Sometimes we grow out of relationships. It can feel like it’s happening against our conscious will because it's driven by a subconscious awakening, a soul level fulfillment of our commitment to ascend in this lifetime. We exit for many reasons: different paths beckon us, our circumstances change financially, socially, or spiritually, or we decide that we can no longer tolerate relationship inertia. Moving on is a brave step. But what about those of us who linger in relationships that no longer serve us? Is it selfish to leave?
Take the common experience of reawakening a long-time friendship. Sometimes one meeting is enough to show us how much we've moved on and how little we have in common, but other times we experience renewed joy in the re-connection and pick up exactly where we left off with no creases, folds, or edges. We can retain or reignite a childhood friendship despite the divergent paths both parties took in life. We can sit with a friend we haven't seen in 10, 20, 30, years, resuming as if time has never interrupted us. Likewise, chronology is irrelevant when we meet new people later in life and instantly connect in a concentrated, penetrating way. The measure of a relationship's significance is not its length but its quality: new lessons, new adventures, shared growth. We give, we take, we explore, we share, and sometimes we separate. Then we do it all over again if we’re willing.
Knowing precisely when a relationship has run its course is tricky. Sometimes when our relationships wither, we can't identify a single cause . Hoping this sluggish stage will pass, we try to ride out these periods, assuring ourselves that "it will get better" when often it doesn't. We tell ourselves we'll be OK as long as it doesn't get worse, so we remain involved. However, these dips are not always temporary rough patches to ride out. We need to be pay attention to signs of fraying as signals that our lesson has been learned, the relationship has served its purpose, and it’s time to move forward. So why, then, do we try to avoid the inevitable? Do we really want to postpone happiness?
Maybe it's loyalty at the root; we couldn't live with the guilt of abandoning someone. Our sense of compassion for the other person can override our need for self actualization. But do we really honor the other person by denying our own emergence? Isn’t it probable that both parties are struggling with a shared lesson?
Our fear of the unknown prevents our forward movement, so we opt to stay where we feel safe, away from that scary leap into the big “out there” where we will be alone. We may not suffer acutely by remaining in an outmoded relationship, but we prevent our flourishing when we choose familiarity over joy. Where is it taught that joy depends upon our attachment to a connection that no longer works?
All relationships are subject to loss: marriages, friendships, professional relationships, family ties. We outgrow them for various reasons.
1. Shifting perspectives, be they political or religious. How many relationships have changed because one of the parties involved has become a political or religious zealot? The other person cannot fully accept or share in that experience. This is not a judgment of the experience but a new divide that chips away at the relationship.
2. Divorce. Some marry young and naturally drift apart with age. Sometimes one spouse embraces new experiences such as education, new employment, new interests. Some marry out of immediate desire or need and it takes a few years to realize the union was meant to be temporary.
3. Spiritual awakening. It's common for people to undergo a major shift in their 30's, as a need for seek deeper purpose in life sends them on new journeys . (Astrologers point to the "Saturn Return" as a cause for this shift.) Some will quietly fall away from us as our light begins to shine brighter. We should not resist this peeling away and trust that those we leave behind will find their their own missions at their own pace.
4. Simple change. Sometimes people become bitter, inflexible, jealous, scared, bored, complacent, or boring. This has nothing to do with us even though we might look for some personal culpability. Many times it is not us.
With one word, we can ease our transition from the known to the unknown as we honor the inner pull to move on: TRUST. As spiritual beings, we have incarnated on earth to serve our highest good, which is not a selfish endeavor. When we honor the Divine presence within us, we invoke light in others. By remaining in dimming relationships, we contain rather than share that light and limit our ascension as per our spiritual agreements. Shifting requires shedding our fear of change. Buddhism teaches that attachment is a primary cause of our discontent and to find happiness, we must first recognize that the the impermanent nature of everything. This applies to relationships, not just the external natural world. When we accept this, our resistance melts, and we can ease into situations that yield great benefits: new friendships, new experiences, new romances. We open our hearts. We love. We rejoice. We embrace life fully and in doing so become more generous.
Noted Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax wrote “If we start training ourselves to observe the changing nature of our everyday situations, we can be on our way to freedom from suffering. What is meant by suffering? It is not just the experience of heavy mental and physical pain. It is also the subtle experience of being out of harmony, out of sorts, not quite happy, a little dissatisfied with what we thought was so great." She reflects on the shifts that punctuate our lives: “What hasn’t changed in one way or another? Everything is always changing. Can't we see the transient nature of every single being and thing?”
As we honor our inner selves more deeply, we honor the Spirit, a process which can leave our closest companions uncomfortable facing such brightness. Holding on or holding back hinders us both. If we allow ourselves to let go, we respect all parties, fulfilling our soul's promise. Natural separations need not foster guilt.
Rev. Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, Reiki Master, intuitive counselor, writer, and award winning professor who lives in Florida with furry and feathered companions. Her web site is Reikidogs.com and her e-book Illumination: Life Lessons from our Animal Companions, is available for download on Amazon.