A New Paradigm for Marriage

By Suzanne E. Harrill

One idea that has prevailed from past generations is that you are attracted to a partner in order to fill in the incomplete areas of yourself. Add to this a partner who unconsciously helps you rework parts of your past in order to heal your wounds. In this traditional paradigm, you look for your other half who will complete you. This works for a while, but only for a while, as people change and grow and heal. As you grow and fill in your own missing pieces, you then become less and less dependent on the partner to fill in these parts. When you fill in enough missing pieces, then the relationship usually becomes unstable, unless that is, you transform your interpretation of your relationship and move in a new direction. 

It is much wiser to look at another idea about marriage and primary relationships that is more enlightened. In this new paradigm you are already a whole person, perfectly growing and expressing who you are at each moment in time to the best of your abilities.  However, because of your conditioning, you might have forgotten this. Parts of you did get stunted as if you were an oak tree and some of your branches were not encouraged or able to grow because you didn’t get the proper nutrients at the right time. As a self-actualizing person you can now provide nutrients to your oak tree and grow the branches that were stunted. 

It is never too late to learn how to create an enlightened relationship. Even if you began a traditional relationship filling in each other’s missing pieces, you can learn to do it differently, as you each heal and learn how to actualize your life from a greater perspective. You can move on to something better. There will still be roles and tasks divided up to make relationships run smoothly, but the division of tasks now are based on preferences, strengths, discussion of choices, and traits, not on rigid roles learned from people living in traditional relationships.  In this new paradigm you match up with another to grow in consciousness and realize you each are on a special journey and you support each other to self-actualize. In the enlightened relationship, there is the acceptance that each person is whole and complete right now, each reawaking and finding the truth, love, and beauty of their true self.

This is not an idealized state. There is still real life and, for example, each will still trigger unhealed issues from the past of the partner.  The relationship is strong by knowing this and supports each to handle the issues that surface, not avoid them or think the relationship is over. One purpose of the partnership is to help each other heal their past.  Other purposes surface as awareness grows in the relationship, such as being companions to share the day-to-day journey of life.

Let us look further at these two types of relationships, the traditional and the enlightened, and consider ways to achieve the latter one. Many of you learned as children that you have things wrong with you and that you are not perfect. Use the oak tree as an analogy again. The acorn, the seedling, little tree, and giant oak are all perfect expressions of the oak tree, no stage better than or less than the others. Most of you were not taught that you were always doing the best that you could do with your level of awareness, so mistakes were part of the learning process.  On top of that many of you were taught that if you acted badly, you were bad.  Behavior was not separated from the essence of who you really were.  If you heard such things as "You should know better than to…, Why did you ...?" or At your age you should..." then you learned to value-judge yourself with blaming and shaming self-talk.  Thus, you carry around a lot of guilt when your actions are not what you intended. It is helpful now to understand that you are not your behavior and to talk back to your negative voice by saying such things as, “I love you regardless of what you just did. Let’s learn to behave differently. I choose ______ from now on.”

 Your behavior is how you learned to get your needs met, both the conscious ones, as well as the unconscious ones. If you want to improve behavior then become aware of the needs behind the behavior. Children will, for example, irritate adults sometimes to get attention, because negative attention is better than no attention. The key to remember here is that you are good even if your behavior is bad and you are learning and growing through making choices, some of which will be mistakes and not to your liking. Your job is getting to know yourself better so you can express from this place of awareness.

The faulty thinking of confusing “you” with your behavior forms a lot of the basis for unenlightened relationships and has been handed down from generation to generation. In this type of relationship two individuals match up who have been conditioned to have low self-esteem, believing they have something wrong with themselves. They are needy and hoping another can fill them up. The two individuals are like two pieces of a puzzle that match up with reciprocal dramas and patterns of behavior. Some examples of reciprocal dramas would be where one partner is passive and submissive while the partner is dominant and authoritarian, or one is quiet and withholding of self while the partner is talkative and over-expressing of self, or one is responsible with time or money or watching the kids while the partner is irresponsible with one or all of these issues.

This type of relationship is not a conscious, mature relationship and can work as long as the partners continue to meet the needs of the other or act out the other half of a pattern of behavior, many times in a negative way.  The attitude that prevails is "I love you to the degree that you are capable of being who I need you to be and are doing what I cannot do for myself." This relationship is built on dependency and when individuals are dependent, it is common to eventually become hostile towards the partner. All kinds of potential problems are ready to erupt at the slightest degree of stress. For example, one partner will feel something along the lines of "If you change and do not meet my needs, then I don’t love you any more. I will reject you and pressure you to go back to your old self by making you feel guilty."  These partners are in an immature relationship and in bondage to roles and to what the other expects them to be.  In a more enlightened relationship they would be free to wake up to the potential of the true self and grow into what each is capable of becoming.

It is important to understand that all relationships, even mature, conscious ones, have certain degrees of dependency and meeting needs. In an enlightened relationship there is movement towards interdependence, where dependency and independence both take place at times. As people and relationships mature there is awareness that everything I do affects you and vice versa, therefore, “I make my choices in life with my partner in mind.” 

In an enlightened relationship there is a conscious choice for each partner to give and receive. There are fewer and fewer unrealistic expectations of what the partner should say, think, or do. When the partner does not fulfill all of one’s needs, there is an opportunity for growth.  Sometimes discussion is in order, while at other times it is more appropriate to look within self to discover what one needs to do or think differently in order to get the needs met in other ways. There is an attitude of “I encourage you to meet your needs and grow in the direction you need to grow, even when they are in conflict with mine, because I am interested in what you do and appreciate what you bring to the relationship. I need you to know what that affect is on me, however. You have permission to change and reach your potential as I do. I take responsibility for my feelings, beliefs, actions, and goals and give you responsibility for yours.”

In this second paradigm it is important to keep yourself open and not compare your relationship to any others. To the degree you can let go of your traditional and idealistic pictures of what a perfect relationship should be, you can open yourselves to letting your relationship unfold as it will, just like the flowering of a rose bush.  Your relationship will have a personality of its own and will be different from every other relationship.  Uniqueness is appreciated.

To change a traditional relationship into an enlightened one is a process. It takes time and effort to learn and grow in awareness and to make new choices with new patterns, beliefs, and outcomes.  Many people have not considered some of these ideas, so it is helpful to begin by looking at the possibility of living in an enlightened relationship. Then you can discuss the ideas presented here with your partner. Share your desire to try relating in new ways. Then over time the two of you can make new choices and take risks to practice these new ways of relating. Be sure to set aside time each day or a couple of times each week to share with one another your feelings, thoughts, process, and experiences. If you are with a resistant partner, work on yourself and learn to be clear with yourself where your boundaries are, assert yourself, build your self-esteem. Over time this will change the dance between you and your partner.

Remember it does not always feel good to change and create new patterns of relating.  Know that you, as well as your partner, will sometimes sabotage the new patterns in times of high stress. As soon as one of you triggers the other's insecurities and unhealed patterns, then emotional reactions take over, and one of you may try to stop the process of change. Many times this is unconscious.  We have to catch ourselves sabotaging the relationship with such things as, negative self-talk that might say things such as, "I am not going to stick around to deal with this."  Once we know it is normal to feel this way, we learn to recognize it, take a deep breath, go for a walk, journal write, communicate, and try again.

We have briefly looked at a new paradigm for relationships to move beyond the traditional.  Remember to let go of a time frame for the achievement of an enlightened relationship, it is an ever-growing process with one step at a time.


From unpublished manuscript, Becoming the Person You Always Wanted to Marry by Suzanne E. Harrill



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