I want to share with you some thoughts and my perspective on the deeper purpose of relationships. Over the years of my adult life I was often baffled by the difficulties and struggles that would inevitably arise in my intimate relationships. Everything would begin with such a rush of positivity and a profound sense of rightness. And yet over time little things would become big things until there was this feeling of being stuck. The same disagreements, the same feeling of frustration and resentments would build and the same loss of passion and love would settle in.

What was going on? How did we get here? Where do we go from here? Why? Those questions pushed me to look into deeper causes than what my upbringing and conditioning had taught me were true. The old story of blame and shame just wasn’t cutting it. It became obvious over time that the only consistent element in my relationships was myself. That friction was inevitable in intimate relationships and that the more I took responsibility for my own shadows, the more beautiful the whole experience became.

From that moment of realization on my relationships began to take on a different flavor. The people I was intimate with began to be more mirrors and teachers to me and less of a “problem.” I became less of a “problem.” Yes, the challenges, pain and patterns were still present, but I spent less time in the blame/victim modality of being. I saw my relationships, myself, and my life become more of an open-ended challenge to discover who I really was. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says, “For one person to love another, this is the most difficult of all our tasks.” I could add that knowing and loving ourselves, as we are, is an equally challenging and courageous task.

Relationship shifted for me from being a battleground to being a crucible of growth and purification: No less harrowing, but with a deeper, more meaningful feel to the process. This was a crucial shift in the concept of relationship away from the cultural myth of the “happily ever after or burn all the bridges” dichotomy. Though there have been many “Ah-Ha!” moments, the reality is that it has been a long process of discovering and integrating what those realizations mean in the real world. And that process still goes on and will go on as long as I am alive.

I have found no pill or technique that will instantly and permanently lift you out of the labyrinth of relating to ones self and others. It takes work and awareness, knowledge and courage to navigate that space. It is navigation without an endpoint since the labyrinth is kaleidoscopic and fractal in its permutations, always moving and reconfiguring moment by moment. Each relationship has its own unique alchemy to express and the sacred-fun challenge is to work with what each relationship and moment brings to find the mirror-of-gold within it. Knowing that the unique you is the only element you can work on, intimate relationship becomes a journey of self-discovery. Your beloved, friend, collaborator or master button pusher provides a window into ones self and the soul of all things. They are there to keep it moving, share the discoveries and bring that other layer of meaning by allowing one to be of compassionate service to another’s self-discovery.

On the path of that journey is a return of that profound sense of rightness and positivity found for free at the beginning of a deep, true relationship, but now earned and sustainable. It is sustainable because these three powerful pillars of authentic relationship uphold it: Responsibility, Compassion and Awareness. I believe that each one is intrinsic to our nature as humans. I also now know that each is a principle that must be practiced and nurtured in ones self. The relationship itself becomes the touchstone and guide for the unfolding of those principles.