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Revolutionizing relationships

Real relating does not start from need; it starts when we actually feel that we can relate to one another.

Most of us are stuck in what I call horizontal patterns of relating, and it’s time to get vertical. Horizontal relationships are those where we experience ourselves as individuals separate from the universe; feeling alone and fearful, we are unconsciously driven to use one another to meet our needs. Vertical relationships start with our understanding that we are not alone, that we are connected to The Source, God, higher consciousness, a higher power or intelligence, through which our needs will be met; we trust that the universe will support us, and we don’t make one another that source.

Most of our relationships are horizontal, which means that we look toward one another as a means to meet our needs, rather than as partners in an adventure in relating. Typically when we meet someone, we consciously or unconsciously calculate whether or not he or she will provide for us something we think important for our well-being, whether that be material, social or emotional. For example, I’m attracted to Jim because he is a cardiologist, smart, good looking, strong, powerful, something which reflects well on me. I like being with Maria because she admires me, listens to me, does what I want and makes me feel important. I want to hang out with the Goldsmiths because they can help me get ahead. It’s all about me.

Horizontal relationships are not about relating; they are about gaining some advantage — to make us look or feel good in some way, to end the experience of loneliness, powerlessness and despair that come from our lack of connection to the universe. Because we look for advantage rather than relationship, we resist truly knowing the other person. If we did, we might discover that he or she is not what we hope and cannot provide what we expect. We avoid facing that dreaded reality, because it would return us to feeling alone and unprotected, because we don’t feel connected to the universe and still look to other humans for our security. We are particularly foolish about “love.” We’re in such a hurry to feel merged, desired and safe, we often don’t look very closely at potential partners; instead we assume lots of untested things about them, until we are forced to confront their real nature. Suddenly we feel shocked and cheated, victims of our own delusions.

The result of horizontal relationships is that we don’t truly love, even though we may feel a lot of drama around one another. I may like the way I feel around you, as long as you look and/or behave in a certain way. If that behavior stops, or if you can’t maintain the fiction anymore, I feel angry and cheated. It is not you that I love; it’s how I feel around you. And the partner knows it and is angry back.

Real relating does not start from need; it starts when we actually feel that we can relate to one another: I understand you, and you understand me; we feel compassion for one another; we have shared values, mutual respect and the desire for mutual support. Coming from a horizontal position, we are not looking for a person with whom to relate. We either choose someone we believe is like us and then get angry when we discover they aren’t; or we choose someone we think is unlike us, in the hopes that they can forever be the compensation for our weakness. We choose someone who will put up with us, admire us or flatter us, so we can escape our insecurities; or we choose someone who will put us down, because that’s our familiar state of mind. None of this is about a real sense of connection to another. In fact, we often pick people who are poor matches, and these real differences ultimately lead to feelings of frustration, domination and alienation. This so-called “love” then turns to hate.

Once immersed in a horizontal relationship, we resist allowing the other to change, and they do the same with us. If, in fact, our partner initially has the qualities we want them to have (they are rich, healthy, stupid, attentive, whatever we wish), but then are altered through choice or accident, we feel threatened by that alteration unless we anticipate that the change will help them better meet our needs. And our partners try to block our change as well, if it threatens some perceived benefit to them. This is what makes horizontal relationships confining, instead of supportive and expansive.

Why do we engage in horizontal relationships? We have no other paradigm for relating. We are habituated to this pattern. We don’t feel connected to the universe and are, therefore, desperate. Alone and scared, we think that horizontal relationships will make us feel secure, but the opposite is the case. When we are not taking one another for granted, we are anxiously hovering over each other, looking for the slightest sign that our mate is straying from the unwritten contract that they will stay the same, or we are nervously monitoring one another, trying to enforce that our partner change in a way that we believe will best suit our agendas.

Is it natural that we want to control the person whose behavior most impacts us? Of course. Is it healthy? Absolutely not. Is it necessary? No. We all need to be conscious of the impact we have on one another, and that is especially true in an intimate relationship. But ultimately, we have to recognize that our partner is a being who is first and foremost connected to him- or herself and the forces of creation, and so am I. And then we need to trust that if we are truly a match and meant to be together, we don’t need the phony artificial ways we relate through flattery, manipulation, coercion or games. We need to relax into the reality that whatever natural connection exists will emerge, and we can both be real and trust that our conflicts, challenges, natures and evolution will support our mutual growth.

Let’s stop being horizontal with one another, and let’s end the anger, resentment and drama-filled relationships of deception, delusion, demands and disappointment. The revolution in relationships begins when two people are not looking to each other for happiness, security or meaning; in other words, when we start with two beings who actually feel connected to something other than each other and in fact have faith that they will be supported by the universe. Such people can then come to know one another and select each other out of mutual respect and admiration. And they can trust and support one another’s evolution.

Horizontal relationships can never be love, because they are based on ego. Let’s revolutionize all our relationships, and start by relaxing into the deep spiritual connection between ourselves and the universe, which allows us to be whole enough to love one another.

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