Cindy and me on a road-trip

Relationships Work When You Don’t Take Them Personally

I used to take relationships very personally. If my partner said something that pushed my buttons, initiating a cascade of righteous indignation, then I would engage with it: “How dare she say that!” The thought process carried on: “I can’t believe she said (or did) that! How can she have been so inconsiderate? Doesn’t she appreciate all I have done for her?” And so on, and so on.

Thoughts, when believed to be more than concepts, lead to feelings, which, when not seen for what they are, lead to more thoughts, which lead to even stronger feelings, which eventually lead to actions that will only confirm and reinforce the original beliefs.

When two people are playing this game, each making the relationship about themselves, then a dance begins, a dance of creating and reinforcing two illusory individuals who are “in relationship with each other.” In reality, there are not two individuals. In reality, there is only what seems to be happening, which is ultimately seen to be wholeness appearing as whatever is happening.

Relationships are the perfect environment to misunderstand what’s actually happening and to slip even more deeply into the story of the personal self. In reality, there is no personal self; it’s completely illusory. What’s happening in what we call a relationship is just what seems to be happening.

Cuddles happen. Kisses happen. Snuggles happen. Sex happens. Appreciation happens. Hurt happens. Misunderstanding happens. Caring happens. Communication happens. All of these things just happen, or don’t happen. It is not more complicated than this. It’s mostly about two warm mammals snuggling with each other. That’s pretty much all relationship is.

Then the illusory personal self—with all its complex concepts—steps in and starts to interpret everything: she said this but meant that; she should do it this other way; why can’t she be more like I want her to be; she shouldn’t have said that. This is all nonsense: she is what she is and she does what she does. I don’t have any special expectations of my cat; why would I have any of my partner. We don’t actually have a cat, by the way. My wife is a force of nature; I cannot control her any more than I can control the wind.

To end the suffering, you don’t need to recognize right now that the personal self is an illusion. You can just take it on faith and start acting as if it’s true, and very quickly the glaring obviousness of it will become clear.

The arrogance of believing that somehow I know better, that somehow I can second-guess reality, is staggering. Those concepts are just concepts; they mean nothing. Even if I actually existed as a real entity (beyond being just a concept), there is no way that I could possibly truly know what’s going on with my partner. Even she doesn’t really know what’s going on with herself, because she is just a concept too.

There is only what appears to be happening. There is only the aliveness. There is only the spontaneous expression of unconditional love, an expression that can look just as much like adoration and it can look like irritation.

What we are vaguely referring to when we talk about love cannot be controlled; it cannot be steered; it cannot be sectioned and parceled. Love can, and will, only be what it is in all its wildness. Relationship is the playground of this wonderful chaos. Relationship has nothing to do with you, so get out of its way and let it be everything it already is.

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