It is very useful to take time and pause for conscious reflection upon the real meaning of romance in intimate relationships. From the time we are young children, we listen wide-eyed to fairy tales of beautiful princesses being swept off their feet by charming princes who take them away to a better life where they live ”happily ever after.” Their romance is intense, passionate, dramatic, intoxicating and transformative. Their love is able to surmount all sorts of obstacles – financial and ethnic differences, monsters and goblins, evil kings and queens – because they know in their hearts they have found the one true love they will spend the rest of their lives with. As we grow up, we hear this wonderful theme repeated endlessly in cartoons, movies, romance novels and hit songs. We grow very fond of this sweet tale, and can’t wait until the day when Cupid’s arrow hits its mark squarely in our hearts.
And then it happens! We look into another’s eyes and something wonderful and mysterious overtakes us. We feel a great joy and spontaneity that we’ve never felt before. Innocently and completely, we surrender to this awesome energy. We have found our soul mate, our one true partner who will fulfill all our needs unconditionally, and our hearts and souls will dance and sing for all eternity.
But then it dawns on us, sometimes slowly and imperceptibly, other times instantly and bluntly: there will be no ”happily ever after” in this relationship. We experience conflict, anger, disappointment and hurt. What was once easy and effortless is now difficult and painful. What happened?
Alas, the story of romantic love as a road map for an entire relationship is a myth that leads almost everyone to despair. The wonderful infatuation we experience in the beginning of a new romantic relationship is in actuality a period of grace bestowed upon us to give us a vision of possibilities of who we can be and how we can love. Our hearts open fully, our fears giving way to remarkable acts of tenderness and unselfish caring. Easily and spontaneously, both people temporarily become the lovers they always knew they could be. Romantic love is real and genuine, but only as an initial visionary stage of intimate connection. In fact, research by Dr. Liberty Kovacs shows that romantic love is by far the shortest stage in long-term relationships. Inevitably, as it is supposed to, something happens and suddenly we are back in reality, in a new stage. The effortless flow of romance is replaced by conscious, deliberate acts of love which require effort, commitment and inconvenience.
When this shift occurs, we have several choices. We can act like a victim, blaming the universe for setting things up this way. It’s really not fair that love fades away after tantalizing us with effortless bliss. Or we may blame our partner, ending the relationship after concluding that this was not really our soul mate. If, however, we are committed to an awake, conscious life, we may recognize this passing with some sadness but understand that the real relationship and the real learning has now begun. We may recall the words of Thoreau who said, ”If you have built castles in the air, that is fine. Now put a foundation under them.” We build the foundation brick by brick, loving act by loving act, with conscious awareness and intention. And in so doing, we truly honor the vision that our romance gave us and create an even deeper and more genuine romantic connection with our partner. As we confront the struggles and limitations in our ability to love fully, we realize the true grace of intimate relationship: we are given the exact situations and opportunities we most need for the next steps on our journey of awakening.
By being conscious and open to the messages and lessons we most need to receive, each stage of each relationship can be a wonderful vehicle for waking up. For example, if you consistently attract a certain type of unhealthy person into your life, open your heart and spirit without judgment and listen deeply. What is still unresolved within you that you need to keep re-experiencing this unhealthy behavior or feeling again and again? What about this energy is still somehow gratifying or reaffirming something within you? Is there an old part of you which still believes you deserve this? What positive shifts can you make to heal that energy within you so you can move on to attract greater love, greater fulfillment and deeper connection?
In a conscious, loving, intimate connection, partners are present with one another without judgment or unrealistic expectations. When you both understand the deeper reasons you have come into each others’ lives, you can let go of the need to make your relationship be a certain way and allow it to be what it is. You can allow your fears and wounds to come up and be healed in the soothing, loving presence of your partner. And you can walk away from the relationship if and when your inner knowingness (and not your fears) tells you it is time.
We are all born with an innate capacity to connect and love deeply. Intimate relationships are great teachers, and they bring us magical experiences at every stage of relationship. Beneath the Valentine’s Day myths lie powerful opportunities for the most thrilling romance of all: waking up to the fully conscious life we are here to live.