Relationships as a spiritual practice

Without others around to trigger or upset you, it can often seem easier to feel alive and at ease on your own. Sometimes, you might even feel a little enlightened! Yet when we’re in a relationship, we can find ourselves experiencing conflict and unhealthy dynamics. At this point, the go-to reaction might be to think the relationship is dragging us down and this is BAD.What if this is exactly where we need to be? What if this challenge is the very thing that can help us heal old emotional wounds?

Elisa Caro

“If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family.” — Ram Dass

Without others around to trigger or upset you, it can often seem easier to feel alive and at ease on your own. Sometimes, you might even feel a little enlightened! Yet when we’re in a relationship, we can find ourselves experiencing conflict and unhealthy dynamics. At this point, the go-to reaction might be to think the relationship is dragging us down and this is BAD.

What if this is exactly where we need to be? What if this challenge is the very thing that can help us heal old emotional wounds?

Relationships are a mirror

Relationships are amazing for personal and spiritual development because they offer a constant mirror that reflects back to us the places that need healing the most.

Anytime we feel stuck in a relationship dynamic, it’s showing us there is something that needs our attention. This something is an emotional wound that is begging for healing! 

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

My partner would sometimes get stressed about work. When he was impatient and moody, I couldn’t stand it. I would either try to please him and overcompensate by trying to be helpful and nice, or I would walk on eggshells to avoid upsetting him any further. His feelings turned me into a wreck.

But then one day I realised I was doing this and asked myself a simple but important question: “Why do I react so much to my partner's mood?”

I sat with the question for sometime and was surprised by the answer.

The subconscious knocks

The reason I was so intensely reacting to my partner’s moods? I was subconsciously projecting my dad onto him. I realised I would regress to being a kid in this dynamic with my partner. 

As kids, we’re highly dependent on our parents. If our parents are upset with us, we feel like our very life is threatened. My dad had a bad temper when I was younger. When he was upset with me, I was afraid and tried to be a ‘good girl’, or be very quiet to avoid upsetting him any further. Twenty years later, when my partner was upset, I reacted in the exact same way! 

In fact, the issue was not so much about my partner being in a bad mood, but actually it was about me projecting my emotional wounds onto him. This was my emotional wound. Our subconscious attracts people to us in order to reveal these things that are lurking in the unseen. So, of course I attracted a partner with the same traits as my dad so that I could heal that emotional wound (as well as many more!).

When I realised this connection, I did some inner-child work, and now I don’t overreact to his mood anymore. I healed that emotional wound.

It’s amazing how relationships constantly offer us opportunities for growth!

When you bring awareness to relationships, you receive awareness

Relating in a conscious way can support you to expand self-awareness, heal and grow as a person. Next time you get triggered or find yourself stuck in a dynamic, instead of pointing the finger to blame others, you first need to look within

Bringing awareness to a relationship means moving from performance, entertainment and sleepy comfort, to honouring the truth. This curiosity and drive towards discovering what is really going on here? How can I become more free? What are the invisible dynamics at play? is the game changer.

The beauty of this intention is that it also cultivates self responsibility which supports interdependence in a relationship (not codependence) and trust. Goodbye manipulation and toxic control!

Your wounds and vulnerability are not your enemy

Between the relationship we want to embody and the reality of our actual relationships there is a vast territory filled with unconscious desire and emotional wounds.

This path can be challenging because we are so attached to our self-image, there are certain things that we don’t want to see. 

We need the courage to stand naked and vulnerable, and be brutally honest about who we are in front of one another. It’s not easy. Living in partnership with awareness takes courage, integrity and willingness to look within. It takes humility, time, and wisdom to see clearly what is happening. 

Self-inquiry: a must-have tool in relationship

There are many practices that support relationships as a spiritual practice. One specific practice that works really well is self-inquiry. I absolutely love it. 

Next time you feel stuck, ask yourself these questions,

 “Where have I been experiencing this dynamic again and again?”

“Is this situation reminding me of my childhood or someone specifically from the past?”

 “What is in my control to shift this dynamic?”

“How is this situation calling me to grow?”

Take 15-20 minutes to reflect on these questions. Let yourself free-write in a journal, talk aloud to yourself about them or to a friend, or meditate on them. 

Sometimes the answers will present themselves immediately, and sometimes they come up later. But even just the willingness to ask these questions (even if you don’t find the answer right away ) immediately starts the healing process.


Art by Muhammed Salah

Elisa Caro

Elisa Caro is a Mindful Sexuality Expert and Intimacy Coach.

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