Every February, in honor of Valentine’s day, I explore loving relationships. Many of us have faced challenges in relationships, and we struggle with how to create truly rewarding connections. We search for our soulmate, wrestle with friendships, and dread going home to see our relatives. At some point it dawns on us that “this cannot be the way I was born to live.” Then we get serious about creating relationships that work. If we are sincere, that will happen.
At the end of a visit to a town where I used to live, I was on my way to return a rental car. I stopped at a gas station to fill up, but could not find the lever to open the gas cap. So I decided to just return the car half-full. Along the way I discovered the lever and stopped at a gas station near the rental car return. While filling up, I saw a friend of mine at the next pump. He is a sincere, ecologically-minded guy who has been running for county council for years, and was up for election once again. We shared a hug and schmoozed for a few minutes. I told him, “I can’t vote for you now that I’ve moved, but if I could I would surely get behind you.” A big smile lit up his face and he answered, “That’s worth a lot of votes right there.”
As I drove away, I marveled at the synchronicity of meeting my friend. If I had found the gas cap lever at the first station, I would have missed that encounter. I like to think that the universe had set up that meeting. A deeper wisdom was behind the apparent error, leading to a moment of rewarding connection. Life is always guiding to be with the people we belong with, if we are open to follow internal guidance and external signs.
We must not settle for less-than-rewarding relationships. Any form of enmity, conflict, or abuse is not life’s intention for us. Yet we put up with pain because we believe we cannot do better. But we can and we will. Before we can do better, we must change our minds about what we deserve. You can always tell what you believe you deserve by what you are getting. When you are in pain in a relationship, the universe is sending you a wake-up call to realize that you have been accepting too much suffering. Then you must do whatever it takes to extricate yourself from sorrow and create a relationship that works. Sometimes that can be done right where you stand, and sometimes you must leave. Either way, you must find your way to higher ground. Our tolerance for upset is too high. We must raise the bar on love.
A Course in Miracles tells us that it is the destiny of all relationships to bring us joy. Sometimes the people who are hardest to love are the ones that offer us the greatest reward once we master the lesson the relationship is bringing us. The only purpose of relationship is to deepen our capacity to give and receive love. Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. Let me get to know him.” Everyone we don’t like is pointing us to shine light on a judgment we are holding. When we examine that judgment, we realize it is not valid, and we recognize the unnecessary pain that holding the grievance is causing. Then we can let it go and be free. The relationship has served us well. The Course further tells us, “The holiest spot on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”
All healthy relationships are founded in self-love. If you don’t love yourself, it is going to be difficult to love others or receive their love. We project our fears and self-judgments onto the world “out there,” which exists more in our mind than as an external entity. We make up stories about other people based on the stories we make up about ourselves. If you can’t find someone outside to love you, you haven’t found someone inside to love you. Loving people around you reflect your love for yourself. Unloving people represent your self-judgment. Don’t attempt to change what you see in the mirror by rearranging the images. Rearrange the source of the images—your mind—and the images will rearrange themselves.
A while back I had a little Honda Civic to sell. I parked the car at a gas station with a sign, “$1100.” The car sat for a long time without an inquiry. Then one night I attended a healing service by a Christian minister who took up many collections during the evening. His solicitation was quite bold. During one basket-passing he announced, “God told me there are five people in this audience who can donate $1,000, and He wants you to give it.” Although I later learned that the preacher was a charlatan, I was impressed by his confidence to ask for money. That night I went to sleep with the realization, “I deserve to get $1100 for that car.” The next morning I was awakened early by a phone call. “I’ll give you $1100 for your car,” a voice said. Within an hour the car was sold. It was not waiting for any market conditions for me to sell it. It was waiting for my recognition of my deservingness to sell it.
So it is with all of our relationships. They are just waiting for us to receive the love we deserve. Let this Valentine’s month be the month we let love in.
A Course in Miracles makes this soothing promise: “When you have learned how to decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing. There is no effort, and you will be led as gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in summer.”
I consider myself the richest person in the world. Not for my bank account, but for the blessings of nature, my partner, family, friends, work, and the love and grace of God. We can all be the richest person in the world if we recognize the riches we already own. My wish for you this bright new year is that you move into the elegant estate where all your needs are met.
Alan Cohen is the author the bestselling A Course in Miracles Made Easy: Mastering the Journey from Fear to Love. Become a certified professional life coach though Alan’s upcoming transformational Life Coach Training. For more information about this program, his books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com.