It is often said that relationships need work in order to be healthy and grow. But we are designed for love. We are designed to be in connection. We are designed for intimacy. That is how we have survived as humans. We aren’t designed to be alone. We are designed to work together collaboratively with empathy and compassion and support one another. Love is not superfluous or counter to our survival. It is at the very heart of it.
Given that love is our natural state and our natural state is effortless. The work that relationships need is not working on the relationship, but waking up from whatever gets in the way of our natural state. As Rumi’s poem says, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
These barriers are not found in the relationship. These barriers are found in our misunderstandings and limiting beliefs. The things we are told we need to work on like empathy communication, honesty, affection, intimacy, and trust are all the natural by-products of us being in an open-hearted, loving state of mind. What gets in the way of that of us being in a loving state of mind is our conditioning. We learn based on our limited perspective that in order to be safe in the world we need to close our hearts and protect ourselves. That is what makes relationships difficult.
One of my coping mechanisms is to push through, shoulder on, not ask for anything, and find my happiness internally. This is a form of denial. I cut myself off from being in tune with my inner feedback and override my feelings because I don’t want to be vulnerable. I can be oblivious to this coping mechanism and live in denial until eventually, I start to notice my feelings of dissatisfaction. Often these feelings of dissatisfaction don’t surface as awareness of me using my coping mechanism. They surface as feelings of discontent about my relationship.
Recently, Angus and I had some beautiful heart-to-heart conversations, but what triggered them was conflict. We had fallen into a pattern of less physical affection and emotional intimacy and were living more parallel than connected. We shared enjoyment of tv shows at the end of the day, but not a lot of closeness outside of that.
There was nothing wrong with this. It is part of the natural ebb and flow of a relationship, but when we hit a low mood patch the bounce-back took longer than usual. Instead of being able to hear each other, the whole relationship got brought into question. I felt discouraged. I lost hope. Hurtful words were shared and taken to heart. The relationship felt fragile and we each felt bruised. It looked like our relationship needed A LOT of work at that time.
But all that happened was we each got insecure in our own way. I got rigid and wasn’t listening to the whispers of my heart telling me to connect more deeply with Angus. I fell into my pattern of being strong and independent and not being demanding. And then this collided with his low mood. He took something I said personally and turned a molehill into a mountain. Then my festering resentment that I wasn’t even aware of came into view. I used Angus’s irrational low mood as an indicator of him not loving me.
This could all be used as evidence that our relationship needs A LOT of work. But it is circumstantial.
The more we tried to work on our relationship, the worse we felt. Angus did say several times that we should know better than to talk about things when we did, but we couldn't stop talking ourselves into more pain and suffering. Fortunately, we did eventually take a step back and walk away. We gave each other space. It took time to stabilize. We came back to the conversation after a week or so to revisit what was said and what was meant.
Feelings were hurt. Insecurities were poked. Hearts were closed down. But what was needed wasn’t work on our relationship. What was needed was a return to ourselves. A return to our natural states of inner safety and well-being where we could soften and remember who we are.
The remembering took longer than it had in a while, but we eventually go there. We remembered that our nature is love. We were able to come together with that remembering intact, and from that feeling within us, we were able to have the conversations that allowed us to reconnect and recommit to the love and intimacy between us. No special skills were needed. No techniques were required. No strategies were used. It was just simple heart-to-heart conversations. These were possible because we felt safe within ourselves, and in that inner security the barriers to love were removed.
Intimacy in relationships helps us to remove the barriers we hold within ourselves to love. It highlights where we are withholding from ourselves. It underlines our lack of self-honesty. It urges us to break free from the limiting beliefs that tell us we are not lovable so we can experience deeper intimacy with ourselves and then each other.
That is the only work to do. The work of waking up to what is true about who and what we are. To know that experience of peace, contentment, and wellbeing that is far beyond what any of those words say so that we can share that experience with another. Not because we need anything from them, but because we are so full of love we can’t contain it within ourselves.
Remember, if your relationship ever feels like it needs a lot of work, it is time to come back to your Self. It is time to remember who you are and return to the love inside. That is the only work, but it doesn't feel like work because it is letting go and surrendering the barriers of the misunderstandings. It might feel scary to let go at times, but it is worth it.
And this work applies equally to relationships and to every other aspect of life.
Wake up to the love of your true nature and then share what’s in your heart with the world, especially those who are closest to you.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilders Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.