I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
When we say we are not getting what we need from our relationship–from our partner, lover, husband, wife–more often than not we are seeking from this person what actually is not available from any human. What we are seeking is available only from God.
A relationship is not a place we go to get. A relationship is a place we go to give.
For many, if not most, of us, romantic relationships are a place through which we try to work out our childhood wounds. There is something missing in my life, something I should have received from my parents–love, acceptance, encouragement–something that would have helped me find self-love and self-acceptance. Almost everyone we know has a version of this. We grow up never quite having solved the equation of how to get our parents to give us this thing we needed, then we naturally are drawn to lovers who in some fashion will present us with the same equation. And maybe this time I’ll be good enough or smart enough orsomething enough to get it from him or her. Finally, we will win.
Of course this never works out; and chances are good that we will crash and burn at least a few relationships as we blame our partner for not doing it the way they’re supposed to be doing it, for not giving us what we need. In this modern world of ours, we will probably exchange these people out for others, because ‘even though initially I was sure he was the love of my life, ‘the One,’ in fact now I see that I was mistaken and actually the source for my fulfillment now is over there.’ And of course we once again will find ourselves in exactly the same place with exactly the same complaints about someone else.
If this has happened to us, if ever we have found ourselves with the same complaint about two different men or two different women, then we have to start looking at the common denominator in the equation. That would be me. And chances are that what I am complaining about is this other person’s inability to give me something that in fact is not in any way his or her responsibility to give. Chances are I am demanding of this other person that they fulfill a need in me that should have been fulfilled by my parents; but since it wasn’t, it now can be fulfilled only by God–by my relationship to God and to my inner self, my higher Self.
A shrink once told me a story about a patient of his who had wanted a certain cowboy suit when he was a kid. Back then they sold these outfits based upon TV cowboys–Wyatt Earp, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassady, Bat Masterson. (The one I had was from Have Gun — Will Travel. The story of Paladin, played by Richard Boone. Black holster, long-barrelled pistol, silver bullets, business cards with the silhouette of a chess knight on them. But I digress…)
This patient had asked for one of these outfits that included vest and chaps and hat along with the holster and weapons. He thought he was going to get it one Christmas, but didn’t, and carried this un-met need with him into adulthood as the epitome of his unfulfilled childhood. He grew up, started a business that became terribly successful and then, as an adult, set out to find this cowboy suit. At a certain point, a toy company went out of business, an auction was held to get rid of all the assets and this particular cowboy suit, still in its original box, came available. He won the auction, willing as he was to spend an amount far in excess of the market value for the toy.
“And you know what he found, Jeff, when he got it home?” asked the shrink.
No, I said. What?
“It didn’t fit.”
Our childhood wounds cannot be healed by anyone else or by anything else. Only by me. I learn how to love and accept myself exactly as I am, and in that process, the tools I gain will help me to be most fully of service in this life. These are the gifts just waiting to be picked up by me, as soon as I stop looking elsewhere to be fixed.
We embrace our wounds, our vulnerabilities, our shortcomings, and together with God and meditation and whatever other source we may find help from, we heal. In this healing, we find ourselves able to love, selflessly. Without expecting anything in return.
And then we get on with the process of loving.
Today I will make sure I am not asking my partner to give me what only can be provided by my relationship to God. And I will ask, instead: what might I give to him or her.
Paladin Card, CBS, Have Gun – Will Travel, 1957-1963
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober