Judith Cannon, PhD, LMFT
Healing, Growth, Creativity Enriching
Our Lives, Our Relationships, Our World
Creating Passionate and Enduring Relationships
Planning the Building
With spiritual practices as a foundation, let’s talk about a plan for building our relationship. I think there are probably many plans that will work. A plan is about setting intention and consciously creating something together. I will share with you a plan that works for me. I call it 3-D relationship—decide, devote, develop.
3-D Relationships: Decide, Devote, Develop
Deciding whether this is the person for you is not a one-time event. Deciding occurs when we are dating and when we are in an ongoing relationship. We are always choosing, whether we are conscious of our choices or not. As we choose, we create our lives.
if you want to be in the relationship
how you want to be in the relationship
who you want to be in relationship
what you want to create together
Conscious deciding requires self-awareness, especially awareness of our desires, our values, and our sense of purpose.
Conscious deciding involves discernment, the ability to perceive clearly. To consciously decide, we need to look at the other person with our eyes wide open—not closed in denial or squinted in judgment. We seek simply to see them as they are.
It is important to always maintain awareness of choice. Otherwise, we will feel trapped and resentful. Even if you feel you cannot choose to leave, you can always choose how you will stay.
As you are deciding, ask yourself whether you can wholeheartedly devote yourself to this person. If you chose to be with them or to stay with them, you are choosing the whole package and your job is to devote yourself to them. Fully engaging in the relationship makes it possible for the relationship to be the best it can be.
Devoting yourself to your partner and the relationship is also an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Devotion is active, not passive. “Devote” means to wholeheartedly give time, energy and attention. When we fully give our time, energy and attention to someone, our love grows. We don’t expect a plant to grow without tending and we should not expect a person or relationship to grow and be healthy without tending.
Devotion is an eyes-wide-open process of seeing someone as s/he is, not as we wish s/he were or think s/he should be. We give up attempts to change and control. Devotion involves loving our partner as s/he is, the whole package. It is not a cafeteria plan—I’ll take this, add a little more gravy, but none of that please.
How does this work when you face serious issues such as substance abuse by a partner? First, you must still recognize that you cannot change or control your partner. You can define for yourself what your bottom line is, what you can live with and what you will not live with. This is not an ultimatum to your partner. This is a commitment to yourself. You continue to decide if and how you want to be in this relationship and you focus on your work and what you want to grow in yourself.
Devoting ourselves to our partner only makes sense if we see the big picture, if we see ourselves on a spiritual journey. Devoting ourselves to our partner only makes sense when we have a sense of purpose, meaning and connection with the Divine.
Devoting ourselves to our partners is not about being a doormat or being co-dependent. Devotion is based in a core love of and responsibility for ourselves. We are adding to that a sense of responsibility for the “We,” for the relationship we are creating.
Devotion means setting our intention and focusing our attention so that we can see our partners as the beautiful children of the universe that they are. A relationship based on devotion awakens us to our sacred interconnectedness—the oneness of the Universe.
What if you feel unwilling or unable to devote yourself to your partner? Honor yourself and the relationship by doing some soul searching and healing work. Do what is necessary to stay and devote yourself to your partner or leave with integrity if that is the best choice.
Developing ourselves in the context of our relationship is another important step in the ongoing process of loving in 3-D. “Develop” means to make fuller, bigger, better. Relationships are a primary context for our full development as human beings. Committed relationships bring to the surface our historic issues and patterns. The good news is that when these issues and patterns are at the surface and operating in present time, they are available for transformation.
When we are frustrated and annoyed with our partner, we can ask, “What is my pattern or process in this? What can I do differently?” We can also seek to understand what the Universe is seeking to grow and develop in us, rather than what we need to try to control or change in our partner.
I am not suggesting that we deny or repress our needs or wants. In fact, speaking up about them may be exactly what the Universe is seeking to grow in us. I am suggesting that our “work site” is ourselves, not our partners.
As we develop, we come back around the circle to deciding. Continuing to develop requires that we revisit the question of whether this is the person and relationship for us. If it is, then we must fully, lovingly devote ourselves to our partner and continue to develop ourselves in the context of the relationship. If it is not where we are called to be, we need to leave.
For more information about Creating Passionate and Enduring Relationships, read:
Planning the Building