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putting yourself first in a relationship
Photography by jason frahm

putting yourself first in a relationship

by jason frahm jason frahm
Cultivate Relationships | Couple

I was 32, newer to teaching yoga and all the attention i received from teaching at a leading studio in Venice, California. Soon into my first official class at Sacred Movement I was already in trouble. I was invited on a date by a woman with jaw-dropping beauty and a unique element of intelligence and sense of humor. 

As my new student, Candace with shyness, courage and a sweet-crooked smile asked, “Would it be ok if we went out on a date. I mean is it ok being your student and would you be interested?”

As her words gently stumbled out of her mouth I felt an inner excitement and elation at the possibility of dating this woman. I tried to mask it as much as I could to remain somewhat composed and perceivably cool, but inside I was already a goner.

I warmly replied, “It would be my honor to go on a date with you.” 

I later shared with her my two rules that i created with dating students so to maintain a safe space inside and outside the yoga room. First, I would never ask a woman out from the studio. And second, if I were to be asked out by a student, my intentions must be pure in courting a committed relationship rather than using my new role as a way to indulge in short-lived sexual thrills. (I guess I share this as a side-note of my story due to the vast lack of integrity I’ve witnessed over the years by some male yoga teachers)

My first date with Candace lead to a passionate night and continued into the next day in bed. Our next several weeks patterned much like our first night, hot and unending. I thought I was in love and it seemed Candace was still finding her footing. 

In this awkward dance a role reversal ensued. I quickly took on a role in the relationship that I had yet to experience in my 32 years… I began to move as the disempowered feminine holding onto every word and nonchalant promise Candace offered during sex or the noncommittal calls and messages she would often leave.

I became to take her heat of the moment “I love you’s” as a committed promise that we were meant for each other and that we were sure to live the rest of our days together while the rest of her actions stated something far different from commitment. I waited for her calls, I pined for the next invite to her home, I anticipated her next request or faint desire in the hopes that she would realize how great we were together. Who was this person? I had never encountered this side of me.

I usually was the guy fending of the requests of the woman i was with to be more intimate, to be more communicative, to please show that I love them, etc. And now, I was the one begging for more demonstrated love and attention.

Candace of course played the role ever so well as the “old me” the one available, but not too available. She was cautiously caring, yet maintained the upper hand.  From an outside view Candace wore a sign that screamed, “You need me more than I need you, so watch your step -  my boot is use to kicking!”

After a few months of the roller coaster ride of of extreme highs of love, sex, and hope of the future, we broke up for the first time. You may know this story… there is always a break-up in this kind of relationship and of course there is usually a getting back together. 

Well, we did get back together and then broke up again one more time. Both times the breakup was painfully piercing, devastating and world crushing. For the next several months I scuffed around in a haze unable to feel joy of any kind. My yoga classes were miserably bland… I could barely muster a shift of pitch in my voice (It sounded like Steven Wright, the comedian teaching my class with out the humor).

I remember being devastated like this the year after I graduated from KU when my college sweetheart of senior year left me for her ex. That took me almost a year to recover from. At 32, I had fallen just as hard. What had happened? What was the common thread?

Of course, we all know it is not easy to break up with someone, yet it is far worse to be broken up with for most of us. The fears of being abandoned, not being good enough and being alone jack-hammer  within our psyche. Certainly, these fears must be addressed and healed for us to realize true happiness within. Yet, it still doesn’t seem to fully answer why I was so helpless in the relationship and for many months afterwards.

It took another heartbreak and the first date with a new suitor before I came to the precipice of this wound. Positive affirmations and communicating boundaries were merely band-aids to this gaffe. There had to be a shift in my inner consciousness. 

On my 33rd birthday I had invited a new potential love, Sonia to join me for my birthday party. I must have been sending out the loudest sonar waves that screamed, “I’m a puppy dog and am extremely insecure, please don’t leave me!”

One of the running jokes of life is the law, “What we resist, must persist”. And that’s what ensued. Sonia seemed to be unconsciously repelled by my insecure sonar into an afternoon of flirting and long talks with a tall-handsome friend of mine. 

I knew it was happening and I knew it was me creating this. I was trying everything I could to muster up the old Jason, the game player who remained calm~cool~collected amongst all the games a lady of interest might play. I may have maintained the guise to my friends around me, but I no longer could fool myself into believing I didn’t care. 

I could not wait to leave, but it was my party and it lasted from noon til midnight… truly torture. When I arrived home from my friend’s place in Malibu where we had the party, I plopped down on my meditation cushion and sobbed. I felt so broken and helpless. 

From a place of complete despair a roar swelled inside of me, “No More!”

No more victimness, no more games, no more disempowerment, no more pettiness, no more waiting, NO MORE, NO MORE, NO MORE!

I had it with being the controller and being controlled. 

I was finally fed up with protecting myself from hurt.

I was no longer willing to loose myself to be with another.

I was sick and tired of following other people’s cracker jack advice on how I should feel and live.

For the next hour I chanted “No!” to all the ways I had lost myself in another or surrendered an inner knowing of truth to blindly follow the advice of another. I slashed cords connected to family, friends, lovers and the unknown others who I attached some sort of disempowered hope to or somehow allowed it from them.

The power and clarity moving within me took over. Old life contracts of victimness, guilt, jealously, manipulation and the like were being transformed within me. 

Soon the energy of love, truth, empowerment… the Yes to life began to flow naturally through me.

I said yes to loving myself regardless of the circumstances

I redeclared responsibility for mySelf.

I chose to make decisions to support conscious living

I embraced the whispers of truth springing from my heart

I embraced my new open-heart while maintaining discernment with who I invite into my domain.

The next day I awoke to a lightness and strength that I had not felt for several years. I felt different, yet I knew the transformation would not hold unless I applied it in life. Since then I have never lost myself in relationship again. It has not solved all the challenges of life and relationship, yet the north star of honoring my relationship with Self first amidst the demands of life and relationship now prevails.

How has this improved my life you may wonder? Now I ride side by side with my beloved (we’re on the same path, but riding our own bicycle rather than being two strings wound up into a ball of yarn where we have no idea which string is which - who’s projection is who’s).

This does not avert us from the challenges of life and relationship, yet how we receive and perceive the challenges are much clearer and easier to address. This is the difference between living with contracted-anxiousness in the chest and breathing full unobstructed inhales into the belly. This can continue to expand as one roots more and more into the truth of the moment.

In closing I pose the questions that I hold to myself ever so often to assess if I am on track and living my purpose and following through with my commitments to God, Self and relationships.

- What is your umbrella intention? (this is the qualities you choose to live by in every moment regardless of who you’re with or the situation you’re in).

- Are your qualities supportive for the betterment of self and the world?

- How closely are you living your umbrella intention?

- Are you continuing to court this intention while also being kind to yourself when you stumble away from it?

- Are you entangled or lost in the story of your life?

- Are you lost and entangled in anyone else's story?

- Are the people in my life reflecting and supportive of the qualities I choose to embody?

- Where is most of my energy focused in a day?

- How open am I to change and transformation?

- How do I treat myself and others in my head?

- What thoughts do I empower… which ones prevail?

- What steps can I take to live more consciously, lovingly and truthfully?

- And, am I enjoying the ride?

We all have opportunities to grow and stand clearer with the Universe, our Self and those around us. It is worth taking an honest inventory of your life and how you live. What kind of person do you choose to be in life and relationship… empowered with truth or a victim to how the wind blows?

The truth is that YOU Are LOVE, YOU are PEACE, YOU are BEAUTY, YOU are EVERYTHING.

The question is, “Do you know it in your heart, in your cells, in your beingness