This business of interest and intention is the basis for both the establishment of a relationship and a means of determining when that connection is no longer serving the needs of the parties involved. There is so much written in various magazines concerned with cheating and straying, the latter an interesting metaphor assuming the relationship is like a path of which deviation from is separation and destruction. Articles scream out the headlines of helping women figure out when their man is cheating and others attempt to explain why he does through various dubious usages of evolutionary psychology.
There is, no doubt, a great deal of emotional pain and heartache, anxiety and concern over the loss of a relationship, particularly of the romantic kind, and were I able to give an easy checklist to determine the how and when of a relationship breaking I’d be certain to appear on Oprah and peddle my wares with exceeding gusto. Alas, I have no such model as the multiplicity of human behavior is not so easily categorized. Instead what I offer is a rumination on healthy relationships based on that principle of communication I began with. By focusing on what is healthy, what is good and right, we become less concerned with the negative and anxious-inducing possibilities and judge the strength of a connection not on its potential for failure but on its ability to provide a self-transformative space for growth and honest expression.
Erich Fromm in The Art of Being, notes that “The basis for any approach to self-transformation is an ever-increasing awareness of reality and the shedding of illusions.” The action of increasing one’s awareness of reality is promoted through greater understanding of one’s being-ness requiring the open and honest communication talked about leading to the dismissal of illusions. These illusions are often at the heart of what makes us anxious concerning the loss of relationships and the fear/concern over someone straying. This metaphor is one I’m being particularly struck by right now. The term “straying” evokes such strong images of a path being left, of a road being departed from, the result as is found in any number of stories one of destruction and pain. Oddly enough however, this departure is, in those very same tales, an experience of personal development.
While I am not at all declaring that a loss of integrity and the breaking of one’s word to another is a good thing, I do want to note that the straying here perhaps can be focused on departing from one’s illusions. The central one of most concern here is that of any single person being able to complete another, of providing the necessary pieces to fit into every lack that the other person has, for the two to become one in anything more than a poetic sense. This illusion is particularly problematic as it is predicated on the notion of someone having a lack, of beginning a search due to the recognition of an already existent loss. Like focusing on what is potentially wrong with a relationship, the eye only sees what is negative and provides ample examples of concern for suffering. If we begin with one’s wholeness, with a person’s already existent secure place as who they are, perfect and complete as a manifestation of humanity, then what another provides is not missing pieces but a means of expanding the greatness that a person is already. The path here does not become more well-trodden, sinking everyone involved into greater depths of muck, but rather becomes wider, encompassing a greater degree of reality or increased awareness.
The illusion of being completed in another provides the foundation for all manner of anxiety and the impetus to focus on loss rather than fulfillment. If one is completed by another then a lack of integrity on their part in keeping to their word becomes more than just a lapse in judgment or an indication of their character but reflects on you as well in a reciprocal process of emotional pain. While it is well and good to consistently reflect from a place of compassion upon what various behaviors can be changed to better exhibit the values of a life-giving existence, if such reflection occurs within the space provided by the loss of their completion or destruction of their symbiosis, despair is the only result, not growth.
“In contrast to symbiotic union, mature love is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. Love is an active power in man; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men, which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the sense isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be himself, to retain his integrity.” (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving) Clearly Fromm here means more than the male gender and is concerned with love, not simply in its romantic form, as a source of human expansion, of the removal of one’s focus on the feeling of lack or separation characteristic of so much of modern society, yet remaining in a place of personal integrity. Such is the nature of communal creation in open and honest communication with both self and within connections.
A partner may cheat, they may stray, but if the focus of a relationship is on the expanding quality of honest and open shared reality then their actions reflect only on their particular rivet in the road, not on who you are as a complete person. Interests change, what was once the powerful experience of the power of lust and initial neural explosion at newness, shifts and changes based on circumstance and the meandering flow of life of which we are so often caught up in rather than controlling. This is an inevitable though not fatalistic process in the art of forming relationships and provides a space for the expansion of intention, both in keeping to the principles of a life given over to expressing integrity and joyful identity but in seeing the myriad of potential connections waiting to provide the space for widening the road of one’s journey.