Relationship Life Cycles
Like the life cycles we move through as the years unfold, relationships also have life cycles—some lasting for only a brief period and others a season or a lifetime.
To make suitable choices in relationships for particular periods in our lives, it is helpful to look at three major types of relationship that, together, can satisfy everything from need fulfillment to spiritual growth.
First, there is transitional relationship, based on momentary needs.
This type of relationship includes casual encounters for the purpose of sex or friend- ship, healing, ego validation, overcoming loneliness, or dealing with a desire for control and security.
During transitions, intense times of self-healing and personal discovery, we tend to initiate relationships with people who exhibit negative patterns to which we are attracted, or who are releasing such patterns themselves and are in a position to assist us in learning to love ourselves.
We are drawn by the energy of these people, in transition themselves, as a way of stabilizing the unsettling period in our own lives. The mutual exchange of energy, while temporary, can be satisfying and supportive. As long as both individuals are aware of the purpose of their relationship, their needs are being met, and they are observing healthy boundaries and treating each other with respect, they can both benefit greatly from the experience.
The second type of relationship is contractual relationship, in which individuals come together to create something for a common purpose.
The most customary form of contractual relationship involves childbearing, usually in a marriage. A contractual relationship can also exist for such purposes as establishing social status or developing a business enterprise.
Finally, there is true soul-hearted partnership, in which both individuals have a fully realized relationship with themselves as well as with each other.
In such a relationship, partners can develop spiritually in concert with each other, and thus the relationship can last a lifetime without becoming unhealthy or unfulfilling. And because it is a partnership between two powerfully expressed beings for the purpose of soul progression, soul-hearted partnership can be seen as the ultimate form of spiritual relationship.
In addition to temporary or lifelong relationships, we also experience temporary or lifelong friendships.
Many friendships are based on specific life cycles, personal interests, and activities. For example, we may have friends associated with school, business enterprises, activities like skiing or biking, attending movies or theater, shopping, or dinners and conversation.
When friends have a deep emotional bond and a soul connection that transcends all life cycles, it can last a lifetime.
These are the rare friends who know our strengths and weaknesses, are honest with us, love us unconditionally, and can thus reflect our true being. We may have a disagreement with them or not see them for long periods of time, but our soul connection is maintained, and they are vital to our soul progression. Such lifelong friendships make up our core energetic support team; these are our soul companions.
In his book Spiritual Relationships, Paramhansa Yogananda sums up the essence of such friendships when he says, “Friendship is the universal spiritual attraction that unites souls in the bond of divine love.”1
Our longing for love often convinces us that all relationships are meant to last forever and keeps us from distinguishing between the various types.
In the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces, Barbra Streisand, who portrays a college professor, poignantly expresses our longing for love and passion in our lives:
“We all want to fall in love.
Because it makes us feel completely alive, where every sense is heightened, every emotion is magnified.
Our everyday reality is shattered and we are flung into the heavens.
It may only last a moment, an hour, an afternoon, but that doesn’t diminish its value because we are left with memories that we treasure for the rest of our lives.” 2
Knowing the life cycles of different types of relationships helps us adjust our expectations accordingly, ensuring that we actively maintain life- long relationships and willingly let go of temporary ones.
Many couples fall in love and marry blinded by physical attraction, which makes them feel alive. This form of transitional relationship usually originates when individuals are vulnerable and looking for an experience to either transform or ground them. But as the steam of lust and infatuation clears they see the relationship for what it is and become dissatisfied.
Much the same can be said of contractual relationships. Despite their shared mission and positive aspects, we must be aware that such relationships are not complete because they are usually not based on a genuine partnership in which each person is independently fulfilled. Therefore, it is essential to discern, through the use of conscious awareness, whether a relationship is based on the common core values of love, trust, integrity, intimacy, and a soul connection or is merely functioning in fulfillment of an agreement or as a temporary distraction or emotional crutch.
Contractual and transitional relationships can become soul-hearted partnerships when there is a mutual desire for spiritual growth and an adherence to its core values.
But when there isn’t, attempting to sustain these temporary relationships after they have fulfilled their purpose can cause suffering, especially those based on a short-term physical or emotional dependency.
An example of such a scenario is when two strangers meet at a bar, become physically attracted, leave together, and a year later marry without any real basis for a lifetime commitment. What starts out as a short-term affair that fulfilled mutual sexual and companionship needs thus becomes a marriage of two incompatible people.
Holding on to any relationship beyond its purpose prevents us from directing the flow of our energy to manifest a deeply committed, lifelong partnership.
Unfortunately, people who automatically think a relationship should last forever may fail to assess the purpose of their relationships and thus confuse transitional or contractual ones with the lifetime soul-hearted type. Some people even marry partners they know are incompatible, making a commitment to cherish the union until death do them part—a decision likely to be disastrous to both parties, especially when the relationship’s purpose has been fulfilled early on and there is little spiritual basis for continuing the union.
In such relationships, partners frequently feel trapped, which leads to inconsideration, bickering, boredom, and even depression.
At this point, it is time for one or both partners to make the constructive decision to move on. Too often, however, instead of both partners acknowledging what has occurred and accepting responsibility, they individually experience anger, guilt, and resentment and engage in a battle leading to separation. Others continue battling for years because they share money, children, and social lives. In this worst case scenario, the partners lose all that was once valuable and meaningful about their relationship.
It is important to see transitional and contractual relationships for what they are: a means of coping with a difficult or transformative period in life with the help of another person who fulfills our needs, helps us grow, and adds joy to our circumstances.
Such relationships, when entered into honestly and lovingly, can be beneficial if they propel both individuals along their chosen spiritual paths. Yet once their mission is fulfilled, it is usually time to let go and progress to another level of relationship, for which the transitional or contractual partner may not be appropriate. In such a case, we can honor the partner by expressing gratitude for their being, lovingly release the relationship, and move on.
For our own well-being, it’s important not to make transitional or contractual relationships lifelong ones or stay in such relationships beyond their spiritual purpose.
The following example traces the evolution and dissolution of a transitional relationship.
When Marie, a twenty-seven-year-old freelance writer, first met Tom at a local bar, she became quickly infatuated with the idea that he could potentially be her lifelong partner. Each was in the midst of a tumultuous transition: Marie had just broken off a five-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend, and Tom had been recently divorced and had two children. Marie saw Tom as kind, and a loving, responsible father.
For the first time, she felt nurtured in the way that she cared for others, and their passionate lovemaking exceeded any experience she had ever had with a lover.
Their sexual attraction, however, mistakenly convinced her that they also shared a deep spiritual connection, and she fell head over heels for him with- out assessing, from a healthy detached point of view, the spiritual purpose of their relationship.
Looking at Tom initially through a lens of infatuation diminished her ability to see red flags, such as Tom’s neediness and dependency on her to make him feel secure.
For example, he would call her throughout the day and night, wanting to spend most of his time with her, and had few friends and interests outside of the relationship. Worse, she didn’t always feel good about herself while with him since apart from their sexual attraction, they did not share core values or a desire for spiritual growth.
Subsequently, the fire of the relationship flickered for only ten months before being extinguished.
Nevertheless, during that time the relationship did fulfill one of Marie’s major needs—to regain confidence in her sexuality. And it had also helped her progress in her ability to recognize and release negative patterns evident in her previous relationships. This time it took her only ten months and minimal drama to recognize and release the pattern of avoidance and insecurity that had kept her stuck a lot longer in previous self- destructive relationships.
But because she ignored the red flags, she stayed in her relationship with Tom longer than was necessary.
If Marie had been able to earlier detect the physical, mental, and spiritual cues warning her that she was in a temporary relationship and not a lifetime partnership, she might have had a broader perspective on her situation.
In temporary relationships such as this, we often experience a struggle between our heads and our hearts that keeps us from listening to the voice of spirit.
We close the eyes of the heart, succumbing to our fears of loss, rejection, and scarcity and diminishing our sense of ourselves for a momentary “fix” of physical attraction, emotional security, or personal calling, lead- ing us to make pattern-driven, unenlightened choices.
To avoid settling for a relationship that inhibits spiritual growth, it is crucial to be aware that strong sexual attraction often characterizes the first stage of a new relationship based on infatuation.
Physical attraction can, however, diminish our ability to observe the relationship from a healthy detached point of view. This is when we fall head over heels—or more often, “head over heart.” As a result, we can become attached to a relationship physically or as an emotional crutch, and lose our common sense and our trust in ourselves to make informed decisions. Dismissing the guidance of the voice of spirit, we then become susceptible to repeating past patterns rather than spiritually progressing as individuals toward the future co-creation of a soul-hearted partnership.
Interviewing Potential Partners
As we continue the inner spiritual work necessary to sustain our full self- expression, we may declare an intention to enter into an intimate relationship with another person. In preparation for such an event, we can use the spiritual principles we have practiced to assist us in interviewing potential partners so we can choose discerningly.
Many people spend more time and energy interviewing prospective plumbers, landscapers, and Internet companies than potential partners. They ask for references, talk with current customers, and check track records with the Better Business Bureau; yet, they do little if any research when choosing prospective partners. Because of lust, neediness, or fear of being alone, we allow impulse, infatuation, and patterns to influence these choices.
Instead, we can interview potential partners by using specific spiritual principles.
First, we prepare by listening to the voice of spirit through our hearts, which will assist us in maintaining a healthy detached point of view and activating conscious awareness.
Next, we observe various people we are considering dating, are currently dating, or are in relationship with and ask our hearts these questions: “Does this person demonstrate a fully expressed relationship with themselves, and is this evident in daily life?” “How do I feel about myself when I am with this person?” and “Do I see myself as being happier in this relationship?”
Ideally a potential partner will be trustworthy, loving, playful, and exude a sheer love of life.
When we are with such a person, we will feel inspired, safe, and free to express our true being. The individual will take responsibility for their own weaknesses, show integrity in the enlightened choices they make, do the inner spiritual work for personal transformation, and increasingly develop to their fullest soul potential.
The following qualification mantra is helpful to use when interviewing potential partners:
“Who you are, I must love. How you act and treat me, I have to like. And most of all, my loving heart has to be earned.”
In other words, we begin preparing for the interview process by activating our conscious awareness. Ultimately, we manifest our true partner by knowing who we are and what we want in a loving relationship, then projecting the qualities we want to see in a partner.
Here is an example of how to use conscious awareness when interviewing a potential partner.
Alex’s personal transformation began when she came to me and entered into the spiritual training necessary to shift the quality of her relationships. Throughout her life, she had trudged through many dysfunctional relationships that usually ended with unnecessary drama, disappointment, and painful lessons. Her most recent relationship had left her feeling discouraged about how to even attract a true partner into her life.
Initially, I suggested to Alex that she stop seeking a partner and first develop a relationship with herself and her energetic support team.
I proposed that she declare her intention to have healthy and loving relationships with people who would support her physically, emotionally, and spiritually in her life. I also recommended that she be willing to explore her behavioral patterns and her past relationships.
As she began this self-discovery, she learned to trust and love herself, take more responsibility for her choices, and in time use the spiritual information she received through her heart to evaluate her choices. Most importantly, I helped her see that every future relationship would be a life-changing opportunity to practice recognizing and releasing patterns, live more fully expressed, and thus manifest a more fulfilling life.
Integrating these principles, Alex became a magnet for people who wanted to grow spiritually and experience their fullest expression.
Many of these people either became a member of her energetic support team or simply desired a relationship with her. This led her to evaluate her relationships on a continuous basis.
After spending time becoming a loving partner to herself, she made a clear intention to manifest a relationship with an intimate partner. With her energetic support team available for feedback, she consciously invited in potential partners to help her fine-tune her vision of an intimate relationship. And while interviewing potential partners as she dated, she gained insight about the qualities she wanted in a partner.
Spiritual information she received through her heart guided her to have fun without becoming infatuated and emotionally attached too quickly.
Engaging her conscious awareness, she recognized and released her patterns and any relationships that were not appropriate to her true being at this time in her life. Eliminating unhealthy relationships further inspired her to create healthier ones. She knew she could not settle for anything less than a relationship with a trustworthy and beloved partner.
One element that was important for her in manifesting a future partnership was the idea of sharing travel.
Intending to share her love of travel with someone, Alex purchased a beautiful set of designer luggage that she would use first to travel alone and then with her future partner.
Before Alex met her future partner Nick, she dated four other men. While interviewing each of these “applicants,” she accessed her conscious awareness through her heart as she observed their words, actions, and choices. What she witnessed gave her clarity about whether to continue or stop dating each of these individuals.
With my guidance, Alex saw that the first potential partners she interviewed were actually subtler versions of men with whom she had had prior relationships.
She wondered why she continued to attract men who exhibited the same patterns. As she examined her previous relationships and listened to the voice of her heart, she became aware of her tendency to attract men who were in transition and usually self-destructive and self-absorbed. Ultimately she recognized that she was summoning such men to her because of her own patterns of rescue, obligation, and avoidance.
Alex soon concluded that none of the men she was currently dating was a match for her, as they were merely variations of her previous partners. This affirmed for her that she was looking for someone who was sustaining a fully realized relationship with themselves and willing to enter into the shared experience of soul-hearted partnership. As a result, she realized that she was better off at this time choosing to be alone than living a mere fantasy of the relationship she desired.
A year later, Alex had advanced from declaring her intention of soul- hearted partnership to manifesting the possibility of it in her life.
By then she saw that in refusing to settle for unhealthy relationships and being happy alone she had opened a flow of energy that supported her intention. She realized it was up to her to direct this energy positively by making discerning choices that would lead her to the relationship she wanted.
One day while leaving a neighborhood coffeehouse, Alex caught Nick’s eye when he held the door open for her. As she walked out, she followed her intuition to look back. While standing in the doorway, Nick was looking at her. They gazed at each other, smiling, held in suspended animation. As a surge of pure energy moved through each of their hearts, they knew this synchronistic moment was opening the possibility of a relationship that would transform their lives.
Eventually, Nick invited Alex back inside to join him for coffee. Alex, her heart open, trusted herself and accepted his invitation. She sensed that at that moment she had let go of her past, along with her expectations of the future. Through her conscious awareness, she experienced this as a moment of cocreation, of the possibility of scripting her own fairy tale.
Alex had attracted Nick into her life as a potential partner who shared her intention for spiritual growth and aligned with her in the love of travel. As they began building a relationship, Alex made sure to maintain a loving, supportive relationship with herself and watched to see that Nick did as well. Subsequently, after dating a few months, they took a trip to Belize using the luggage Alex had chosen for this purpose.
In contrast, when we fail to use our conscious awareness to assess potential partners, we are apt to make unenlightened choices that reflect the reemergence of past patterns, as the following scenario illustrates.
You notice that the person you are currently dating is staying out late several nights a week and drinking excessively—self-destructive behaviors this individual’s friends seem to support. When you express your concern, the individual quickly becomes defensive and minimizes, but does not eliminate, the late-night pursuits. Moreover, this person constantly talks about changing their lifestyle and career and putting their finances in order but never follows through with such plans. Instead, you see that the individual refuses to take responsibility for past mistakes and lacks positive intentions for the future.
As these red flags emerge within the relationship, you dismiss them, avoid confrontation with the individual, and even make excuses or alibis for their self-destructive behavior.
You ignore the voice of spirit urging you to see that you have assumed the role of caretaker focused on rescuing this person and fixing their problems. Instead of developing a potential partnership, you find that you have produced a facsimile of your past relationships.
The person’s resistance to taking responsibility for existing patterns and refusal to receive supportive feedback or examine thoughts, feelings, and choices underlying the destructive behavior indicates that this individual is not in a healthy relationship with themselves, let alone you. Once you acknowledge what is happening, you wonder how you ended up in a recycled version of past relationships.
To avoid such a discouraging scenario, we need to use our conscious awareness to interview potential partners.
Then we can ask ourselves, with- out self-judgment or recrimination, “How can I avoid re-creating my usual scenario of relationship?” Our honest answer, coming through our hearts, will guide us in making choices appropriate to our true being.
We also must make certain not to ignore any spiritual information we are receiving through our heart telling us that an individual is not a potential partner.
The following story is a good example of what can happen when we ignore such information.
Jordan had started interviewing potential partners through an online dating service. As she read their inquiries to her profile, she used conscious awareness, searching for men who shared common core values. One man caught her attention, and she decided to meet him at a local restaurant.
Instead of pausing and centering herself before walking into the restaurant, Jordan rushed there from work, overwhelmed with anticipation.
As she introduced herself, she felt her throat constrict, her chest tighten, and immediately sensed a lack of self-confidence. When he ordered a drink for her without asking her whether she wanted one, Jordan felt her stomach flip- flop. From what seemed like a distance, she heard herself tell the waitress that she didn’t want the drink he had ordered, but she couldn’t get the words out of her mouth.
Throughout the evening his pattern of dominance and control continued to surface, making Jordan increasingly uncomfortable.
The information coming through her heart had already clearly indicated that continuing the date wasn’t in her best interest, but the resurgence of an old pattern of seeking approval blocked out the information so that she acquiesced to everything her date suggested. After a few hours, her date decided it was time to leave, put his arm around her shoulder, and seductively guided her to his car. Feeling as if she were in a drug-induced stupor, she got into his car and found herself fighting off his sexual advances. Finally jolted from her altered state, she recognized this red flag, told him to stop, and got out of the car.
As I helped her evaluate the situation in hindsight, Jordan realized that she had fallen into her old pattern of seeking approval, especially from men, and not trusting what she sensed.
She traced the source of the pattern to her relationship with her father, which was based on conditional love. To gain his love and approval, she had always tried to be a “good girl,” doing things that attracted his attention and made her feel accepted. As she examined her past relationships, she recognized that she had deferred to others to validate that she was lovable—behavior she had repeated with her recent date. Although she had received information through her heart warning her of his unsuitability as a potential partner, her pattern of seeking approval had caused her to ignore it until the situation had become desperate.
As a result of this experience, Jordan knew that it was time for her to learn to love herself unconditionally so she would stop seeking approval from others to validate her.
Doing so increased her confidence, empowered her to listen to information through her heart about her dates, and leave any situation that wasn’t consistent with her choice to live in soul-hearted partnership with herself. D. H. Lawrence writes, “Those that go searching for love only make manifest their own lovelessness, and the loveless never find love, only the loving find love, and they never have to seek it.”3
Many of us evade breakups because we erroneously expect the other person to outgrow their patterns.
But in reality, while assessing a relationship it is important to realize that if we do not see the other person functioning well right now, chances are we will not later.
To become more aware of when to end an unhealthy relationship, ask yourself: “Does this person see and express the truth about their weaknesses and patterns, and is it supported by a desire to change them?” “Do I observe this person taking full responsibility for thoughts, feelings, and choices in life?” and “Is this person willing to do the inner spiritual work it takes to co-create a soul-hearted relationship?”
Finally, when using conscious awareness to interview potential partners, keep the following analogy in mind as guidance.
Imagine you are a lamp. As such, it is your responsibility to make sure you are correctly wired with no short circuits, have good bulbs, an exquisite shade, and functional hardware. You make sure you are the best lamp you can be and know how to turn yourself on. One day you notice another lamp that attracts you. So you examine it to be sure it has no major tears, broken cords, or anything you will have to fix. It may have a different shade, unusual hardware, or even a loose switch that can easily be tightened, but you ensure that everything essential works and that the lamp stays lit on a continuous basis.
The light of our being attracts potential partners.
But it is up to us to maintain our own energy source and to interview potential partners to ascertain whether they are appropriate for us at this time in our lives.
1. Paramhansa Yogananda, Spiritual Relationships (Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2007), 21.
2. The Mirror Has Two Faces, directed by Barbara Streisand (Hollywood, CA: Tri Star Pictures, 1996).
3. Lawrence, The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, 661.
Excerpt from Soul-Hearted Partnership: The Ultimate Experience of Love, Passion, and Intimacy by Debra L. Reble and printed with permission.
About the author
Consciously merging her practical tools as a psychologist with her intuitive and spiritual gifts, Debra L. Reble, Ph.D. empowers women to connect with their hearts and live authentically through her transformational Soul-Hearted Living program and podcasts.
A soul-inspiring writer, Debra is the author of the award-winning Soul-Hearted Partnership: The Ultimate Experience of Love, Passion, and Intimacy with four awards including the Eric Hoffer award. She is also a contributing author to the International Best-seller Inspiration for a Women’s Soul: Choosing Happiness, Inspiration for a Women’s Soul: Cultivating Joy (Oct. 2015) and The Wisdom of Midlife Women 2 (August 2015) published by Inspired Living Publishing. She is currently writing her new book, Being Love.
Debra is a popular blogger and writer whose words and wisdom are embraced by readers around the world. She is a frequent guest contributor to Aspire Magazine and other high-profile blogs. Aspire Magazine Publisher Linda Joy calls Debra the Ambassador of Love and shared, “Debra’s writing and words hold a powerful vibrational energy… and that energy is LOVE.”
To know more about Debra, visit her website www.debrareble.com.