Linda: We get a lot of calls and emails from people who want to meet someone in order to a) have a companion for activities like hikes, movies, or sports, b) create a more personal, but not necessarily permanent long term relationship, or c) experience being in a committed partnership with the intention of holding the relationship as a means of mutually supporting each other's growth and inner development with the relationship itself being a spiritual path.
Being clear about our intention, regarding a future relationship is a crucial factor in the process of finding a suitable and appropriate partner. There is no "correct" intent when it comes to this process, no 'one-size fits all', no superior or inferior hopes or expectations. Committed partnership isn't for everyone, and even for those who make this choice, there is an infinite variety of models and shapes and sizes, depending upon the preferences of each partner.
While certain conditions do tend to support committed partnerships more effectively than others, a relationship can be defined by whatever two people agree works for them both. While this understanding provides a great deal more freedom and flexibility for those who are not restricted to traditional or tribal conventions (which excludes much of the world's population), such freedom does not come without its prices.
The idea that marriage can or should provide something beyond material and familial security is much newer than most of us realize. It is no more than a few generations old and in much of the world, still doesn't even exist. An emotionally and spiritually fulfilling relationship that is based upon both individual and shared commitments challenges each partner to know their own values, priorities, and intentions in a way that may have seemed irrelevant to our recent and distant ancestors whose main concerns were more focused upon survival issues and the fulfillment of the family's basic needs.
Having the "luxury" of seeing relationship as a means personal fulfillment is a concept that is much newer than most of us realize. We have very little in the way of historical tradition to provide us with the necessary tools and wisdom for this process. Even the wise elders of our culture have had precious little experience traveling in this territory. We are all, for the most part, novices at this game. Fortunately, there are some general principles for the creation of conscious partnerships that can serve as general guidelines for those intrepid travelers who traverse the territory of the heart.
One of these principles has to do with the willingness to bring honesty, authenticity, and integrity into the relationship from the very beginning. This means defying the notion of putting our best foot forward in order to attract the partner of our dreams and instead offering a more integrated and whole picture of who we actually are, rather than a picture of the person that we think our prospective partner will find most attractive.
This doesn't mean that we focus exclusively on our deficiencies or shadow side, but rather that we acknowledge its existence and don't try to deny that we are imperfect beings. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and in this case general statements like "I'm not perfect' or I have my faults too", doesn't quite cut it. Without going into unnecessary minutiae, specifying the nature of our shadow side as well as our virtuous and more noble side (which many people find it even harder to acknowledge) is perhaps the quickest and most effective means of determining whether someone is attracted to a possibly distorted picture of who we are or a more accurate one.
If there is a gap between the perception and the reality, then we are setting ourselves up for a fall that could in the long run prove to be lethal. The tendency to project an idealized image onto our partner in the early stages of romance is already strong, and such distorted projections can set us up for feelings of disillusionment, disappointment and betrayal, if they are not challenged or at least questioned.
One way to neutralize this possibility is to put a more balanced picture of ourselves up front, one that not only reveals our dark as well as golden aspects and tendencies, but one that expresses our deepest intentions, rather than our more superficial desires for our relationship. While this may disturb or even repel potential partners, it may serve to entice those who can appreciate such honesty and can respond to it reciprocally. If we don't take "rejections" personally, but simply view them as mis-fits, any response or even non-responses will be viewed as valuable information rather than a personal assessment of our character.
Stay tuned for part 2 which gives an example of how to create a detailed contract for you and your partner to use your relationship for both of you to become who you truly are.