Are you in a relationship, or are you in an entanglement?
A relationship is one in which both people are free to be themselves, yet there is no shortage of intimacy. No fear that doing what you love or being who you are or taking time for yourself will drive the other person away.
In a relationship, neither person needs the other to complete them. Both people are awake to themselves, their feelings and thoughts, and are open to the flow of love and attention with one another. It’s about two equals celebrating together rather than needing something from the other.
In short, a relationship like this is one where both people are in harmony. And that’s exactly what it feels like: in tune, relaxed, and just plain fun.
Entanglements, on the other hand, look and feel very different.
Signs You’re in an Entanglement
Entanglements may look like a relationship on the surface—you might spend a lot of time together, you’ve met each other’s friends and family, and people refer to you as a couple. But you’re not having a real relationship, at least not one that’s characterized by love and harmony.
Here’s what entanglements masquerading as real relationships look like:
1. You keep having the same issues.
When you find yourself having the same old argument with your partner for the umpteenth time, that’s a pretty good sign you’re likely in an entanglement. If you had the same problem in your previous relationships, or keep picking partners with similar issues, that’s a tip-off, too. Patterns that repeat, especially from relationship to relationship, indicate that you have unresolved feelings from the past. This can create a destructive dynamic that keeps you from enjoying harmony.
2. You don’t feel safe or understood.
One of the clearest signs of entanglement is that it’s hard for one person to let the other person feel his or her feelings and tell the truth about them. Entanglements feel like you have to shut down a part of yourself. If you’re feeling like your partner just doesn’t get you, and that you’re not free to say exactly what’s on your mind, you know you’re not in a real relationship.
3. Someone always needs to be right.
In a real relationship, each person is awake to his or her role in a problem, and the priority for both is relationship growth. Entanglements are characterized by power struggles. Both people are vying for the title of victim, thus making the other the perpetrator. Nobody ever wins.
4. It’s just so hard.
If you’re feeling drained with your partner, you’re likely caught up in an entanglement. In a harmonious relationship, both people take responsibility for any issues that arise, and they come up with creative solutions that further add to the positive feelings they share.
What to Do If You’re in an Entanglement
So what if you have the terrible feeling that you’re in an entanglement right now or that you’ve been in entanglements before? Relax, it’s completely normal. Most people have been in an entanglement, and a lot of them have been in many.
We all come to relationships with unresolved issues from our past, and we naturally look to our partners to make us feel good about ourselves. And so it’s always a surprise when we finally think we’ve found love, only to experience pain and frustration.
The problem often isn’t that we’ve chosen the wrong partner, it’s that we’re not looking at the root cause of our disenchantment. So, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Identify that you’re in an entanglement.
Knowing whether you’re in a pattern of entanglement is key to resolving it once and for all. Otherwise, there’s a blind spot that keeps you from moving forward, and you’re doomed to keep repeating the pain and struggle.
Step 2: End the entanglement or transform it into a real relationship.
Once you know you’re dealing with an entanglement, you can harness all that energy you’ve been spending on conflict, and instead use it to come up with creative solutions. You can transform the entanglement into a real relationship, or you can end the entanglement with peace of mind, armed with the insight you need to create love and harmony in the future.
Katie and Gay Hendricks are the authors of Conscious Loving and founders of heartsintrueharmony.com.