10 Things I’ve Learned in a Relationship for Wake-up
by Chris Paizis Nov 11, 2015
Throughout most of my life I believed in finding “The One.” It was a rite of passage I hoped to reach sometime in between landing the right career and buying a house. But if it came before the career, or after the house, and the house looked more like a chic urban loft, that might be alright too. What I didn’t realize was how many ways that belief was quietly running my entire operating system with women, sex, and relationships.
Most of the time, I was simply not interested. After all, this was not just anyone I was looking for, it was The One. The bar was set high. Then on the rare occasion where a potential One would enter my field, something weird would happen. I’d stop being myself and start trying too hard. Trying to impress. To charm. To win approval. It felt like more of a performance or audition than actual connection.
That all changed about a year ago when I entered into a new kind of relationship. You could say I switched my relational operating system from “Acquisition” to “Wake-Up.”
What do I mean by these terms and how do these systems function? As the name implies, Acquisition is all about the getting. We see something we want. We tell ourselves that if we have it we will feel better about ourselves. Then we go for it! You probably know how this one plays out. It is one of the best-selling operating systems in the world, and it runs many popular applications such as Objectification, Unrealistic Expectations, Daydreamer, and External Validation – to name a few. One of the key characteristics of a relationship based around acquisition is that most of your time is spent thinking about what’s next. There are certainly moments of pleasure, but for me they all too often felt quick and fleeting. I could never get enough and was always looking for more.
A relationship based on the desire to wake up to reality, on the other hand, looks quite different. As someone who has recently embarked on making this transition, I thought I’d share some of my biggest realizations to date:
1. Romance is a hell of a drug.
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced in making this transition is getting over my romanticized acquisition mindset. We’ve created a whole society that fuels this tantalizing myth. Bringing consciousness to it can feel like a buzzkill at first. It just doesn’t seem like it’s the way it’s supposed to be. The drunken splendor of romance is magnificent, and if it’s working for you, there is really no need to try something different. But if you’ve felt like something more must be possible, it is going to require a heavy dose of inspiration or desperation to start the process of sobriety.
2. Preferences are your enemy; aversion is your friend.
One of the first things I did to help release the grip of the acquisition mindset was exploring with women outside of my typical preference zone. Preferences fuel the story of The One and block connection with many amazing people who are not The One, people from whom you can learn a lot about yourself. The more averse we feel toward someone, the greater the likelihood that they represent some part of ourselves that we are not in approval of. The craziest thing started to happen when, despite my overly-critical mind saying ‘no,’ my body said ‘yes.’ In the relationship for wake-up world, aversions are one of your best teachers.
3. There are many more potential partners out there than you realize.
Preferences limit your pool of available intimate connection. I lived in San Francisco for 6 years before finding the OM practice, always complaining that it was hard to meet women. I’d conveniently ignore the fact that I met single women all the time through friends, work, and online dating. They just didn’t match up to my romantic fantasy. This all switched when I stopped looking outside of myself for that sense of completion and instead turned inward.
4. It’s about getting to know yourself at deeper and deeper levels, not about validating yourself by who you can attract.
This was the big shift: realizing that another person would never give me that sense of completion I was longing for. What I really wanted beneath the form of a particular woman was to unlock a part of myself that she somehow represented to me. Getting to know parts of myself that I didn’t know were there and learning to integrate them into who I am. That’s the real validation.
5. It’s about being with what is instead of obsessing over what isn’t.
One of the things I’ve become quite certain of is that the part of myself that wants to acquire will never be satisfied. The game of always looking for someone else to fill the void is neverending. It’s like a Hungry Ghost. It can keep eating and eating and it just falls straight through. Making the transition to a relationship for wake-up was easier when I realized that it was actually helping free me from a subtle type of enslavement to reaching for something that isn’t based in reality. Once I realized this, I could better start appreciating the things that I actually had and make them work for me, instead of the other way around.
6. It’s confronting as hell
This path is not for the fainthearted. The thing about a relationship like this is that it will force you to look at the parts of yourself that you’ve become so used to ignoring. It’s an extreme sport in the same way that a snowboarder will try a new trick hundreds of times, falling and crashing to the ground for that one time of landing it. You’ve got to learn to enjoy the falls (almost) as much as getting it right, because it’s all part of the process. I’m not in this to look good, I’m in it to expand my awareness of who I am and how I interact with the world.
7. Irritation is a sign that it’s working
We are so much greater than the personalities we choose to wear on a daily basis. When she’s gets the most irritating to me, it’s usually because I’m gripping too hard to a story of who I am. Too fixed on the way I want it to be (i.e. nice and easy) instead of being open to what lesser-known part of myself the situation might be calling forth. When I let go and let that awkward, less confident part come out, that’s where some of the best connection happens because it’s real and raw and carries zero pretense.
8. Speak the truth or suffer the consequences
As a result of the heightened level of connection, I’ve become able to feel the increasingly subtle places where something is off. Almost immediately the inner-jury begins debating, “Do I say it, or will it cause more trouble than it’s worth?” As a long-time peacemaker used to smoothing out the conflicts in my life, it’s a difficult place to lean in sometimes. But it’s played out enough times by now that I know that every time I speak up, she respects me more in the long-run, even if the initial communication is uncalibrated or causes some hurt feelings. They heal much quicker than it takes for the built-up residue from unspoken feelings to clear, and that residue is the real enemy of staying connected in difficult conversations.
9. The long-term effects are generative, not depleting
Something special is happening in this relationship the longer we stay in it: we both feel more clear, grounded, awake, and powerful. It’s a different arc than I grew accustomed to in previous relationships. I have none of those feelings of sluggishness, boredom, or getting too comfortable. She’s becoming more radiant than ever. I’m becoming the man I always wanted to be. We are building something and in the process we ourselves are getting polished.
10. It’s a lifelong practice
Like any good consciousness practice, I will never be done with this one so long as I choose to stay in it. There are constantly more layers to uncover, increasing degrees of subtlety to notice, and experiences to integrate. This post is really more a celebration of a new beginning than anything else. It’s an exciting journey to be on – the ups and the downs – and it’s an honor to share it with others.
Photo Credit: Evan Sharboneau