by Matt Licata
What is the best way to prepare for a healthy, deeply satisfying intimate relationship? How can you attract the right partner? Someone who can accompany you on the path, a fellow traveler who is genuinely interested in exploring relationship as a transformative, modern-day crucible of healing and awakening?
There are many responses to these sorts of questions: workshops to attend, ten “secrets” to attract your perfect soul mate, twelve steps to manifesting your twin flame, tantric practices to learn and master. It can be important to experiment with any approach you feel drawn to and is resonant with your longing.
The suggestion I usually make, however, is not nearly as sexy or compelling, or all that fun or flashy, or even overtly “spiritual”: learn how to take care of yourself. Start there and you will lay the foundation for a rich, meaningful, and nourishing relationship with another. For it is the degree to which you are able to take responsibility for your own core emotional wounding that you will release your partner(s) from this burden, which is not theirs to carry. As long as there is a subtle expectation that your partner’s role is to enact the archetype of the “good other” that was missing in earlier developmental times, you will not be able to assume the risk that intimacy demands, lead with your vulnerability, and harness the incredibly transformational energy of the relational field.
Allow yourself to become curious about what triggers you, the feelings you’ll do anything not to feel, and the unique behaviors you engage in to distract yourself from activating emotional experience. Rather than urgently spinning to find relief from this material, instead move closer toward it. Train yourself to enter inside it, touch it, feel it, and come to know its texture. Provide a holding environment where the feelings can be illuminated, be worked through, and integrated in loving presence.
To what degree do you believe another person will fill the void for you, make the emptiness go away, relieve you from feelings and limiting beliefs you do not want to confront, and protect you from the unattended ghosts of your unlived life? As spiritually-oriented people, we are quite sure that we have transcended all this, but please inquire carefully, for its expressions can be subtle. As long as we are looking to our partners to fulfill those functions that were not offered to us as young children, it will be difficult to come into a fulfilling, loving relationship that is not riddled with the pain of projection.
Your partner is here to help and support you, and make the journey by your side as a loving, caring fellow traveler of the path. But they are not here to (re)parent you or take care of your unlived life for you, for this is your sacred work and it would be unkind of them to attempt to take these holy tasks from you. All the long-lost allies of abandonment, rejection, unworthiness, and shame. Rage, jealousy, unmet grief and partly processed loneliness. They have all come into the relational field with you, as part of an extraordinary gathering.
When all is said and done, perhaps there is no secret to co-creating a fulfilling, supportive, mutually beneficial intimate relationship, as it is always in the end a movement of the unknown. Healthy intimacy is not something you will figure out one day by way of some checklist or magical formula, but something you are asked to live in each moment, in all its chaotic glory. By learning to take care of yourself, you are creating a foundation upon which the mysteries of intimacy can come alive within and around you, providing a crucible like no other for the great work of aliveness that you have come here to embody.