When I ask couples if their relationship is a “conscious” relationship, some of the partners will respond, “Yes,” “Sure,” and the like. When I ask if they’re 100% transparent and honest with one another, well that’s another story. Being transparent means you honestly, consistently tell the truth to each other – about your feelings, desires, fantasies, thoughts, actions, and all other important aspects of your experience.
At this point the discomfort is palpable – for one or both – a little squirm, a fidget, or a quick stare at the floor or ceiling. Hmmm. So, what does a “conscious” relationship look like, feel like, and sound like?
The most important quality of a conscious relationship is friendship – i.e., you actually LIKE your partner. Truth is, there are many relationships where the partners are “in love,” but, in actuality, they don’t really “like” him or her. Relationship expert, John Gottman, author of the best-selling, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” says friendship is the “secret sauce” of happy and successful relationships. Specifically, friendship is “a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company.” Friends know each other intimately, “… they are well-versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams.”
The importance of friendship cannot be overstated. Many relationships derail because, at the outset, they were created based on the “packaging” rather than on a deeper, more substantial connection, such as true and real (read: “non-Facebook-like) friendship.
A second element of a conscious relationship deals with how the partners work out conflict. Conscious partners are able AND willing to meet conflict head-on, explore their own and the other’s goals and move towards solutions that are mutually beneficial, for the good of “we/us.” As such, conscious partners openly communicate they accept the other’s personality. Successful conflict resolution depends on “knowing and believing” your partner understands you. And, friendship supports this understanding. Where friendship is nonexistent or waning, one and/or the other partner often feels misunderstood, or judged or even rejected by the other (overtly or silently).
Successful conflict resolution is all about telling the truth and truth-telling from the perspective of a friend, not an adversary. Conscious partners approach conflict resolution from a place of “I don’t have to be right,” rather than “I need to be right, so you need to be wrong.” Mutual respect and win-win are the operating principles.
Open and honest communication (early and often!) is one of the most fundamental foundations of a conscious relationship. Open and honest communication keeps the relationship alive and growing – forcing one to be a truth-seeker and a truth-teller, i.e., no blaming, no finger-pointing, no denial, no deception and no defensiveness. Emotions, feelings, fears – it’s all good.
In a conscious relationship, each partner is clear about their own life purpose, goals, visions, and dreams. Each is proactively curious about these same aspects of their partner. Further, in conscious relationships, each partner is supportive (rather than threatened by) the other’s purpose, visions, and goals, and proactively contributes to their partner’s journey. Moreover both partners are absolutely clear about their own and their partner’s requirements, needs and wants when it comes to factors as: monogamy, drug-taking, open communication, money, shared responsibilities, religion, children, parenting, in-laws, etc.
Another characteristic of a conscious relationship – a very critical quality, especially in this age of social networking – is that both partners proactively choose to spend quality time together, even though at times it may seem uncomfortable or even irritating. This is especially true when one or the other partner is caught up in social networking or electronic gadgetry or personal hobbies and interests. Conscious relationships are first and foremost about the partners’ both finding and making time for each other even when it is inconvenient In essence, this means that one views one’s partner as a priority in their life.
Intimacy is another element that supports a conscious relationship. Intimacy is the container in which partners can talk with each other, and be and feel vulnerable, in a place that is safe and secure. In this mutually-created space, partners can openly speak about their deepest secrets, their deepest fears in a way that allows one’s partner to see inside them. With respect to sex, intimacy means requesting what you want and responding in kind to your partner’s requests. As John Gottman says, partners in conscious relationships, “…see lovemaking as an expression of intimacy but they don’t take any differences in their needs or desires personally.”
Conscious relationships create, from the very outset, a container of trust. Partners in a conscious relationship continually build on this mutual trust. This solid foundation of trust that supports one or the other partner to muster courage, strength, will, and steadfastness to move away from anyone or anything that might threaten the relationship.
In a conscious relationship, no one is “better” than the other – on any level. Each brings to the relationship their own personal biography and biology – their fears, their worries, their challenges, their weaknesses and strengths. Partners in a conscious relationship are not obsessed with power, control or influence. Each partner in a conscious relationship has his or her own boundaries which the other both understands and respects.
Partners in a conscious relationship are continually moving toward increased awareness and consciousness with respect to “who I am” and “how I am” in the relationship. If either or both partners are lacking in some area of interpersonal, interactive skills, they’re open to learning what they need to know – knowledge or skills. In essence, a conscious relationship means that one partner relates to himself or herself through the other. Each partner acts as a mirror for the other. Each becomes, and this is critical, a source of feedback for the other. Not judgmental, not critical, but from an open, loving, heartfelt place, each partner mirrors back the other. It’s this mirroring that fosters self-awareness and growth.
Growth, not perfection
Everyone is wounded in childhood. And we heal in relationship. But only if we choose to. Those in a conscious relationship have made this choice to heal and grow through their relationship, not become the perfect self. When two conscious individuals work in harmonious fashion, growth and change result. Much of this change revolves around dealing with old, self-destructive and self-sabotaging patterns of behavior, fueled by emotional baggage that each of the partners has brought with them from childhood.
Being in a conscious relationship is not easy. Being in any relationship is not easy. The difference? In a conscious relationship old wounds and hurts don’t simply surface over and over again but are worked on, massaged, metabolized and understood and in the process of understanding and forgiving one’s self and other, both partners change.
In a conscious relationship, where true love (and like) exist from moment to moment, each partner supports the other, without judgment, and from a place of compassion, understanding and empathy. This is the ground for emotional and spiritual healing. It’s not always an easy experience. It takes a great deal of strength, courage, caring and commitment to become conscious.
Conscious relationships are the answer to serial monogamy, continued failed relationships, and to dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships. Heart- and soul-centered, conscious relationships are a journey, never a destination, but a journey well worth taking.
Some questions for self-reflection:
- Would you describe your relationship as conscious? If, not, what’s standing in the way? Honestly.
- If you’re not in a conscious relationship, how does that make you feel?
- Were your parents in a conscious relationship when you were growing up?
- If you are not in a conscious relationship, what would it look like and feel like to be in one?
- What small baby steps can you begin to take to move into a more conscious relationship?
- Should you take those steps?
- Will you?
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that thing is maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.