The Answer Might Not Be What You Think
We just celebrated the Thanksgiving Holiday in the U.S. It is a wonderful reminder to look at what we are grateful for in our lives. The results of this are so heart-opening. For me, it was also a reminder to look at how I am giving in my life. What ways am I being of service?
In the area of relationships, we are often preoccupied with what we should be getting from our relationship and from our partner that we forget to look at how we are showing up in the relationship. It is easy to be blind to how our partner’s behavior mirrors our own. For example, someone might wish their partner was more thoughtful and kind and when asked how they demonstrate their thoughtfulness and kindness in the relationship, they see how they are showing up with a lot of criticism and dissatisfaction. In this situation, it looks obvious to suggest, “Why don’t you start by showing up with more thoughtfulness and kindness first?”
This would probably result in different behavior from the partner, but it is not a sustainable solution when used as a technique. When we do something to try and manipulate the results of what we get it usually doesn’t work and can even backfire due to the lack of genuineness and authenticity.
Giving to get a result is not giving. It is manipulation.
Giving genuinely cannot be a technique or a strategy. It is without attachment to the outcome. Genuine giving comes from the overflow of love, caring, and kindness we already have inside of us. From this place, it is a joy to give. It does not feel like work. It is not a burden. We give naturally without the expectation of receiving in return. And, we receive the blessing of living in the feeling of giving. We receive through the act of giving.
This doesn’t happen when you give as a technique. So if you are feeling disgruntled, unsatisfied, or critical with your partner, if you want more from them, rather than looking to get those needs met from your partner by telling them what you want, even nicely, or behaving in a way that you think you will get what you want in return, instead, see your dissatisfaction as a reminder to look within.
What you are looking for outside of you is an indicator that you are not connected with who you are. I can relate to this. I lived for many years in an and off again disgruntled state or worse in my relationship. I was convinced that I needed my partner Angus to show up differently in our marriage so I could be happy. He needed to be kinder, more thoughtful, gentler. The fantasy was, if he would be different then I would be happy.
The truth was I was seeing my happiness as external to me. I was dependent on him being in a good mood so I could feel okay. If he wasn’t in a good place, I wasn’t in a good place. And, I would criticize him when he was not in a good place. Often under the guise of being helpful. I would make suggestions such as, “Why don’t you read this book? Why don’t you take this program? Why don’t you work with a coach?” But, with every, “Why don’t you suggestion…” the message behind it was, “You aren’t good enough for me. You need to be better to satisfy me.” And the message I wasn’t acknowledging within myself was, “I am unhappy. Your job is to change so you can make me happy.”
Of course, this is an impossible task. No one can make us happy. They can do nice things for us, but that does not make us happy. There have been many times in my life when Angus showed up exactly as I would have liked him too and I wasn’t happy. At those times it looked to me like it was too little too late, but that is not the truth of it. I was just unhappy and there wasn’t anything he could do to make me happy.
Looking back, I am grateful for the learning curve I was on, but if I would love to help speed up anyone else’s learning curve so they don’t have to suffer as long as I did.
When I started to recognize that happiness is an inside job. I took the job very seriously. It didn’t help me become happier in my relationship. I was still unhappy. Now instead of focusing on trying to change Angus to make me happy, I focused on working on myself to get happier. So I was now unhappy in my relationship and frustrated with myself for not being happier: lose-lose. I probably felt better when I thought just he needed to change. I had more hope for him changing than myself.
My learning curve picked up speed when I realized that happiness is not something you work at or get. It is an experience that comes and goes that I have no control over. Not enough happiness was not actually the problem. The problem was that I didn’t like the other experiences I was having that didn’t feel like happiness. I wanted more happiness so I could have less fear, anxiety, insecurity, worry, etc… I wanted to get more happiness so I suffered less when I had these experiences. It looked straightforward to me. The experience of love I felt some of the time with Angus was the perfect antidote to all of the negative feelings I experienced. Wanting more of this feeling made sense. And it looked to me like he needed to show up in certain ways so I could have that experience and keep all the other feelings I didn’t like at bay.
I am so grateful for the greater freedom I experienced when I recognized that all of the experiences I was having that I didn’t like and was actually scared of, were normal and nothing to worry about. I thought there was something wrong with me when I felt negative feelings. I thought I should feel good, and if I didn’t feel good I should try to feel good.
This created incredible pressure inside of myself and I felt tremendous shame about my flawed emotional life. I saw Angus as my savior from all of this, especially because I felt so good when we met. He was so wonderful, but then my feelings of relief wore off and I was stuck feeling the full range of my emotional experience as I had before, but now it was worse because now it looked like he was adding to my unhappiness with his behavior.
Getting more happiness was not going to solve any of this. Although I did contemplate this in various ways. But what did change things was when I got more comfortable with all of my emotions. The understanding of the Principles helped me to see that all of my feelings are normal. They don’t mean anything about me. I am not broken or damaged. I also recognized that all experience is temporary. All feelings come and go. That is inevitable. It is impossible to make any feeling stay.
So I relaxed. I surrendered into my humanness and stopped trying to change myself. This felt AMAZING! Not the kind of amazing where I felt happy all the time. That never happened. The amazing feeling from the feeling of FREEDOM that comes from being okay with whatever experience is present in the moment.
I didn’t realize there was an experience behind my emotions and thoughts. I’m not even sure if experience is the right word or what to call it. There is a deeper space or state inside of each one of us that is beyond the ups and downs of the human experience. It is profound and real.
This experience is beyond thoughts and feelings that change. There is a knowing that lets you know you are okay no matter what. Not okay because things will turn out a certain way, or because you will feel a certain way, but fundamentally okay with what is in the moment.
This is FREEDOM, and it is what makes relationships so much easier. This freedom can only be found within. When it is dipped into and experienced you don’t need your partner to be a certain way for you to be okay. You experience your wellbeing independent of them. This doesn’t mean you have to stay with your partner. You do what makes sense for you in that freedom. The knowing of who you are beyond your thoughts and feelings has wisdom and clarity in it.
The truth of you that is unchanging is far more powerful than a partner behaving nicely. It is transformative in every area of your life. It lets you know who you are — infinite potential. You are not confined to the form of your body, mind, or emotions. You are formless potential. You are infinite. You are everything.
This is highly practical. Knowing who you are beyond your body, your thoughts and your feelings is what allows you to live more from that place of peace and the results are a natural overflow of love, joy, service, kindness, compassion. That is who you are. That is who we all are.
We may not always show up that way. I don’t, but when I don’t it is not because that is not who I am. It is because I have forgotten who I am in that moment and am feeling limited and constrained. So whenever I am reactive, ungrateful, selfish, unkind, lacking in empathy and compassion, I am suffering from the forgetting of my true nature. That is it. There is no need for Angus, anyone else, or any circumstance to be different and they cannot be at fault. All that has happened is that I have forgotten who I am.
I lived for many years in that forgetfulness chronically. Now it is more episodic. But looking back I can see anytime I wanted Angus to be different it was because I had forgotten who I am and was looking to him to make me feel better.
People will say to me I don’t want to always be the one who always takes the high road in the relationship, and I know they don’t understand what I am saying. There is no burden in remembering who you are. It is the most beautiful gift. There is no sacrifice. It is a blessing.
So anytime you feel dissatisfied in your relationship, instead of looking to your partner to be different, look within to your true nature. Remember who you are, and if you don’t know what I mean by this, remember a time when you felt completely okay inside of yourself when you were present with what is and at peace. That is the direction I am pointing too.
Relationship upset is one of the best pointers to remind you to look in the direction of your true nature. Your wellbeing can never be taken away from you. It is you.
We just forget and look outside of ourselves thinking the answer is there, but the looking, seeking, striving, working, processing, suffering is the reminder. It lets you know that you have forgotten and the suffering is a reminder to look within to what is already there and always available. Not in the sense that you will always experience it, but in the sense that it is there no matter what, whether you feel it or not. That is where your wellbeing, peace and inner freedom resides — in remembering who you are in the fullest sense of your true nature. Your partner does not hold the key to this experience — you do.
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 private couples' intensives 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 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.