Daniel Dowling explains the difference between relationships that involve creation and connection—and entanglements that don’t.
Every time I go out in public, I see many who claim to be in relationships. Every third Facebook notification is a relationship update. An insane amount of media coverage is devoted to Bennifers and Brangelinas of the day, but honestly … I haven’t heard enough about relationships.
For how much talk I hear on relationships, I see few people actually relating with one another. Take the word relationship—even saying it makes you feel like you’ve won something. That could be due the presence of “ship,” which also appears in championship, but I like to think it has more to do with the inherent value of relationships.
Maybe you don’t get as excited as I do about relationships …
I mean think about it, relationships are the cornerstone of human civilization. They are the gateways to new life. They are the foundation of family, which is where intimacy is grown and where love is shared. Relationships are what give meaning to human existence. Relationships are human connection.
When I think of human connection, I think of a generous kind of thing, like a stranger giving you a warm smile when you’ve had the day from hell. Or a baby holding your finger with her whole hand. Or, an uplifting conversation between two old friends.
To me, uplifting is intrinsic with human connection, which is what relationships are all about; relationships are about intimacy. But in the sea of celebrity coverage and social media updates, I see very little intimacy.
I see many people using each other like drugs under the pretext of love, and throwing each other away when the feeling burns out. I see men and women coveting each other’s parts while remaining wholly ignorant of the infinite universe inside each one of us. I see grown people repeating the same mistakes with their partners, and when others suggest a better way, they cry, “Shamers!” I see people so hopelessly hooked on the high they receive from their lovers that they refuse to acknowledge the reality of their interactions.
In all of this I see nothing of relationships: I see entanglements.
Relationships are a harmonious sort of thing, almost like a dance. They are fluid, they are constantly changing and evolving, and they bring joy, prosperity and life. Relationships always create room for growth. Relationships are an intelligent thing born of the plans and goodwill of two happy people.
Entanglements are a different sort of beast. Entanglements are cumbersome things that impede growth. There isn’t enough room to grow in an entanglement because space is never planned into them. People fall into entanglements and call it love because they feel so strongly, but for lack of a better plan, they always fail. Entanglements are a callow sort of thing that prevent people from ever truly knowing themselves or their partners.
Presence and space: Making room to dance in relationships
One of the most important components in a relationship is space. You are a creator and are far more powerful than you may yet realize. Your person is not limited by your appendages and your skin, but by your thoughts. If a person has built faith and fulfillment into themselves through a deeply personal and committed relationship, then their field extends far past what the body can tell. This is presence. You can notice it when a powerful person walks into a room—the whole room shifts and is changed by their presence. Their power is not contained in their bodies, and everyone knows it.
Those who are unfulfilled and who haven’t developed a strong relationship with themselves have yet to develop a presence, and so they associate power with the body. An unfulfilled person will seek their power in another person’s body in search of fulfillment. There is no space to grow, no thought of creating something better, no room for dancing, but only desire to fill an unmet need.
I know this process intimately because I had no fulfillment in self and my life was littered with entanglements. Instead of planning for growth and happiness, I dove blindfolded into relationships in a frenzied lust for fulfillment. I considered myself a hopeless romantic, and that is how I rationalized my behavior. But looking back, I see a clearer picture. I see a scared little boy who was frightened of the responsibility to be happy. I see a frightened lad who put faith in everyone but himself.
For all of our romantic follies, there would never be a question about what to do if our feelings weren’t so convincing.
Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt absolutely certain that it was “the one,” only to have it dissolve in a matter of months? Welcome to the club. Feelings are so strong that they can make facts seem irrelevant. Have you continued to date a toxic person even though you fully understood they were no good for you?
I was entangled with the same woman for a period of five years. We kept coming back to each other even though the facts of our relationship were neon-warning signs. We displayed obvious patterns of cheating, emotional abuse, unhappiness and dissatisfaction, but what did that matter? We smothered each other with for a lack of faith in ourselves and left no room for a relationship or growth. Classic entanglement.
I cannot speak for her, but I will state my inner truth. I settled for those pitiful feelings because I had no faith in a better way. I didn’t believe that I deserved any better and I didn’t believe that I could achieve any better. I kept coming back to her because I was not supplying the thing I needed most for myself: inner fulfillment.
The irony of that inner need is that people generally look to fulfill it through external sources. Self love today is like being thirsty. Instead of going to the well and taking a drink, people hop in the goddamned shower. Then they curse God for their parched throats.
In effect, I made my partners God instead of acknowledging and relating with the God in me. I had no presence, and because I had no presence I had no gift to give. Because I had no gift to give I made no room to grow, and because my entanglements had no room to grow, they always failed.
Can you relate with any of this? I would be astonished if you couldn’t, because my story is the story of our generation. My entanglements fully embodied the spirit of our age: Do what makes you feel good, no matter what. I did what made me feel good, and my life fell into ruins.
The only reason I changed is because my situation was drastic. I lost my health, happiness, and sense of self. I put all of my power in others and had given away every shred of myself to the abyss. I had a choice: Find a better way or die.
I’m alive and kicking’, so I’d like to think I found a better way. Either that, or I’m a ghostwriter … Ba-dummm—chhhhh.
Relationship or entanglement: Make an assessment
I’m Old Grehhhhhg!
If out of boredom, loneliness, despair, or misery you’ve sought a relationship with others, you have been part of an entanglement. When you are focused on relieving your burden of self-fulfillment or happiness, you aren’t paying attention to the thing you are building with another person, but only of filling a need in yourself.
When people are focused on creating and generating, they build space into their partnerships for dancing and expansion. But as far as I have seen, the majority of people are not looking to create a thing as much as they are seeking to fill a primary unmet need. The hell of it is, the need for fulfillment can only be satisfied by you. Your innermost needs cannot be met by anyone other than you.
So how do you know if you are in a relationship or an entanglement? I’ve come up with a series of questions that can help you decide for yourself.
Your relationship is actually an entanglement if:
It brings stagnancy.
It keeps you from knowing and expressing your inner truth.
It weighs you down and restricts your freedom.
It has you making excuses for your partner or yourself.
It doesn’t allow room for growth.
You don’t have more to give through it.
It disconnects you from your family and community.
It distracts you from the creativity you want to share with the world.
It makes you question your self worth.
You are insecure in it.
If you constantly blame your partner for the bad things in your life.
Your power to change your station in life has been diminished in any way.
You felt strongly that they were the one, but it continues to worsen.
You have established a pattern of breaking up and getting back together.
You can’t seem to move on.
Strong feelings confuse what would otherwise be a simple matter. When people become physically involved prematurely, powerful chemical feelings make the truth seem either inconsequential or inconvenient. When you allow yourself to become hooked on another person’s high, their actions and your history are of minimal importance. “I just wouldn’t feel this way if it weren’t real.” Heard that before? Said that before?
Entanglements are hard to avoid because they have mostly killed relationships. Look to the movies, magazines and tv. Everyone is tumbling off of the proverbial cliff in hot pursuit of a feeling. “I just feel it so much more with this one” is common to hear from any dating person, along with equally entangled sentiments like, “She just makes me feel alive and new again.”
How do you avoid the mess and create a relationship that lasts? The operative word is: create. Simply enough, you must create the life you want.
You are a creator, not a consumer
Feelings can be so powerful that they make truth seem insubstantial. They are hard to avoid, and you don’t want to avoid all of them anyway. I just had to take a break from writing because I felt tired and hungry—it’s good to pay attention to your feelings to navigate life. The key is to respond positively to your feelings, rather than allow them to drive your life. If you aren’t in control of your responses to emotions, they will lead you off the cliff and you will ask, “Why me?”
One of the most important emotions that lead us to partner with others is inspiration. If you are a human, the beauty of other humans inspires you. Inspiration is a healthy and natural emotion—if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t exist. So you have a healthy sex drive? Me too. Inspiration is intrinsic with sex drive.
If the drive of inspiration is natural and beautiful, then where does everything go to shit? Your response to your emotions determines your fate. Master negotiator and founder of Harvard Program on Negotiation, William Ury, is quoted as saying, “There are no inherently negative emotions; only negative responses.”
Most people feel inspiration and are driven to engage physically with the one who inspires them. So instead of acting out of generosity and creativity, most partnerships are made through a mutual desire to fill a need. Is it surprising that these entanglements don’t last?
I have another way to look at inspiration that will help you form lasting and fulfilling relationships. It comes by way of a quote attributed to musician Jacob Scanlon.
“Inspiration is the responsibility to create.”
Whoa. This quote absolutely blew my mind. Instead of viewing inspiration as the desire to attain, see it as a responsibility to create; an obligation to make something, or to make something better. Inspiration is a reminder that we are responsible for the good things in life.
Inspiration is the responsibility to create. Responsibility is generally no longer associated with relationships, so it’s a tough word to hear in that context. What with abortions on demand, the idea of inevitable divorce, and the declaration that we are slaves to our biology, responsibility and relationships almost appear to be mutually exclusive. The primary responsibility that we’ve been taught is to seek pleasure at all costs, and the costs are high.
The divorce of responsibility from relationships has not done anything to further our species or increase individual happiness. Instead of taking inspiration and saying, “What can I create? How can I give of myself and make life better?” We’ve been conditioned to think, “How much can I get? What can I take?”
With that mindset, one can only settle for diminishing returns until there is nothing left to take. Instead of creating space to grow and dance, we’ve allowed ourselves to be driven by pleasure. We’ve become entangled and we’ve been tricked into calling it romance.
Just because you’re been entangled now doesn’t mean that you will be entangled next week, or even tomorrow. It is your choice to take the drive of inspiration and create with it, and that choice is available to you 24/7.
Experts want to talk about human needs to justify entanglement, but they seem to be forgetting the most important need of all: to create.
We are creators! You are a creator called a human being. If you aren’t satisfying your need to create, you will feel empty; you will desire to fill that void. I used to fill that void by seeking fulfillment in women’s bodies, through pornography, and through entanglements that took me further away from my inner truth. I placed the responsibility for inner fulfillment in sources external to myself. I did what I was programmed to do.
To unleash your potential in relationships, you must fully acknowledge your status as a creator. Creators create—they don’t just take. So, to respond positively to inspiration and to make space for a relationship, you must create. This seems radical because, after all, we’ve been labeled as consumers in a society of consumerism. How fucked up is that?
Fresh out of the gate you were lied to and labeled as something other than a human being. If you are like most people, you’ll have bought the lie; what the hell else were you supposed to do? How is a little kid supposed to reject a lie that all the adults have bought? You weren’t. You were supposed to have been raised by adults who could share the truth with you for your greatest good. But here you are. Will you reject the lie? Will you stand up for your happiness as a creator, or will you be consumed by consumerism?
Creators are not consumers. You are not a consumer. So take the inspiration that we all have and ask yourself, “What can I create with this? How can I give of myself through this?” Your life and your partnerships will change in a week.
But like anything else, practice makes perfect. Success is a habit. Get in the routine of being aware of your emotions and asking what you can do to respond positively to them. Come up with your own questions that help you respond creatively to the emotions you encounter. “What can I do to explore my inner truth through this feeling?” “How can I reveal my character?”
I’ll reiterate: You are a creator. You are not a consumer, but a creator-human being. If you want successful relationships, then embrace your role. You are not limited by anything other than your thoughts and beliefs, so don’t let anyone lie to you or diminish the importance of your innermost truth. There is no magpie loud enough that can drown out your inner wisdom.
Originally published on DowlingWriter.com.