There is a concept in “A Course in Miracles,” brilliantly explained by Gabrielle Bernstein in her book Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles, that we should make our romantic relationships more brotherly (Bernstein says “friendly”) and our brotherly (“friendly”) relationships more romantic. Which is to say that we should treat our romantic partners like friends, and look for love and connection from all of our loved ones, not only those we call our husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends.
So many men and women treat one another as a mirror for themselves. They look for a partner who reflects well on them–has the right image, the right job, knows the right jokes to tell at cocktail parties. We love our partners when they behave the way we want and expect them to; if they act in a way we don’t like, we grow angry because we think it reflects badly on us.
At the same time, we can feel that our partners have similar expectations of us, to behave in a certain way, to be a certain kind of person. And since we grow and change all the time, it is no wonder that so many relationships that began in love end in sadness or anger. What began as interest in another person, in learning about their uniqueness, their hopes and dreams, their true selves, becomes something else we need to control, something that reflects on us. We judge the people we claim to love most. Love is destroyed and peace with it.
No matter how connected two people are, they are always free and separate beings. When we give others the greatest of gifts–the permission to be themselves, just as they are–we give ourselves the same gift. When we understand that all the love in the world is already ours, we do not need to cling to anyone, or depend on anyone for our happiness. We can come together as lovers, as playmates, as friends, and as we grow and change we have nothing to fear, because we have no expectations or demands.
This is the way we treat our friends. We enjoy being with them, but we do not treat them as mirrors for ourselves. We do not expect them to behave a certain way; we take them for themselves. We love them for themselves. We enjoy watching them grow and change because it isn’t a threat to us or to the relationship. Why be less kind to the one you love most?