Do you keep the lights off or do you turn them on in your romantic relationships?
Earlier this summer, I was asked to join a panel of moderators for the Raise Your Love Signal Clubhouse room. It’s a great group of professionals discussing various aspects of being in a conscious relationship. Terms like ‘conscious relationship’, ‘shadow work’, ‘masculine vs feminine energy’ and ‘inner child’ can feel a little ambiguous to those who are not versed in personal development jargon, so it’s important to take the time to clarify these terms to make them more accessible to everyone. During a recent discussion, the co-host asked us to define what it means to be in a conscious relationship.
So what does it mean to be in a conscious relationship?
As an artist, I tend to understand broad concepts in a visual way. So in the case of illustrating what being in a conscious relationship means, it dawned on me that being in a relationship is akin to entering a special room with your partner: Let’s call it the Relationship Room. Every time you enter that room with someone, you both bring in your own baggages in the room with you. Some of the content of the baggages are beneficial to the relationship, others are detrimental to the relationship. You may be aware of some stuff in the baggages. But there are most likely some stuff in there that you are completely unaware of.
During a relationship, however long you decide to stay in the room with that person, you get to experience the room, each other and your baggages. What makes the difference between entering a conscious relationship versus entering and unconscious relationship is whether or not the lights in the room are turned on.
Lights off : The Unconscious Relationship
What it’s like to be in an unconscious relationship
There are no instruction manuals on how to build and exist in a successful relationship. Most of us took our romantic relationship queues (the good, the bad and the ugly) from our respective environments while growing up. Based on that, we “Frankensteined” our own relationship formula. Some relationships are more enduring. Others are more challenging. But I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us went about it in a mostly unconscious way. And experiencing a relationship in an unconscious way, is like experiencing a room with little to no lights in it : you’re going to miss some stuff.
We tend to exist in the Relationship Room with our partner by feeling our way through the room. With experience, some of us learn to recognize and perhaps even label certain areas of the room such as : the safe area, the fun area, the uncomfortable area, the dangerous area, the no-go area, the unknown area, etc. Most of us have no idea how large the room actually is, especially since it’s not very well lit. We only know the parts that we allow ourselves to explore. During our stay in the Relationship Room, we eventually stumble on each other’s stuff and we either deal with it, or memorize their location to be sure to avoid it next time.
For example in my case, I remember a time (relatively early in my previous relationship) where I decided to do a complete cleanup and reorganization of our bedroom, including my partner’s night table. It had been accumulating dust and trinkets over time. I figured maybe he wasn’t into organizing as much as I was, so I proudly put my organizing skills to use. I cleaned and reorganize the entire room. Everything was bright and shiny. It felt fresh, calm and serene. It was easy to see everything we had in the room. I was really happy with the final result.
When he came back home however, instead of being impressed and thankful (like I expected), he got mad at me for “moving his stuff”. Never mind the fact that it was cleaner and all the attention to details I had put into it. Never mind the fact that I kept everything that even seemed like trash in an area for him to double check before disposing of them. I was shocked. Little did I know, I had stumbled on one of “his baggages”. My response was to essentially never touch his side of the bed again, no matter how dirty or disorganized I felt it was.
In our Relationship Room this became an area for me to avoid if I wanted to keep the peace in the relationship. Because I didn’t know, I didn’t shed light on it to see what the real issue was. Subconsciously, it became one point of contention in our relationship : an uncomfortable area in our Relationship Room.
This, to me, was an example of being unconscious in the relationship : choosing to keep that area in the dark not because of the fact that it was an uncomfortable aspect of the relationship, but because of the fact that my feelings towards the situation were neglected by both me and my partner at that time. It’s only years later, as I started to become a little more conscious and aware of my own response, that I was able to see how it affected me, how it affected the relationship and even played a role in us exiting our Relationship Room.
The interesting thing about being in an unconscious relationship is that it gives you plenty of opportunities to either transform the relationship into a more conscious one or help you become more conscious yourself.
If you keep hitting your head every time you forget to lower it when you reach a certain area of the room, you might decide one day to just pull out your flashlight and see if there’s a way around it. Maybe you can even remove the object that’s in your way.
Lights on : The Conscious Relationship
What it’s like to be in an conscious relationship
Relationships exist at various levels of consciousness: You can add only one light bulb to the Relationship Room, or you can add 100 light bulbs to the same room. It’s up to you and what you can handle. As you add more lights, you are better equipped to assess your environment within the relationship: You can see the obstacles, you can see the things in any area that needs repair or care. You can look at your own baggages, and see if there’s anything you need to dispose of, or take care of. You can look at your partner’s baggages, and see if there’s something you have that can help them or something they have that can help you or the relationship. You can even see if there’s someone else lurking in the room! Or if there’s a small fire starting in a corner or structural issue that could potentially affect the stability of the entire room.
You get a better sense of your environment by turning on the lights and taking the time to look at the room, how it relates to you and to your partner. You also get to look at your baggages, what they contain and how they affect your relationship. I don’t believe there’s an arrival point when it comes to being in a conscious relationship. It’s constantly evolving. There’s always an opportunity to grow and discover more about yourself, your partner and your relationship, if you choose to go that route.
When the lights are on, you’ll see where the obstacles are. You’ll be able to see if there are items you need to dispose of (either because they no longer serve you or because they are detrimental to your well being and your relationships).
It takes a certain level of commitment to yourself to be in a conscious relationship because it’s not always pleasant or glamorous. For example, if your baggages show your that you tend to push people away when they get close to you, because you’re afraid of getting hurt ‘like you did last time’, it’s an opportunity to address this self-sabotaging behaviour… if you want to.
There was a moment in my previous relationship where I decided to turn on the lights no matter what. That meant that I had to take a hard look at the relationship: what worked, what didn’t work and the role I played in it. I remember during a session I had with a mastermind group, the facilitator said something that stuck with me. It was along the lines of “Your partner is a mirror. What bothers you about him is more a reflection to show you something you need to address within yourself”.
I didn’t like it at first, but I took in the information and journaled about it. What was it about his behaviour that was triggering me? And, more importantly, why was it triggering me? After some pondering, it dawned on me that I was just trying too hard to keep something that was already gone. That’s where some of my frustration was coming from. Then I had to ask myself, “Is this the kind of relationship I want to have? One where I feel I need to hold everything together like I was the sole person responsible for the maintenance of the relationship?” Soon I realized how that habit was rooted in my childhood and my pattern of taking on the responsibility of keeping people happy together, even though it was not my call. There was also the acceptance aspect: realizing that it’s not my duty or responsibility to try to convince anyone to change ‘for the better’. Not only is it a waste of time but it devalues the sacredness of an authentic relationship.
It was a hard pill to swallow, but what was more important to me was to experience an authentic loving relationship where both parties wanted to be in that relationship, with the lights turned on, ready to do what it takes to make our stay in the Relationship Room, as pleasurable and memorable as possible.
Lights on? Or Lights off?
Being in a conscious relationship is not for everyone. When you turn the lights on, you don’t get to pick what you see. You see what’s there and you have to deal with it. This might mean that you may have to exit the Relationship Room to find a more compatible match, especially if you first entered the room with an unconscious mindset. It might also mean that you’ll have to sort through your own baggages and get rid of items you used to be identified with but that no longer resonate with you or serve your purpose. But on the other hand, you’ll be able to experience more of the room and discover parts of the room you didn’t even know existed.
What becomes difficult, from my experience, is when both partners are no longer aligned in their values regarding the relationship. It’s hard to be in the same room when one person want the lights turned off while the other one wants lights turned on. If they are going to stay committed to one another, someone will have to compromise.
And, say you’re the one who wants the lights on, but decide to keep them off for the sake of the relationship : Even it you decide to turn the lights back off, you can’t unsee what you saw when the lights were on. Furthermore, if you compromise to the point of loosing yourself, it will eventually become detrimental to your wellbeing and soon detrimental to the relationship as well.
Keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with preferring to be in the Relationship Room with the lights turned off. A conscious relationship is not necessarily better than an unconscious relationship. Different people have different needs. Some are quite content to just have someone to keep them company as they grow older. Others, like myself, need to experience the depth of what it means to connect with their partner on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level.
Ultimately, the choice is, and has always been yours. So make sure you exercise your ability to choose the kind of relationship that will fulfill you. Which of the two kinds of relationships resonate more with you : the unconscious or the conscious kind?