5 Keys to a Great Relationship
Guest post by Caitriona Reed
I’m very happy that Caitriona has agreed to share this post with The Liberated Life Project. As a woman of transsexual experience who took a journey that involved recreating her public persona, Caitriona Reed is a great model of living a liberated life. I’ve known Caitriona since 1996, when we met at Plum Village, the spiritual community in the South of France founded by Buddhist teacher Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh (also known as Thây). At that time, Caitriona was Christopher, and a Dharma (Buddhist) teacher ordained by Thây. During that trip I also met Michele Benzamin-Miki, who has been Caitriona’s life partner throughout this extraordinary transition.
Caitriona has more than 20 years experience as a consultant, public speaker, workshop leader, and facilitator of personal and organizational change. She is also co-founder of Manzanita Village Retreat Center, a retreat in the mountains of Southern California.
“Love does not consist of two people gazing intently into each others’ eyes, but by their looking out in the same direction from a shared vantage point.”
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Many otherwise extremely successful people have reflected that without the intimacy of a sustained and loving relationship, all their accomplishments mean very little. Without someone to share their success, their life remains empty and unfulfilled.
As humans we are wired for connection with others. We are social animals. We have evolved our primate sensibilities and perceptions over millions of years. Our skills for communicating and interacting with other people embody the essence of who we are. Have you noticed that those skills seem to grow stronger when you are in deepening proximity to others, or more precisely to an-other, with whom you are coming into increasing degrees of intimacy and loving ease?
Without the sort of intimacy that we experience with a mate, a companion, or a lover, we may be missing an essential catalyst, something that is uniquely capable of moving us towards greater fulfillment. I do not just mean sexual intimacy, but something more encompassing – that may or may not include sex.
There is much to be said for solitude. We may indeed be wired for that too. Some of us thrive on it. However, it may be that the stillness we look for in solitude is only a substitute for the profound quiet that evolves so well in the crucible of satisfied love.
Carl Jung wrote that we marry our unconscious, which I take to mean that we marry what we unconsciously deem will complete us. Whether or not that’s a good thing is entirely dependent on what goes on in our unconscious world – beliefs, decisions that we made long ago, and the expectations we derive from past experiences and relationships. If we’re out of whack with our unconscious mind, any sort of marriage is likely to be a disaster.
Let’s say that by default we travel a journey towards wholeness, as best we know how. The journey is fueled by deep forces within our cells and in our neurology. Our map is largely made up of those old beliefs, decisions, and perceptions. How conscious we are of them is largely dependent on how congruent we are within ourselves, in other words, on how congruent our conscious and unconscious mind is. The less we are in alignment with our unconscious desires, needs, and constructs, the more we are likely to run aground on the rocks of our unresolved issues.
Like the captain of a ship, our conscious mind calls the shots, but unless we have a good rapport with our crew (our unconscious mind) a shipwreck is imminent.
If you are looking for a relationship to fix your failings with the crew, then the shipwreck is likely to play out as a difficult and painful relationship, or perhaps as the painful inability to sustain any relationship at all.
All this is to say simply: a deep and healthy relationship fulfills a basic human need that the majority of people can benefit from. To have that sort of relationship you must first be in a good relationship with yourself – in rapport with your own unconscious mind.
The keys are simple. Here are five of them:
- Learn or know what you want. Learn what you value in a relationship.
- Know that no one can ‘fix’ you.
- Know that you are indeed marrying your unconscious mind and that however ideal your relationship is, you will always be learning something new.
- Disappointment is a good teacher. You are usually disappointing yourself.
- Communication is never 50-50, it’s always 100% your responsibility.
I remember hearing an account of the last time that the great philosopher and social thinker Herbert Marcuse lectured at the University of Santa Barbara, shortly before his death. He spoke of his wife and family, of familial and romantic love. Here was one of the greatest political thinkers of his generation, speaking to a standing-room only auditorium, distilling his work down to its essentials, and coming up with the one thing that he, and perhaps most us, in the end, value most: a loving relationship.
For more information on the upcoming Secret of a Great Relationship with Caitriona and Michele: http://www.manzanitavillage.org/relationships/
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