” will not last. Of course, we can see why they say that. When uncomfortable feelings emerge and are not resolved, they go underground, and your heart pulls back a little. Over time, as unresolved feelings and issues accumulate, that’s what you get. So you adapt. Or you leave. Leaving is what a hefty fifty percent of all
Marriages have decided to do.
What, then, about distressed marriages? Is there hope? Of course, you can learn to start safely healing together now. Otherwise, what are the options? Stay together suffering? Find another mate? The statistics for second marriages, unfortunately, are worse. A whopping seventy percent end in divorce. That’s not good news. Clearly, without these skills, people take their old patterns and issues on to the next relationship. Remember the adage: “Falling in love is the easy part. Keeping your hearts open and deepening the intimacy requires skills.” For some, the key determinate of whether to stay in a distressed marriage, or even engage in a new one with someone, is whether the partner is willing to explore learning these kinds of skills.
It’s our experience that becoming skillful in this conscious relationship process can make all the difference in your lives. These skills establish the foundation of trust that allows you to truly surrender in your hearts. They enable you to live your vision. In so doing, you discover a sacred, divine love together that is beyond your imagination.
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