Angus and I are developing a free Rewilding Love challenge that will launch next year. As I reflect on what it is that allows love to be rekindled and to flourish in a relationship, I see more and more it is not about the other person. For me, it has been through having a deeper awakening to my impersonal loving nature that has allowed my marriage to thrive. This is something we can lose sight of as we become more and more focused on the personal nature of the relationship and our partner.
The myth of happily ever after links love and happiness. As a result, if the experience of happiness goes down it is assumed that the love in the relationship has diminished.
However, happiness is an experience that comes and goes. Love is who we are.
They are not equivalent and the misunderstanding of equating the two leads to suffering.
If I think that my love for my partner is measured by my happiness, it will look like the love in the relationship is all over the place. Sometimes I love him. Sometimes I don’t. And if this were true, it would be natural to think that in order to be happy, you need to fix your relationship. Because if love and happiness go hand in hand, you need to get the love right so the happiness can follow.
This misunderstanding led me to spend a lot of my time and attention looking at what was wrong in my relationship with my husband Angus and trying to figure out how it could be improved. This then evolved into the idea that if he were just a little bit different, I would be happier and then our love could flourish. What a win-win!
I didn’t think I was being unreasonable. I just thought it would be better if he were a bit kinder and less irritable. If he had just a little more patience. If he was a tad less reactive. So after identifying these opportunities for improvement, I had a project. What can “we” do to make these changes happen?
Unfortunately, my requests for what I thought were very logical and reasonable changes were met with resistance and sometimes anger. He felt judged and criticized by me rather than seeing how good my ideas were. It felt like my hopes for more happiness were dashed by his resistance.
During this time, all of the qualities I wanted Angus to change seemed to become magnified. After paying attention to them they looked more and more like problems. And as my suggestions were experienced as criticism by him, he would offer me his own critique. Could I be less stern? Could I help more around the house? Could I be less judgmental and critical? Could I be more fun and easy-going? Could I have more of a sense of humor?
Our mutual criticisms ate away at rapport in our relationship. Rather than improving, our relationship was now on a downward spiral. I didn’t want to have sex anymore. I felt hurt a lot of the time. Angus felt unappreciated and wanted sex more often. It was not a fun time.
And all of this simply because I thought love meant happiness and wanted to achieve the happily ever after.
Fortunately, I fell into a deeper experience of feeling okay as I understood not to take my thinking or my feelings so personally. When I saw that my uncomfortable experiences like insecurity don’t actually mean anything, I found myself much more comfortable in my own skin. It was ironically through surrendering to my human experience rather than trying to change it or control it that I felt significantly better. My mind got quieter, and in that quiet, I experienced more of my beingness and realized that my okayness has nothing to do with the ups and downs of my psychological experience. As I realized I am not my thoughts and feelings, I fell into a deeper experience of knowing I am okay, and this space was loving.
From there, my relationship with Angus shifted. I was no longer looking for him to be different or for the relationship to be better so I could be happier. I no longer saw Angus as the source of my suffering. Instead, I realized that suffering is a reflection of how much I am identifying with my thinking as me, and it is a normal part of the human experience to do that. It is not something I need to try to change or fix. It is nothing I need to worry about. It will come and go.
The more I look to circumstances, people, thoughts, and feelings to be a certain way for me to be happy the more I suffer. The more I try to stop suffering the more I suffer. The more I seek to feel differently than I do in any moment the more I suffer.
Suffering is not my enemy and resisting suffering only creates more suffering.
And impersonal love, who we are, is completely separate from suffering. It is not impacted by it. It is not damaged by it. It does not change. It does not come and go the way suffering and happiness do.
Happily ever after does not exist. Happiness is always going to come and go, but love is in a category of its own. The two are not connected.
When I realized I could stop chasing happiness the more connected I felt with the unconditional love inside me. The freer I felt. The more at ease I was. As a result, I showed up in my marriage differently. I was nicer, kinder, less reactive and less judgmental. And there was a beautiful ripple effect. When I showed up in the relationship this way it drew out the best in Angus.
Who knew that the quality of a relationship has nothing to do with the other person. How I showed up in the relationship had nothing to do with Angus. That was on me. And I was doing the best I could. I still am.
I was not meaning to be selfish before. I just didn’t understand that love is a state of being that is innate. And when I am not experiencing a connection with it, I don’t need to fix my thoughts, feelings or circumstances to get more of it because it is who I am. And I can’t escape it or lose it. I may forget, but I can always remember who I am.
I still forget that love is my natural state. I forget that it cannot be taken away from me. I look for it outside of myself, but I remember more quickly now, and I am less likely to make demands on Angus or my kids to be a certain way so I can be happy.
The difference now is that I don’t mistake love for a feeling like happiness. I understand that feelings will come and go, but love remains.
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free eBook Relationships here. Rohini has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website, rohiniross.com.