I once heard the relationship dating advice that if you find yourself magnetically attracted to someone run the other way. This advice was far too late for me having married that person who made me swoon at first glance. His first words to me were, “I like your glasses.”
He was walking down the black spiral metal staircase. I was walking up it. I had on a loose white t-shirt, baggy jeans, and winter boots. My winter jacket was hanging over one arm. My hair was unkempt having just taken off my winter toque that was needed in the bitter cold of a Toronto winter, and I had no make-up on. My hazel eyes were shielded behind my tortoiseshell horn-rimmed librarian glasses. He was tall, with dark blond highlighted hair, it was the early nineties, and handsome wearing his black Stussy jeans, white form-fitting t-shirt, and a warm, impish grin that made my heart sing. We were in the back office section of a Vidal Sassoon salon. There were no windows in the stairwell. The moment was illuminated by the flickering icy blue light of the fluorescent light bulbs buzzing above our heads, and the static between us was electric.
“Thank you,” I said as I continued my way up the stairs to meet my hairdresser who had clothing and makeup waiting for me so I could look halfway decent for the casting he asked me to go on so he could stand a chance of getting his hair cut in the Vidal Sasson International collection that season. I was a graduate student and got my hair cut for free. I didn’t much care what was done to it. Little did I know I had just met the photographer in my before version on the stairs. But given the spark between us, I wasn't surprised that I did get picked and as they say, the rest is history.
In the personal class where I heard the dating advice many years too late, I was told the reason why you are supposed to run away from the person you find yourself deeply attracted to is because those relationships tend to be volatile, highly painful, and usually don’t last. Well, that was mostly accurate for my early relationship with Angus, other than we beat the odds of breaking up. We did eventually find a way to enjoy the chemistry and the love between us in a way that keeps the excitement and aliveness intact while also being able to live in more peace and harmony.
And even for relationships where there isn't this kind of magnetic attraction, most couples seem to find that their old hurts and childhood wounds get touched on in relationships. We humans seem to have an uncanny way of falling in love with people who will reveal our blind spots and misunderstandings in consciousness. Our romantic partners start off looking like our saviors only to end up looking like they are the chief source of our suffering.
It can be quite a shock to go from the feelings of bliss and euphoria of the honeymoon period where you feel invincible to the depths of anger, despair, and sadness when you fall off the pink cloud. After that fall your partner often looks like a huge mistake. People talk about this as the reality check, coming back down to earth. But really the honeymoon experience is closer to the truth than the experience of discontent. It just isn’t understood.
During the honeymoon stage of a relationship, the feelings we experience aren’t coming from our partner. They are coming from inside of us because we are open and experiencing the impersonal love that lies within us. The newness of infatuation and the accompanying neurochemicals help to clear our minds so we have an experience of life living deeply in the present moment with little on our minds and we feel the bliss of this. But we mistakenly think that bliss is coming from outside of ourselves.
We think it is coming from this other person. They are making us feel this way. But that can’t happen because our experience doesn’t come from outside of ourselves. It is always created from within. Our experience is always a reflection of the thinking we are identifying or not identifying with. It doesn’t work any other way.
In the relationship, the newness eventually wears off and we can’t sustain the level of open-heartedness and clarity. Our regular, ordinary, insecure, low mood thoughts creep back in and we come back to our previous states of mind. From this vantage point, it looks like it is our partners' fault that we are feeling this way, and we start to see all of their flaws and insensitivities and blame them for the change in how we are feeling.
This is pretty common so rather than needing to run away from romantic partners that light us up for fear of future suffering, we can instead, recognize that intimate relationships provide us with incredible opportunities for healing and support our waking up in consciousness. Because what heals the drama and the suffering of relationships is understanding where our experience comes from and recognizing who we are at our core.
When we know that our experience is created from within and that who we are in essence is love, we no longer make our partner responsible for our experience. We can choose to be with them or not, but what matters is that we have more inner freedom and peace of mind. And we can then decide whether or not we want to continue in the relationship. We don't have to leave because we can't handle it, and we don't have to stay because we are afraid to be alone. We know that we are fundamentally okay whether we are in a relationship or not.
In Angus's and my relationship what looked like it caused our honeymoon period to end was when we moved to the U.S. and Angus found himself in a chronic low mood. He demonstrated anger in a way I had never witnessed before. Rather than having compassion for his suffering and seeing that he wasn’t feeling himself, I took his anger personally. I felt incredibly hurt by it and would respond in ways that resulted in an escalating conflict between the two of us that became pretty routine where we would both feel misunderstood and hurt. On my side, I would be critical and condescending toward Angus. And he would find this painful and would often lead to him losing his temper and feeling justified for doing so.
It wasn't until we were both able to see that the other person wasn't responsible for our experience that our relationship lost its high level of volatility and conflict. But when we each realized that we have peace of mind and wellbeing within us, it dramatically changed our responses toward each other and allowed us to enjoy our relationship in ways we hadn't been able to previously. The constant repair work was exhausting. Having smooth sailing allowed the trust and intimacy to deepen in ways that opened our hearts to each other even more.
I don’t know how we fall in love with the perfect person that helps us heal, but that is what I was able to see in my relationship. Angus's frailties fit perfectly with my emotional sore spots. And it didn't matter how much psychological work we did to try and fix our relationship dynamics none of it helped us to make sustainable change.
It wasn’t until we looked in the spiritual direction of who we are that made a difference. The teachings that impacted us were the teachings of Sydney Banks, but any teaching that points to your true nature of love and wellbeing and helps you to be more consciously aware of that will do.
There is no secret. There is no magic bullet. It is just about being open to seeing beyond your habitual thoughts and conditioning to the truth of who you are. This can’t be done intellectually. It happens through grace, but knowing how our psychology works and how our experience is created tends to make us more graceful.
The path to deeper love and wellbeing in your relationship is to look in the direction of where love and peace reside within you. We all have those moments where we feel our heart open and we feel at peace. That is the direction to look in. Let those feelings guide you. There is wisdom in them. There is common sense in them. There is practical guidance in them. When you listen to this knowing within yourself you have everything you need. It is not found outside of you. It can only be found within.
And it requires resisting the illusion that our experience comes from outside of us. That circumstances or people make us feel a certain way. If this were true we would all feel the same way when the same things happen to us and we don’t because our experience is a reflection of our thoughts. This does not mean I am condoning hurtful behavior or minimizing difficult circumstances. I am pointing to what gets in the way of us listening to the deeper part of ourselves that is universal and impersonal and that is the illusion that our experience is created outside of ourselves.
This illusion has us look outward to feel better. But that can’t work when experience is created within. When I was so upset with Angus about his temper. I wasn’t hurt by what he said to me. I was hurt by the self-judgments that got stirred up inside of me when he was angry. My limiting beliefs about myself were the culprits for my suffering, not him. My beliefs of being unworthy and not good enough were causing me pain. Now if Angus loses his temper I am much less likely to take it personally and buy into those limiting beliefs within myself. I have perspective. I see his suffering.
This is healing. Waking up from our own misunderstandings allows us to experience what is true. The truth is that our nature is love and that our wellbeing resides within. We have an inner state of peace and contentment that is our birthright and that cannot be taken away from us because it is who we are.
Knowing this, feeling this, trusting this, allows us to make healthy decisions for ourselves. For Angus and me that meant staying together and enjoying our relationship from this new vantage point. For others, it might mean leaving a relationship because that is the self-honoring choice. We have to follow our wisdom.
We are drawn together from love so we can wake up to it more fully. Realizing this is a game-changer for relationships. It changes the order of play from getting more love to realizing we are love.
Am I glad I still married the guy I met on those stairs 29 years ago? Yes! Has there been heartache along the way? Yes. Did our relationship help me wake up more to who I am? Yes. The fairytale ending is not happily ever after. The fairy tale ending is waking up to your true nature of love.
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 this 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 a private couples’ intensives retreat program that rewilds 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 Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.