The other day I was speaking to a friend who had just started dating someone a few months ago. Although his face lit up as he exuberantly told me about the "fabulous" new woman in his life and all of the fun they are having, after a while he paused and said, "There is only one thing...I am the victim of her past relationships."
When I asked him what he meant, he explained that as a result of the "bad guys" she had been with in the past, she was guarded, not trusting, and even skeptical of some of the things my friend would say to her. She was dubious about the possibility of "happily ever after" when it comes to relationships. Although my friend concluded that with patience and time his new girlfriend would realize that he was different from the people in her past, I kept thinking about his comment.
After working with hundreds of people, I know that it is common for people to think that they are dealing with the leftover residue and trauma of their partner's past relationships. Yet, even though that may be true and people do bring their past experiences into their current circumstances, it goes deeper than that. We date our partner's shadows!
Our partner's past relationships, as well as the experience and relationship they are having with us, are dictated by their shadows and more specifically their shadow beliefs. They are being shaped and impacted by all of the limiting beliefs, underlying fears, and negative meanings and interpretations that they consciously or unconsciously created about love and relationships when they were actually too young to even have the mental wherewithal to understand about love, relationships, or the messages they were receiving about these subjects since they were just children.
For those of you who are not familiar with shadow beliefs, shadow beliefs are the unconscious limiting beliefs that are created in an instant as a result of the environment we were raised in or some emotionally charged incident that happens when we are young. Since as a child we don't know how to process or digest the situation, we create a meaning out of the situation - we make it mean something about us, the world, or any given subject matter. The experience then fades into the shadows of our conscious memory – but the shadow beliefs, those limiting interpretations, live on and shape our reality.
Love and relationships are two of the richest areas that people have lots of shadow beliefs about. Whether they came from the interactions of their parents, feelings of abandonment from a loved one who is never around, or what we actually saw or heard about relationships, many of us form shadow beliefs like:
"I am unlovable."
"People leave me."
"You can't trust anyone."
"Love is unsafe."
"Nothing lasts forever."
"If I am not perfect, I will be rejected."
"I am unworthy of love."
It is then these shadow beliefs that, whether we realize it or not, dictate the type of partner we attract, the way we interact with them, and the issues that come up in our relationship. It is these shadow beliefs that cause us, or our partner, to engage in behaviors, reactions, or patterns like leaving before we are left, creating drama, not speaking our truth, not trusting, rolling our eyes at anything our partner says, becoming too clingy, or being reticent to make plans for the future.
Although our shadow beliefs may protect, benefit, or serve us in some ways, the problem is that they become self-fulfilling prophecies and determine the fate of our relationships. If you or your partner believes "love never lasts," then it won't! If our partner has a shadow belief that "people will disappoint me," then no matter what you do, how hard you try, how fast you dance, or how good you are, one day something will happen and you will become the next disappointment in your partner's life.
But don't despair! We can shift our shadow beliefs and create a different ending in our love story. This is one of the reasons I love when couples participate in The Shadow Process Workshop together. They begin to unconceal the shadow beliefs that are impacting the way they behave in relationship. They also begin to understand that the way they each act is really not about the other person. It derives from their shadows. Realizing that it isn't "personal" they begin to have more understanding and compassion for each other. As their insecurity, hurt, anger, and resentment dissipate, their authenticity, intimacy, and connection intensifies. They are able to realize, relax, and revel in their relationship in a whole new way.
They also come to understand that we are not the victim of our partner's past. We actually called in that partner for a reason!
In any and all situations, we have the choice to view ourselves as either victims or co-creators. If, like we do in our work, we stand in the belief that we are always co-creating our lives whether we realize it or not, then when it comes to our relationships, we actually called into our lives that particular partner with those particular shadow beliefs for a reason. They are there to show us ourselves so we can continue to grow and evolve. As co-creators, we call forth the people and situations that we most need to support us in realizing new insights about ourselves, or even ripping a band-aid off of some old wound so that it can be tended to and truly healed.
I often say that in relationships our shadows and wounds fit with those of our partners like puzzle pieces. This is why you often see that a person with a fear of abandonment attracts a partner with a fear of commitment. The person with the fear of commitment needs to learn to lean into a relationship and commit while the person with abandonment issues need to learn not abandon themselves. Or like in my friend's situation, maybe he called forth a woman with trust issues so he could look at where in his life he is not trusting. It may not be in intimate relationships like his girlfriend but maybe it is in business or with his family. In this way, we are never the victim of present partner's past relationships. We are the beneficiary of them. We are actually always choosing the perfect partner, even with all of their shadows and past histories, to teach us the perfect lessons that we need to learn for our soul's evolution, growth, and healing! They offer the next crucial piece to our ultimate destination of wholeness.
Transformational Action Steps
- Start thinking about the environment that you grew up in and any emotionally charged incidents that may have impacted your beliefs or fears about love and relationships.
- See how those beliefs have impacted your experiences as well as your partner's experiences with you.
- Replace those old disempowering beliefs with some new empowering ones that will support you in getting the love you need.
- Come with your partner to The Shadow Process Workshop April 7th to April 9th in Los Angeles. Bring your partner and get 50% off their ticket. Just enter the Promo Code FRIEND and click Apply at checkout when you register together for this life-changing weekend workshop.