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Last week I participated in a men’s circle where one man shared a personal story. Every time he would be approached by an attractive woman in a bar or a club, he would feel a strong urge to impress her. And he would lose the connection to himself in his effort to win the woman’s approval. Additionally, the woman would pick up on how much effort he was making, and would lose her interest. The man was at a loss as for how to stay closer to himself. He feared being rejected. But how to get over his fear?
The problem here lies with the need for approval. Why would we feel the need to make any person attracted to us? The need for approval, reveals a deeper secret about ourselves. If we are looking externally for approval from others, this means that at some deeper level we do not approve of ourselves. Our need testifies of a lack of self-love.
The other cannot give you that what you cannot give yourself. The man from our example failed to approve of himself, and thus could not fully accept the approval of the woman in turn.
When we instead approach someone else without any goal, this makes room for playful, spontaneous connections. We can start exploring what there is right now. And we can suddenly allow ourselves to be surprised by what we find there. In this space, there is no place to fear rejection. There are simply other people that fit well with who we are at this time, and people who do not fit so well.
This does not mean that we can only be with someone once we have ourselves all figured out. Our relationship with another person can also function as a catalyst for our own development. We can feel attracted to another person, because at some unconscious level we realise that this person will help us get closer to ourselves.
And this can be a very healthy basis for a relationship. You see, it’s not just one person who benefits from this. When one grows, then both grow. If I can somehow facilitate my partner to be more comfortable, then this will also create space for me to be closer to myself.
In romantic movies we see two characters fall in love because the other is inexplicably the one. Secrecy surrounds this topic of being the one. We are supposed to accept it without question. Love is a given. These two people are meant to be.
Unfortunately, this rhetoric surrounding romantic relationships is not very helpful. Instead of talking about the one, as some permanent property of another person, I propose we talk about the journey of our own development. What is this other person touching inside of me? Why do I feel attracted, and what am I giving this other person by the simple fact of my presence?
To engage in this journey together is a piece of art, in and of itself. It’s a beautiful coming together of two souls, and the fact that the connection might diminish over time, does not diminish the beauty of the connection in the current moment one bit.
People don’t stay together for a lifetime because they are meant to be. People stay together for a lifetime because they chose to engage in this journey together time and time again, after encountering each other in different connections and different places.
What I describe here is not just reserved for romantic relationships. Our connection with any friend, colleague or family member in our lives starts and ends with where we are in our own development. It starts with our own journey and how that connects with the other. So before connecting with the other, start with connecting to yourself. And remember to stay curious!