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Tuesday June 19, 2007: Spiritual Disappointment in Relationships

        Let’s say you’ve been on a spiritual path for some time and you’ve focused for years on giving more love, respect and compassion to those around you.  Isn’t it one of life’s biggest surprises or disappointments when a partner or friend, with whom you have spent years loving and/or sharing hopes and dreams, turns bitter and vengeful toward you?  This other person begins acting in a most unspiritual and uncivil manner: you are left wondering if you ever knew them at all.  It’s almost human nature to fall back into a defensive mode, to react with hurt and then possibly anger at the treatment dished out by someone who was supposed to be your friend or lover.

        I’ve already discussed not returning ‘tit for tat.’ You should never lower your own standards to match that of your nemesis. The challenge of being on a spiritual path when one is attacked unfairly is to continue extending good will and respect, acting the way you would ideally act in a platonic relationship (at the very least), while not letting yourself turn into a doormat.   This is not done because it is the ‘high and lofty’ way to respond. This is in your own best interest, so you can look back later on your actions (and your life) without regrets.  Let me repeat: acting in a spiritual manner does not mean turning yourself into a doormat.

        Of course, confusion remains as to how this person (who entered the relationship supposedly with the same promises and intent of loyalty as you did) could suddenly turn so viscously upon you, seemingly seeking out the most painful ways to hurt you.  If the partner has not been on a spiritual path, it might be easier to understand, but one of the conversations at the yoga retreat was about partners with a similar background, who should have shared a similar moral approach to conflicts and disagreements.

        How can someone continue their spiritual practices while indulging in underhanded and vicious attacks in some of their personal relationships? My friends and I realize that we struggle not so much with the other person’s actions (that’s the way reality is), but more with an inability to believe our own judgments and assumptions could have been so wrong when we entered the relationship.

        Our personal challenge on the path remains that of continually letting loose of our assumptions about how we think relationships (or reality) should be and seeing what is truly in front of us, but it is so much easier said than done.  We start every relationship weighing the pros and cons. Once we decide a relationship is worth pursuing, once we open ourselves to giving our best, what happens to our awareness of the negatives?

        I try to see the best in a person, but in doing so, I’m likely to begin rationalizing or downplaying his or her shortcomings.  Also is involved the tendency (it must be human nature) to believe that because someone we feel close to behaves the same way we do and talks about the same ideals, they must feel the same way we do, to the same level of depth and conviction. Logic may tell us this is a faulty perception, but in the glow of goodwill, we fall headfirst into believing we have found a kindred spirit.

        When personal needs are thwarted, each side retreats to a deeper and safer emotional level. For my friends and me, it means that because of the personal hurt, we must quit giving freely and without reservation.  We become guarded, trying to analyze the next attack, balancing our need to be compassionate and tolerant with the necessity of remaining realistically cautious.


         How painful this becomes when we are dealing with certain individuals---those who chose a spiritual path and yet have no desire to spend time digging out their own demons, or removing their deep-seated fears and doubts.  They float in the peacefulness and comfort of belonging to a spiritual group while life is good.  When their needs are thwarted, the response becomes a retreat to an older level of conditioned feelings and reactions. Spiritual philosophy for these individuals remains a peaceful mental exercise; defense of their inner core is a down-and-dirty fight for survival.

        If our personal relationship is severed with these types, we should wish them good will as they travel on their own path, and let loose of any wish for karmic payback. The worse outcome of any breakup would be to find ourselves bound in future karmic cycles, an issue also discussed by my friends.

        Do not assume letting go is done easily. If you cared deeply for someone, or trusted them, it is not easy to calmly and rationally face them in legal battles or domestic spats. It’s going to hurt with each encounter until you let the relationship ‘die’ and go through its own grieving and/or healing process. When you face the person without your own baggage getting in the way, you’re in a better position to act appropriately to their outbursts and demands. Again, I would say the hardest parts of the healing process are letting loose of the dreams and assumptions of how we want things to be, and then forgiving ourselves for making choices that eventually led us into a broken-down relationship.

        My friends and I work to perfect our own lives, to love ourselves despite the wrong turns and wrong decisions. We accept that those attacking us may define ‘Love Thyself’ differently, as in believing ‘I am right and that makes you wrong’.  That kind of attitude we cannot control; we can only let go, wishing the best for all concerned.


Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 01:10PM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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