Quite a few years ago I had a pleasant run in with a distant friend of mine. We had both been through relationship induced heartbreaks and were navigating our way to being “strong independent woman who don’t need no man”. Yeeeah, we all know how the I-refuse-to-feel-my-emotions-approach turns out. Anyway, we were sharing experiences, relating to familiar circumstances and offering advice to each other…you know how it goes. Then she shared one line with me – one itty bitty line – which as soon as the words left her mouth was like a gush of wind blowing through my foggy, clouded mind and clearing out all the rubbish. It made so much sense then that it stayed with me ever since…
“Find your path, not your partner.”
And that one piece of advice became the basis for much of the relationship coaching I’ve provided in the years after; as I believe it’s close to the core of many common relationship problems.
When I say “path” I’m referring to your true self; your essence, your aspirations, your needs and dreams, your purpose. When I say “find” I’m referring to where your focus is and what you’re seeking after.
Okay, so let’s dig in to this in case you’re sitting there not quite sure what’s so important about this big revelation of mine!
Many people barely know themselves and yet they’re in serious, committed relationships. They barely know their own strengths and weakness; what they do and don’t bring to a relationship. They vaguely know what they actually want out of life, or who they want to become. It’s as if they are travelling down random paths because they have no vision of where they want to end up. However, as lost as they might be, they’re still out there looking for their soul mate instead of looking for themselves.
How can you find your soul mate if you don’t know your own soul?
When you find someone you like enough you’ll generally attach yourself to them with devotion and love. But do you love them because they’re actually a right match for you, or perhaps because they woke a part of you that was asleep? Or do you love them because they fill a void in your life? Or are you deeply attracted to them on some level you don’t understand? Or do they meet a need you have subconsciously? If you don’t know yourself, you wouldn’t likely know the answer to any of these questions.
With a bit of tongue-in-cheek I’ll lay out what generally happens in the pursuit for “the one”. See if you can relate:
You find someone you like, and they like you back. HURRAH! You’re not quite sure why, but you have some draw to each other. You dive in to a relationship. You go through the initial infatuation stage where all you want to do is be with each other, sitting and staring at each other – basically it’s the most unproductive time of your life! Inevitably this exhilarting stage starts to wear off, the World starts to spin again, and you move on to the emotionally dependent stage. In this stage you can become addicted to the comfort of companionship or feeling loved. It is extremely hard to ever end a relationship when you’re in this stage. Then you might move on to the self-discovery stage where you start spending time on yourself again. You grow, develop and re-focus on your aspirations and goals.
You might start to find you and your partner are moving in seperate directions, or one person is outgrowing the other. Now what do you do? If you had of known this person would never want the same things you want, you probably wouldn’t have dived in to a relationship with them in the first place. Now you feel stuck. You might try to pull one another in the direction you individually want to go. You might dig your heels in. You might begin to resent each other…and after long enough in this push-pull stage you’ll either end the relationship or defeatedly settle for contentment over fulfillment.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to never get in to a relationship unless you know they are your soul mate. I don’t believe that at all. Every relationship you have is important and can serve a purpose in helping you find and develop yourself. Each relationship can highlight things that you want or don’t want in the next one. I’m also not saying you should never get in to a relationship until you fully know yourself, because coming to know yourself is a life-long pursuit. What I am saying is that the key is realising where your focus is.
Are you focused on making yourself feel whole, or hoping to find someone who will make you feel whole? Are you focused on finding yourself and your “path”? Or are you focused on finding someone to love you? This subtle difference will make all the difference.
When you know what it is you want in life, in any degree, and you start walking down that path – guess who you’ll find along the way? Others who are on the same path! Your paths will collide, there will probably be fireworks and deep connection, and you continue to walk the path together. Beautiful! But if instead you’re standing still, searching around, waiting for a partner to bump in to you – you or they will eventually try to drag the other down their own path, or both just remain lost together!
This approach, which is nothing more than a shift in focus, may take a little bit of trust and patience…but you’ll never regret it. What you’ll find will be better than you could imagine. There’s nothing quite like finding a true life partner; someone who is as committed to the path you’re both on, as they are to you. You’ll keep moving forward together towards mutual goals and values. When one stumbles the other will carry you both forward. When there are obstacles you’ll both be committed to finding a way around them.
Do yourself a favour….start looking for your path, not your partner.