Being Authentically Ourselves in Relationship
Sometimes we want to maintain peace in a relationship above all else. I used to have an unbalanced view about how to be in relationship. I thought that keeping the peace and being giving without expecting anything in return was the way to be kind and loving. I also thought that this type of giving would help me hold on to a relationship (platonic or not), because then I would be valued.
Certainly, peace is one of the keys to a satisfying relationship and there are situations in our lives when peace is of the utmost importance, for example when we don’t have the bandwidth to deal with turbulence. But when the goal of peace regularly supersedes love, it could create an environment where conflicts are not actually resolved and nobody’s needs are really met.
When I speak of love as a beacon, I mean love towards oneself as well as love towards the other. I mean love as a measure of truth: What is best in this situation? What serves the highest good? What is kind and respectful towards me as well as the other? As someone who has a tendency to be over-giving, it is particularly helpful for me to be attuned to my own needs, lest I lose track of them.
In the distant past, I knew someone who would quickly apologize whenever there was a conflict in one of her relationships, even if she didn’t think she had done anything wrong. She told me that she had begun doing this as a way to keep things peaceful. For her, it just wasn’t worth getting into messy struggles and possibly losing the relationship.
One day we had a disagreement and after some time, she apologized to me. At first I thought that she had come to understand my point of view, and I felt relieved. But something still felt off, and after some conversation, I saw that she didn’t understand me at all. Then I remembered that she had the habit of apologizing falsely. No wonder things felt off — it wasn’t a true apology. Smoothing things over in that inauthentic way made me feel misled. It did not make for true peace, nor did it make for a feeling of safety, love, or a genuine friendship.
At another point, I was in a friendship where I gave a lot emotionally, always being very supportive and listening patiently and nonjudgmentally. I, however, did not feel seen or heard. I would get off the phone and feel drained, but I chided myself, telling myself that if I was a real friend, I would just give selflessly. Eventually I realized that in general, a healthy friendship has some measure of reciprocity.
Looking more deeply, I also saw that I was not being loving towards myself because I wasn’t acknowledging my needs. Making my needs known was not comfortable or easy, but it ultimately resulted in more self-love and a more genuine relationship because I was being true to myself as well as honest with her.
Experiencing authenticity, safety, and love is much more important to me now than maintaining a facade of peace. Sometimes it can get uncomfortable while things are being worked out, or even lead to the loss of a relationship, but to me, it is ultimately worthwhile.
I have found that tuning into love as my guiding light helps me know how to proceed and communicate in a way that is for everyone’s highest good. It also helps me to be calm when things are rocky.
This may be a slightly different orientation than what we are used to. Rather than focusing on catering only to the other, catering just to our own needs, or trying to figure out in a solely intellectual way how to balance everyone’s needs, we can cater to the energy of love. We can ask ourselves questions such as, “What would love have me do right now?”, or “Am I increasing or eroding love?”. We can also tune into our Higher Self, or Divinity, the Source of Love, for guidance. When I do that, I am led down a compassionate path to working out relationship challenges, one that is gentle, kind, and respectful to both of us.
May you be in touch with Love as a beacon in all of your relationships.
PATRICE SPITZ, C.S.C.
ThetaHealer, Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor