We all strive for a relationship without any conflicts; yet, hardly any of us achieve it, mostly because we subconsciously repeat destructive behavioral patterns learned in early childhood. “Conscious Loving” by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks teaches us how to abandon these patterns and deal with conflicts effectively. The book is the result of a 20-year-long exploration – through counseling more than one thousand couples, the authors have developed a step-by-step guide to what they call “conscious loving.” So, get ready to learn how to avoid the traps of unconscious loving and make your relationship passionate, productive, and harmonious!
The phrase unconscious loving is partly self-explanatory: the authors use it to mark a relationship in which partners are not aware of the harmful behavioral patterns they are locked in.
Unconscious loving causes pain, mistrust, and a lack of independence in a relationship. The most common form of unconscious loving is codependence. The term itself comes from the field of alcoholism treatment. What often prevents an addicted person from recovering is an unhealthy relationship where another partner supports the addiction, as it is a part of a familiar pattern.
In a relationship, codependence occurs when someone else’s behavior influences our behavior, and we neglect our own needs and feelings. A union based on codependence restrains people's potential, leaving them unhappy and frustrated.
“Codependents often do not touch liquor or drugs, but they are addicted, nonetheless, to something much subtler: control and approval.” The need to control a partner's feelings and behavior is often at the very center of relationships. By wanting to control our partner, we indirectly send them a message that we don't approve of their actions. Consequently, they try to please us, seeking our approval. Naturally, this makes them do things that are opposed to their instincts and beliefs.
Ask yourself if you are codependent. If you are, these are some of the issues you frequently face in a relationship:
If any of these sounds familiar, you are one step closer to conscious loving. Now, let's see what the main codependent behavioral patterns are.
Codependent relationships are, according to the authors, “based primarily on your unconscious needs, structured around old patterns usually learned in childhood.” Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks call these patterns “codependent traps.” Here are the most common nine:
If you are in any of these traps, it's time to get more conscious about loving. First, let's learn what conscious loving means.
Just as unconscious loving leads to codependence, conscious loving leads to co-commitment and co-creativity. Conscious loving is what we all wish to have. “We each have a strong inner urge toward conscious loving: toward love relationships that are free of mistrust, disharmony, and unspoken words,” write the authors.
We often forget that love is a powerful force, since we expect our relationships to provide us with survival and protection. As we seek security, we fall into traps of repeating the same behavioral patterns that, paradoxically, make us more dependent and insecure. Conscious loving is about independence: it's about being able to “relate closely to others while maintaining your sense of self.” In a healthy relationship, couples feel secure when they are close, as well as when they are separated.
Since this kind of relationship is free from codependent traps, conscious loving enhances our productivity and creativity. This state of well-being enables you to feel the power of love and union, and the authors call it “co-commitment.”
In a co-committed relationship, couples spend time exploring their individual potential. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks wrote “Conscious Loving” on their journey to co-commitment. They write: “We turned the energy that would have been wasted through conflict into creative projects such as writing books, giving seminars and lectures, volunteering for activities, and building a happy family. We found that we had access to much more creativity as a partnership than each of us ever had on our own.”
The ultimate goal of co-commitment is co-creativity. In a co-creative relationship, people achieve more together than alone. “Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but moving, growing, working together,” wrote famous psychologist Erich Fromm.
After recognizing the behavioral patterns of unconscious love, we can move towards achieving co-commitment. What are the steps to follow?
Before taking any steps, be aware that the journey to co-commitment will only be successful if both individuals are involved. The authors encourage readers to perceive the whole process as a lifetime project. It takes tremendous effort to work on it. However, the results are undoubtedly fruitful, and you can achieve them in seven steps:
Dealing with conflicts and embracing conscious loving means learning how to communicate with ourselves and with others. We might follow the steps listed in the previous section well, but if we don't give our thoughts and feelings a proper form, we stay in codependent unions. “Conscious Loving” teaches us communication skills that are fundamental to co-committed relationships.
On their journey to co-commitment, the authors left their readers a lasting legacy – a guide to conscious love and valuable relationships. “Conscious Loving” teaches us how to love people around us and, much more importantly, how to accept and love ourselves. Lastly, it reminds us that true love exists if we are ready to fight for it.
Begin your journey to co-commitment and co-creativity by changing your relationship habits. Instead of going to the movies or restaurants, find a simple project you and your partner can work on
Kathlyn Hendricks has been a practicing psychotherapist and educator for more than 40 years. She is a leading theorist in the field of body intelligence and conscious loving. Sh... (Read more)
Gay Hendricks is a psychologist, educator, and the author of 14 books in his field. Some of them are “Conscious Breathing,” “Learning to Love Yourself,” and “Centering and the Art of Intimacy.” He received a doctorate in the field of... (Read more)
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