The 3 Roads

May 13th, 2013


“Friends (and lovers) are the gifts we give ourselves”

–        Greek saying.




…but it applies to all cultures.


So what determines the quality of gift we receive? To understand that we need to first understand, as always, the relationship we have with ourselves. It has been stated many times in these blogs that we cannot demand that others love or respect us more than we love our self. It is an equation that cannot balance. Something must change or collapse.


All roads lead to Rome(ance)?


Which brings us to the first and perhaps the most important road we travel. The relationship we have with our Self. This is the longest relationship we will ever have – longer than with our parents and siblings, friends, lovers and children. Although our interaction with others may be helpful in bringing to light aspects of our self it is still up to us how we grow and evolve.


If we are not aware of this relationship we will unconsciously project our own qualities (for better or worse) onto others. We will become attracted to those qualities in others we like and feel connected to in ourselves. We will reject others who trigger the qualities we reject in ourselves.


In some schools of dream analysis, everyone appearing in our dreams are considered an aspect of ourselves trying to communicate something back to us. In the ‘waking dream’ of our life it can be a useful exercise to imagine the same process is at work. Instead of focusing on someone else’s behavior we might instead ask ourselves: “What aspect of the relationship I have with myself is this person triggering?” We may find the results enlightening.


The second road in a relationship is our partner’s own life path with themselves. The above applies here as well of course. Regardless of their meeting with you they still have their ongoing personal evolution to maintain. Like you, if they ignore this important relationship ‘trouble’ will eventually ensue. Why? Because…


The unconscious is always trying to become conscious


If we do not consciously choose to evolve, our unconscious Self will step in with a more heavy-handed approach to get our attention. It is the proverbial “Why does this always happen to me?!” moment. We have seen in previous blogs how, at a personal health level, this can manifest as disease.


In relationships it usually manifests as disharmony: arguments, fault-finding, dissatisfaction, frustration and sadness. We can of course brush the underlying issues under the carpet and ‘kiss and make up’. Just like repressing or ignoring symptoms in disease however, this approach usually leads to more serious problems later.




The third road is usually the one that receives the greatest focus: the road shared together. “She/he ‘saved’ me!” “You complete me!” While such statements sound romantic they are more likely expressions of co-dependency than true love. We have discussed in previous blogs the key differences between love and co-dependency and seen how many aspects of each resemble the other. The key difference lies in the relationship we have with our Self, independent of the shared relationship.


It is impossible to love another (unconditionally at least) if we continue to maintain a conditional relationship with our Self


It may not surprise you to learn then that true, unconditional love in relationships is quite rare. But then, the experience of unconditional love is only one reason to have a relationship. What might more common reasons be? Even though different examples are listed below they could all really come under the category  of what the Hindus call ‘karmic’ or cause and effect based meetings. This is not to say they do not contain love. It is more that in these examples, love is the force that enables the cause and effect chains to be realized rather than as an end in itself:


Material: The creation of life and structure in society: children, houses, business partnerships and so on.


Connections: Sometimes we form relationships with people in order to set up meetings with others that could not have been facilitated without the first relationship. This usually happens unconsciously and it is only later, if at all, that we notice the importance of the initial meeting.


Personal Growth: Sometimes the most challenging relationships are the ones from which we grow and evolve the most. This may not necessarily look much like ‘love’ at all. Drama, tragedy and abuse may form part of this pattern. With time, and self-forgiveness (more important even than forgiving others and often a pre-requisite to it) we may see the value and importance of this type of relationship.


To fascilitate change: In the same way that disease or tragedy can shock us into radically rethinking our lives so too can some meetings. The most recognizable example of this is perhaps the ‘third party’ in a triangle drama. Consider this line from a Bob Dylan song *:


“She was married when we first met, soon to be divorced.

I helped her out of a jam I guess but I used a little too much force.”


An affair is often blamed for a relationship breakdown. It is usually the symptom of issues not being dealt with, not the cause. Sometimes that is the only function the affair has. It may well dissolve quite quickly after that. At other times it may be an important connection for further development. In any case it is yet another example of how the heavy hand of the unconscious steps in to remind us we are on an endlessly evolving road.


The Spiritual path of Unconditional Love in relationships  


A relationship based on unconditional love is, as we have already mentioned, reasonably rare. These kind of relationships have their own key features:


  • They leave very little in the way of a ‘material footprint’. This relationship is not for adding to the structural edifices of the endless ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ as Tom Wolfe described much of the constant craving of human folly. It is not about the material world at all.


  • Unconditional love seeks only to experience itself in the moment. It holds onto nothing. It expects nothing. The love of Self is reflected in the shared play of love together. As with the meeting so too is the parting also done in love. The saying “if you love someone, set them free” is the spirit of unconditional love.


3 flowers


Upon reading this we may secretly long to experience an unconditionally loving relationship. However, it may be helpful to remember that all roads lead back to the Self. Regardless of where we are in our current relationships, we are in the perfect place to grow – right here, right now. It does not matter whether we are alone or together with a partner. The seeds we plant today are what will take us further.


So, like an efficient gardener, why not begin digging the ground on which we are standing right now and see what harvest that brings?


Till our relationship with another Monday evolves yet again,


* ‘Tangled up in blue’. All rights reserved.



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own.

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