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Showing Up: Taking 100% Responsibility for the State of Your Relationship

Updated: Jul 7

“Love is not for the faint of heart.”― Terrence Real

An aspect of commitment that I find both challenging and inspiring is taking full responsibility for the state of the relationship. When the quality of the relationship declines, it can be confusing.

It's easy and perhaps normal for many, to focus on the ‘negative’ qualities that our partner brings to the connection, perhaps thinking that this might be the reason for the lack of spark. This attitude will likely lead to conflict, tension and mistrust caused by the underlying projections and judgements.

It’s also easy to fall into a kind of apathy or disinterest in the relationship, losing polarity, attraction, passion and eventually inspiration to be in the relationship at all.

Alternatively there is the ‘porridge option’, the sweet, loving, yet sparkless relationships, where the lovers becomes ‘best friends’.

Blaming the other doesn’t work. Even if something your partner did actually caused the disconnection, the quality of the connection you are engaged in is still your responsibility. Avoiding responsibility doesn’t work either. Saying the spark is ‘just gone’ ‘I don’t know what happened’ is disempowering.

Conscious Ownership = Conscious Relationship

Couple practicing a conscious balancing dialogue
Couple Engaged in Balancing Dialogue
The spark didn’t ‘just go’, you lost it. You didn’t know how to feed it, maintain it, cultivate it; you let it die.

In saying this, there is NO blame. You did nothing wrong. None of us were educated in these matters, the skills required for maintaining healthy relationships were (most likely) never modeled to you.

There are a number of necessary, and easily learnable, practices, processes and communication skills necessary for lifting a relationship out of unconscious expectations and projections. Potentially, any relationship, provided there is true commitment, can become a conscious and committed practice of mutual growth and transformation.

Eventually what it comes down to is your capacity to take full responsibility for the state of the relationship you are in. What did you allow, consciously or not, to happen or unfold for things to end up this way. Then what can you do to turn it around. And there is a LOT that you can do, if you want to.

Responsibility Doesn’t Mean You are to Blame

By virtue of the simple fact that you can feel, you are empowered with the capacity to hone in on the obvious path to repair.

Accepting responsibility requires a complete forgiveness of yourself for any blame or guilt you put on yourself and the same towards your partner. This is the way to avoid the underlying tendency to prove that you are right and your partner is wrong. It also undermines any tendency on your behalf towards feeling small and needing to apologise for yourself.

More than this, we open up space for truly accepting responsibility. This has nothing to do with fault and blame. Instead simply see and embrace the fact that things are not as you would want them to be, as they can be or were.

But don’t stop there. Now that you are conscious of the patterns, blind spots etc. you have the power to do something. You can feel the disconnection, embrace it and accept it, forgive yourself and your partner for any conscious or unconscious ruptures of the connection. Now feel through it, feel into your heart, your partners heart and the heart of the relationship.

By virtue of the simple fact that you can feel, you are empowered with the capacity to hone in on the obvious path to repair.

Now, follow it.

Here’s my strategy, its battle tested, and it works:

"...changing one's own behavior is a much more promising strategy than insisting on change from the other.” ― Terrence Real,

If we took this approach more often, messy relationships that lean towards toxicity would likely end before the pain becomes damaging, and beautiful relationships that tend towards neutrality would continue to blossom over time, rather than stagnating.

Importantly, the difference between the two would be clearer, sooner and gone would be the days of trying to force a doomed relationship to work way longer than we are able to because of a naive belief or childish hope.

This is a practical relational tool that I have found, and still find massively challenging. At the same time, when it works, the ripples of power, integrity and direction that it creates in my relationship are huge.

1) Acknowledge that something is up

When there is disconnection or tension in the relationship, I try to listen. I sit and meditate, I contemplate when washing the dishes. How does she feel, how do I feel.

2) Reflect, what's really happening

I keep part of my attention open to hear her criticism, joking pokes, judgements. What if this were true? What are my thoughts about her?

Maybe I feel less attracted, maybe she feels less trust in me, less respect for me. Maybe we bicker about pointless nothings. Maybe one or both of us is starting to see and express a negative internal representation of the other i.e. she’s calling me lazy or selfish, despite how much I’m doing to support her. I see her as controlling or nagging, despite how much trust she actually does place in me.

These expressions are not at the root of the rupture. They are expressions of something, but what is that something?

3) Feel into the disconnect

Then, I feel into the quality of the relationship/connection. Trying to lock into the feeling tone of the space where the actions, words, attitude, the general flatness of the relationship or whatever it is are coming from.

Identifying the emotions that drive the thoughts, behaviours etc. is the first major key.

The second is to identify your own, and try to feel into your partners met and unmet needs. (A Balancing Dialogue about this will also be particularly helpful and reconnecting in itself).

In my current relationship I’ve been regularly confronted by how my lack of attentiveness to others affect the depth of my partners trust in me. If she doesn’t feel me holding the common space of our lives with the same attentiveness and detail with which she knows I can hold her, it hurts her.

4) Contemplate your values

Then comes some honest, non-reactive self appraisal. How would wisdom, love, understanding, embodied presence express itself in this relationship, or what are my deepest values in relationship?

5) Clarify your intention

Then, very importantly, do I want to show up in that way, am I willing to swallow the hurt, walk into the fear, make whatever changes are necessary to learn to show up fully?

6) Responsibility starts with you

If no the next step should be obvious, take it as soon as you can and don’t drag things out. If yes, then another key contemplation. How can I meet my own needs?

7) Realign with your values

Followed by what changes can I make in this relationship to ensure that things flow in alignment with my needs and values?

Empathy is the Key to Forgiveness and Repair

To be able to empathise is the key to forgiveness. Empathy dissolves

Tiles spelling out forgiveness
One of the Most Important Tools in Conscious Relating

arrogance and pride and along with them, any remaining sense of separation.

Again, once you can feel this deeply into yourself, your partner and the space between you, you cannot not find the answers to repair. You can choose not to listen. To do so is to consciously stand out of integrity with your own wisdom. This is as good as choosing to end the relationship.

In retrospect I have found that I generally know, as a felt sense in my body, exactly what is needed to serve love in that moment. I have also been able to see the hesitations and self-serving tendencies that make it difficult to follow that inner voice of harmony and love. More than this, a few blind spots have been painfully revealed through witnessing her sudden and unexpected reactions to my unawareness.

When it is difficult to see myself, my partner is the clearest mirror, and the most painful one to look in. Either way the results are the same.

What is important is the felt sense at the somatic level of the impact within myself and upon the connection, of my lack of presence or attentiveness to her heart. To be able to empathise is the key to forgiveness. Empathy dissolves arrogance and pride and along with them, any remaining sense of separation.


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