Turning conflict into peace

We believe between us we have more or less “done it all “in terms of relationship. We’ve both experienced marriage and divorce, being single for an extended period of time and being in a long term relationship that appears to work. We have experienced the joy of authentic connection as well as the bewilderment and disappointment of a relationship that falls apart, the freedom of being single and the longing not to be. 

Being in a relationship can be the source of great joy and satisfaction, it can also be the source of anxiety that affects our health, our work and our sense of well-being. Ironically not being in a relationship can cause the same effects. We seem to carry with us a longing that drives us into relationship and can also drive us out when it is not satisfied. We all long be loved and to love, to know we are connected and to be fully seen and accepted for who we are. We long for intimate relationships in which we feel safe and be reminded of the truth of what we are: love, innocence, magnificence. Just being with someone is not enough.  

In witnessing our own relationships and those of others, the well- known Chinese curse comes to mind; ”may you live in interesting times.” Well let’s face it – we simply do. Never have divorce figures been so high with 1 in 3 marriages not working. Never have there been so many single people of all ages seeking for love and companionship. Why is this?

Our theory is that these are simply symptoms of our collective evolution. The purpose of relationship is in the process of changing, our consciousness does not allow us to be content with living in a box or an” institution” called marriage. We are being urged to move on, think bigger, and reclaim our true identities using relationship as the pathway to spiritual growth. Until now, finding meaning in relationship was meaningless!  We were not seeking spiritual growth as much as safety and comfort. 

Collectively we are still growing and most of us don’t know how to use relationship as a spiritual path. We have absorbed old and strange beliefs about love and relationship to which we  can be incredibly loyal. For instance “if there is conflict there is something wrong”. ‘There is a perfect person out there somewhere for me” … ‘we are supposed to love one another no matter what, no conflict, happy ever after, no one upsets anyone …..” 

One of our favourite books on a Course in Miracles is entitled: A Course in Miracles in 5 Minutes. (Jerry Sears) For those of you familiar with the Course, you might see the appeal of this title. How can you take a text of over 500 pages, a Workbook of 365 lessons, and a Teacher’s Manual and condense it into 5 minutes? Simple but not easy! Here are the headlines. There are only 3 things we have to remember: 

  • The Universe is friendly 
  • You are an innocent child of that universe
  • And so is everyone else. 

What does this have to do with relationships? There is so much written about what works and doesn’t, how to mend what is broken, how to find the perfect person. Most theories (and our own experiences) tell us that relationships go through different stages, let’s call them:” honeymoon”, “wait a minute”, “you are not who I thought you were”, “I made a mistake, maybe I should leave”, and “now what do I do?” 

The Course looks on relationship from the perspective of choice. Would you like a relationship that serves the ego (special) or one that serves love (holy)? The purpose of a special relationship is to maintain control; “I need you to make me feel good about myself, safe and cared for. I also need you to prove my beliefs that this is not a friendly universe, I am guilty and so are you. “ 

The CIM has the following to say: 3 The special love relationship is the ego’s chief weapon for keeping you from Heaven. 4 It does not appear to be a weapon, but if you consider how you value it and why, you will realize what it must be

With the ego in charge, we use relationship as a means of separation rather than joining. Instead of seeking love and unity with everyone, I seek to enhance my own separate identity through an exclusive interaction with one special person so I can feel special. And then we seal it all with a vow: “What the ego has put together let no love put asunder!” 

There are no accidents with relationships; they all have a purpose, contain valuable lessons and none are a mistake. Any relationship can be holy if we choose to make it so. The purpose of a holy relationship according to the Course is to make happy and to heal, to join in the knowledge that indeed we do live in a friendly universe; everything happens for us, we are both innocent and together we can reach our highest spiritual potential. 

The Course goes on to tell us all relationships begin as special. If we want to experience a holy relationship we commit ourselves to a process in which we invite the HS in, we set a goal and we hold fast as we are shown what needs to happen. Just as others have noted, there are stages in this relationship transformation. We still experience the initial honeymoon, followed by the doubt and the urge to get rid of the other but there is another voice whispering to us now – “hold on, don’t give up  , this is just the beginning of the real relationship, this is an opportunity to heal something extremely important.” 

Remember the promise of all the stories we were told as little children, “and they lived happily ever after”?  Well, not only is it true, it is also possible.  All relationships will at some point in time reach what feels like a crisis.  Many of us, upon reaching this crisis, call it quits, only to find ourselves repeating the same thing over again in the next relationship.  The names have changed and perhaps the crisis comes in a different form, but the final outcome is identical.   

If we really wish to change the outcome of what seems like a relationship crisis (remember the promise) we have to stay long enough to receive the gift in the crisis.  This is where the work begins.  This is what the relationship has always really been about.  All relationships have the same purpose, that of healing, and the outcome of healing is the fulfilment of the promise. 

Lessons 5,6 and 7 from the workbook guide us here: (5)“I am never upset for the reason I think.” (6)“I am upset because I see something that is not there.(7) I see only the past”. Any trigger in a relationship that leaves us feeling angry, hurt or betrayed serves as an opportunity to bring to light our painful and mistaken beliefs that are asking to be healed or forgiven. 

We acquire powerful beliefs from the moment we are conceived. The emotional disposition of our parents at the time of conception and during pregnancy has an energetic effect on us in the womb.  Then there is constant input from the beliefs, judgements, thoughts and emotions of not only our parents but also any other family members involved with us from the time of our birth and during our early years of life. We also carry with us inherited beliefs of all those that came before us that can have a profound influence on how we see ourselves, others and the world. 

When we are young this information is far too much for a barely conscious mind to absorb, so it is all stored at a subconscious level.  From the beginning of our lives here, we start to adapt our behaviour in reaction to all this input. Our personalities and behaviour become driven by our subconscious belief structure and also (really important) the need to develop a  system of defence against its discovery. We bring all of this, the beliefs and the defences,   into every relationship we enter. 

In order to grow spiritually we are asked to bring to light or become conscious of what we have held at a sub-conscious level of mind. When we do this with curiosity and compassion we can then choose to behave responsibly and with love in any given situation rather than be driven by defensive reaction. Deciding to consciously and honestly pursue this endeavour is the first step towards true human adulthood. As we bring forward the willingness to walk into the defences our relationships trigger rather than walking in the opposite direction, we begin to reap the benefits and see the amazing lessons in healing that are being offered. We can thank our partners for reminding us that the work of the Course is removing all obstacles to the awareness of love’s presence. 

Conflicts can be turned into healing and peace, we can love and be grateful for whatever the relationship we have knowing that it is all moving us forward on our spiritual paths.When things become challenging, when something happens that hurts or may even threaten the whole relationship then I know deep within me this is happening for me and not to me. The Universe is busy at work providing me with the perfect lesson for me and my partner’s healing. And if I am an innocent child of that friendly universe my fundamental Self is intact, pure and guiltless simply seeking to heal. And if you are innocent too, then I can thank you for providing an opportunity to heal and forgive my mistaken beliefs.  If there is a crisis of any kind it is simply an opportunity to heal and strengthen rather than destroy the love that is between us. 

Should I stay or should I go? 

None of what we have said here is meant to convince you to stay or to leave a relationship. It is however written to reinforce the knowledge that whatever relationship you are in is the perfect one for you right now. Learn to love what you have and you will know what is needed and when. The difference, when you are willing to do the work is that should you decide to leave, it will be in love and should you decide to stay it is with a deeper understanding of why you are together and a commitment to journey together with a curious and trusting mind.

Jane Tipping and Paul Goudsmit