Judging your partner

In the Western world, at least two out of five marriages end up in divorce. Additionally, of the remaining three out of five, at least two end up being not-overly-happy relationships. These couples stick together because they think they find some safety in co-dependency; or perhaps they fear the unknown that would envelop them should they decide to leave. So only a meager one out of five – at the most! – relationships might be described as reasonably happy. This, by the way, does not only apply to our relationships with spouses (or “significant others”); it equally applies to our relationships with all people, possessions and circumstances. We feel we could actually be happy, if only the world would conform to our wishes and desires. Instead, many of us feel their life is tossed about like a leaf on the wind, with no firm grip on how to ensure happiness, including the partner we’re currently living with.

How happy do you currently feel in your present partner relationship, if you have one? Do times of strife and arguments seem to outweigh the peaceful periods? Do you contemplate at times to find a partner that better suits your outlook on life, your values, your preferences and what you value? Do you sometimes wonder why you are still hanging out with this person who seems to give you such a hard time so often? Perhaps you feel you need another environment for further personal or spiritual growth? Are you perhaps seriously considering to leave your partner, as the “unknown” may be better than the current rut? Before you do, please read on.

First of all, realize that there is no such thing as coincidence. People don’t show up in our lives at random for no reason. In fact, each and every encounter is purposive, as we read in the Manual for Teachers in A Course in Miracles: “…what seem to be very casual encounters […] are not chance encounters. Each of them has the potential for becoming a teaching-learning situation” (M3.2:2-4). Just as it is no coincidence that you find yourself in this particular spot on this particular planet, in this era, in this particular reincarnation, the fact that you are now in this relationship with this particular partner is hardly coincidental. Apparently, the two of you are ideally suited to learn from each other what each needs in the process of spiritual awakening and the acceptance of the Atonement.

If you are spiritually inclined and your partner is not, as is often the case with Course students, it is not by definition helpful to find a more spiritually active partner. More likely than not, such an “all-spiritual” relationship would boost the “spiritual specialness”-ego in both of you, resulting in a sense of superiority and therefore separation from all those who are not as “spiritually advanced”. On the other hand, a partner that constantly seems to push your red buttons is an ideal ‘vehicle’ for you to truly practice the forgiveness process that Jesus would have us learn in studying and living his Course from day to day.

Perhaps most importantly, recall the fundamental tenet of A Course in Miracles that you always see in the other what you have not forgiven in yourself. All blame is ultimately always self-blame, to protect a projection of something we refuse to see in the unconscious (suppressed) part of our own mind. As the Psychotherapy pamphlet poignantly remarks, in the context of a therapist – patient relationship (which is really every relationship): “It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs” (P3.II.6:1). So if I stop blaming, accusing and condemning my partner, I am really healing my own mind. If it is therefore indeed hardly coincidental that my current partner has been offered me for just this purpose, why then should I not gratefully use the opportunity to learn the lesson, day by day?

All this is not to say that one should never ever end a relationship or decide to leave a partner, just because that would be “the mistake of knowing better than Jesus / The Holy Spirit”. Even though all learning situations can be useful, they need not be lifelong: “Each teaching-learning situation is maximal in the sense that each person involved will learn the most that he can from the other person at that time.” (M3.4:1) The key to what to do lies in not making the decision whether or not to leave on your own, but by turning inward and consulting the Holy Spirit about what would be the most loving thing to do. When you ask in sincerity and in silence, the answer (impulse) may surprise you. Yet assure yourself that if (and only if) the overriding feeling is a deep inner peace, that advice will always turn out best for everyone involved.

So if you are still unsure about whether or not to stay in your current relationship, recall the most important question you can ask yourself at any time: “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?” (T29.VII.1:9). For we cannot have both, which is of course the fundamental ego frustration. Then seek the inner quiet place in your mind “where sin has left” (T.26.IV), and ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say, and do. Wait for the feeling of deep inner peace to make itself known, usually in the lower belly area. If it does not come, you are not yet asking with full sincerity. In that case, postpone any decision and try again a little later. “Remembering the gifts forgiveness gives, we undertake our practicing with hope and faith this will be the day salvation will be ours. Earnestly and gladly we seek for it today, aware we hold the key within our hands, accepting Heaven’s answer to the hell we made, but where we would remain no more.” (WpI.122.9).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

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