Love, Awakening, and Intimate Relationship

“Intimate relationship challenges you to the core; that’s why it is one of the most powerful paths to awakening, integration, love, and freedom.” – Hillary and Ted

Below is an interview from the book “Dancing in the Fire: Stories of Awakening Within the Heart of Community” by Bob Valine, available through

You met before your Second Births and went through that experience together. So let’s start at the beginning: What was your relationship like before your Second Birth?

TED: Hillary and I were inclined from the beginning to pursue our own truth and each other’s truth at all costs. We were intent on being as real as we could be. In the past, being deeply honest was often problematic and didn’t always bring the kind of intimacy we wanted, but in this relationship, it tended to bring us closer and closer together.

HILLARY: Awakening into the truth of who we are has been of prime importance to each of us. We always had a huge commitment here and we knew this when we began our relationship

So you both were together in wanting to awaken, and your relationship revolved around that in some way?

HILLARY: Right. I had an awakening into my conscious nature in 1991. Both of us wanted very much to have this shift into the Second Birth.

TED: In many ways, our relationship revolved around our awakening process, but also we were deeply in love with each other, so the relationship was bigger than that. Awakening will always be a big part of our lives and our work just because that’s who we are.

What were the biggest challenges in your relationship before your Second Birth?

HILLARY: Before we got together Ted pursued me quite strongly. And I wasn’t sure what I wanted. So I kind of felt “yes” and then “no,” and it was constantly Yes. No. Yes. No. Back and forth. Ted held this really big space of unconditional love, trust and stability, which I’d never experienced before in any relationship. He held the space for me to come and go, to really explore myself, my needs, my confusion, to really honor myself in a way no one before him had ever given to me. I’d always given myself up in relationship – either giving up myself or giving up the relationship, but never having both myself and the relationship at the same time. I’d never had a template for that. And when I wanted to come back and be with him, he was there. He would let me go and he would welcome me back. Ted really won my heart by holding that space for me and allowing me to really be who I was. One thing that was a challenge was that Ted also wanted a commitment pretty early on in the relationship. I felt we really couldn’t know who we are until we had this Second Birth shift. Ted agreed.

TED: Early on, I started asking Hillary for short-term commitments. I needed her to understand that I was making an investment in the relationship. We both were. I wanted to feel like she was really there with me in that investment. We made short commitments that were increasingly longer as we went along. We also decided that we wouldn’t be ready to make the commitment of marriage until we at least had our Second Births because we needed to see who we really were.

Any other challenges?

TED: I think for Hillary there was a big challenge in her discovering that she could live her truth and be in relationship at the same time.

HILLARY: Yes, that was very, very strong for me because I always thought it had to be one or the other. That was always my experience in the past. So I tended to stay away from relationship because my truth was more important. Of course, I had other relationship issues that only became clearer to me after my Second Birth.

TED: I suspect it was Hillary’s single-minded, warrior-like pursuit of her own truth outside of relationship that brought her into a somewhat detached style of awakening.

HILLARY: After awakening to my conscious nature I got more and more detached from everything, including my body, relationships and life force. It got to a point where it felt to me like my heart had hardened – I felt that maybe I needed to be in relationship. And that’s when I met Ted. So there definitely had been that position of taking a step back from life, of feeling more removed from life. I thought I was becoming more awake by being able to be more detached, but really I was missing a huge piece about the totality of life; I didn’t realize I was shutting out my own pain.

TED: Another challenge for me was my difficulty in being sensitive to Hillary’s reality. So it was fairly often that Hillary would take me to Saniel and say, “Make him get me.”

HILLARY: Well, I just want to preface that by saying that Ted was very much “in the sky” and in his head. He was much more transcendent. That was a big part of why I felt like I didn’t know if he was really “my guy.” He had more of a challenge feeling his feelings and being in his body. That was a challenge before the Second Birth.

Did your Second Births happen around the same time?

TED: Well, they happened within two weeks of each other. I had my Second Birth in early February ‘96 and Hillary took just another couple of weeks to clarify. We celebrate our Second Births on Valentine’s Day.

HILLARY: There was also astonishment that he actually clarified his Second Birth before I did.

What do you mean “astonishment”?

HILLARY: Like-what a minute here! I had the Consciousness awakening. How could he do this before me? Still, the fact of his clarifying his Second Birth helped me drop into my own realization.

TED: Not long before we had our awakenings we realized that we had a subconscious competition going on that was tending to stop us from coming into the realization. We both wanted to get there first, so we weren’t giving each other a full green light to land. When we talked about it, we realized that we both loved each other so much that we decided that it was OK for the other person to land first.

What changed in your relationship after the Second Birth?

TED: Well, what didn’t change was the depth of the love between us. That only deepened. During the time of the shift, we both had a fair amount of fireworks. There was a lot of really powerful and exciting energy of liberation going on. Our lives were consumed in talking about this process and this amazing transformation that we and our friends were all going through. There were a lot of long walks, long talks, and sacred encounters with each other. It was a very remarkable time. But as we deepened, Hillary and I began to encounter our own and each other’s conditioning at an even deeper and more troubling level than ever before. We were able to permit ourselves to feel things that previously we just didn’t have the stability of wellness to deal with. And that wellness was not just in ourselves, but also more and more in the relationship.

HILLARY: But the container of our relationship got bigger and bigger as a result of our awakening shifts and the deepening and integrating that was happening in each of us. We had the ability to hold more and more discomfort and tension within ourselves, and so within the relationship. This is really the biggest issue for couples, because the point at which the discomfort gets more and more difficult to be in is the point where they say, “I’m out of here,” because they can’t hold the tension they feel. They interpret the feeling of tension as evidence that this must be the end of their relationship. They feel like something must be wrong or the relationship wouldn’t feel so bad. Ted and I both learned that stuff will just keep coming up over and over again, you know? The fact of it being there doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the relationship. This is a really important point. For years and years after we were together my mind would come up with reasons why it didn’t know for certain if this was really the right relationship or Ted was the right guy. Since then, we’ve worked as teachers for other couples in this process and we’ve seen how much this goes on for most relationships. They get afraid because their minds are telling them, “This can’t be right. There must be something wrong here.” We both learned to really hold that tension.

We also wanted total honesty with each other. Initially, it was total honesty even at the expense of the relationship because we had to be true to who we were. If that started to rock the boat, we learned more and more to just stand in our truth there. Sometimes we would have big fights -screaming, yelling, door slamming. That’s just the way we’ve always been with each other-to permit what’s there. I remember at one point we were having an argument–it was really strong–and my pattern had always been, “OK, I’m out of here. I want to leave the room.” That day I made myself stay in the room and feel the immense discomfort that was contorting my body. And in just staying there and permitting it to be there some major alchemy happened. A new door opened for me and then for our relationship. These are the kind of doors that have been opening steadily in our relationship as we learned to permit pain and discomfort. Where we least expected to find an opening, if we stayed true to who we are and stood strong in ourselves, a door would always open, a new door, a new wave of love, a new wave of growth and understanding and maturity. It has totally influenced how we work with couples.

We have great faith in relationship lasting when two people want to awaken together. In our relationship after the Second Birth, we were able to really start seeing our patterning at much deeper levels-childhood patterning, the patterns of closing and putting up walls, barricades and defenses, and abandonment issues. All the issues had a chance to really come up! And we were just with them as much as we could allow and permit. Permitting the patterning to be seen, felt and experienced is a huge part of what happens in relationship after the Second Birth. It’s a GOOD thing for patterning to come up strongly because that’s what helps you become more and more free. It may sound contradictory, but it’s not.

TED: We also learned that we didn’t always have to be present with each other through the discomfort. We learned this through having arguments at night and both operating under the idea that you should never go to bed mad. Sometimes we stayed up till three or four in the morning trying to work things out, only to realize that it made things much worse because on top of being angry and feeling not gotten by each other, we were also exhausted. So we learned to have the faith that we could just go to bed and work it out in the morning.

It sounds like you’ve been talking about the Wakedown Shakedown. Was that a big challenge for your relationship?

TED: I’d say it was a huge challenge. So much stuff came up for the two of us individually and for us both about relationship. Everything, really. The relationship itself seemed to be shaking down. We both got triggered into our worst nightmares with each other. Relationship does that. We were forced to deal with what was coming up for ourselves and with each other. And if we hadn’t had the kind of strength of commitment that had formed before the Second Birth, I don’t know if we would have stuck together.

HILLARY: I agree with that because at that time in our work there was not as big a container to help couples go through the rocky times together in the same way that there is now. Saniel and Linda have become a container. Ted and I have become a container. Now that we’ve been through that, we love to support couples in helping them find their own container for the relationship. We want to help couples stay together if that is what they want. Also, where an individual coming into the Second Birth has to go through greenlighting, the Rot, and the deepening phases, so it is with relationship after the two people have awakened. It seems to be that the relationship goes through its own awakening.

TED: The awakening of the relationship seems to be really triggered by the Rot in the relationship. Before the Second Birth, the Rot is essentially the discovery that the game of avoiding yourself is over. You may not like having been given the assignment of being you, but oh well. There doesn’t appear to be any way out of being you, so you might as well stop resisting it and start really being you, even when you don’t like it. Like that, the Rot in relationship is the discovery that, no matter how much you may resist the inevitable distress involved in this particular relationship, for some mysterious reason you can’t help but keep choosing it, so you might as well stop resisting it and really be in it.

Couples seem to go through some fairly predictable phases. First, it’s like, “Oh, we love each other so much. We have so much in common. We both loved The Truman Show (or whatever).” That’s the Honeymoon Phase, when everything is love and roses. You tend to look for and find things that you love together, things that you have in common. Then you hit the other side of that wave: all the things that you hate about each other and all the things you don’t have in common and all the ways it’s horrible to be together. Usually this is when couples assume something’s wrong.

HILLARY: There’s so much fantasy about the “perfect” relationship. Everybody wants the perfect relationship, the perfect fairytale. Really a lot of what real relationship is about is being willing to rot out of fantasy, being willing to face disappointment. You know, first he looks like your Prince Charming, and now you see all the warts, you see all the wrinkles-you see how he doesn’t understand you, how conditional the “love” was initially. You see the patterning in the other, and how their childhood was so different from yours and what a totally different person they are. Because of that, they see the world differently than you do. When you live together and you do life together, you think, “No, we’re supposed to do it this way!” And the other person feels, “No, we’re supposed to do it this way!” You’re both coming from your own ideals and fantasies and assumptions about what relationship is. I tell people one of the fastest ways to come into the Second Birth is to permit discomfort as much as you can. It’s the same in relationship: to permit the discomfort, to permit the rot out of idealism and fantasy and to come into reality. It’s so sobering and it’s so humbling. It’s very real.

TED: I think it’s very difficult, especially for spiritually-orientated people, to let go of those fantasies and ideals because it seems like if you let go of all that you’re going to be just an ordinary person, like your parents or like everyone else in the world. And in many ways, being an ordinary human being is one of the worst nightmares of spiritual people. After all, we’re supposed to be more enlightened than all that, aren’t we? Isn’t being ordinary what we’ve been trying to get out of all this time? It feels like if we let ourselves be just ordinary, we’ll lose all the “progress” we’ve made in our spiritual quest. But this is one of the great discoveries of our work – when you can let yourself be utterly ordinary, you discover your own Divinity.

I remember one of the times that Hillary and I were having a sort of a “rot” moment was when we realized that we could let ourselves have an intense screaming match and be OK with it. I remember in the earlier times of the relationship sometimes we’d get really mad at each other and we would try not to be expressing it. One or both of us would be trying to control it by either leaving the room or changing how we were expressing and trying to match some kind of New Age formula about how we were supposed to communicate. Eventually we realized that we could just be like the Honeymooners. We could just scream our brains out at each other if that’s what we felt like. It actually felt incredibly freeing — but only when the other person was willing to receive the energy. You know, not perfectly or anything. Just basically receive it and feel the truth of where the other person was coming from. It brought a whole new awareness to the relationship that we could actually trust Being and each other enough to let ourselves be ordinary pissed-off reactive people when that’s what was up. We started to realize that we didn’t have to avoid anything.

HILLARY: It really feels like in the early days it was so important to just let go – in that way that Ted spoke about. That has shifted over the years of our being in relationship because we’ve deepened more and more and we’re still deepening more and more. There’s just more and more ability to hold tension. The need to scream and yell is not the same anymore.

TED: It seems to me that the reason screaming and yelling usually happens is that somebody is trying to express something and the other person doesn’t want to hear it. So the person who’s trying to express feels compelled to talk more loudly just to try to connect to the other through their resistance. Of course, sometimes the yelling is part of a need to compensate for a history of not being heard by parents and others. Or just a need to equalize a lot of internal pressure, and it feels like here finally is a chance to just let it fly. But I think what Hillary was just alluding to was that over time our resistance to hearing something that’s uncomfortable or difficult has gone way down. Part of that is just our own capacity to be OK with whatever’s happening. But there’s another part.

In couples, there’s usually a certain amount of unconscious fear that if you get into something uncomfortable it’s going to spell the end of the relationship. That comes from our parents and almost all relationship role models we’ve ever encountered. Were your parents good at saying uncomfortable things to each other while being deeply present and truly receiving each other? When you speak something uncomfortable, there’s often a feeling of a threat to yourself and to the relationship. Usually, it triggers a feeling of threat to your own physical survival when you were an infant or a child because the death of your parent’s relationship felt like it could mean the end of your own life. So when you’ve investigated a lot of that material and found that you can actually stand and be present in the midst of it, it makes it much easier to be with the difficult stuff with each other and not feel nearly as threatened. So in a way, the essence of the container that holds a relationship of Mutual Onlyness is love, trust, and the willingness and ability to face whatever feels like death to you. So Hillary and I started to notice that when we could allow the dark material, it would inevitably open the gates to a lot of happiness together. I think most couples actually compromise by staying more flattened in order to stay more stable. The result of that is giving up your own truth and your own passion.

HILLARY: Which is also inevitable. It’s not like everybody in every moment knows what their truth is. It can be very gray for a while until you come to know for yourself. Another thing I want to add to this is that when we would be in difficulty with each other, when you’re in gridlock, somebody has to be willing to put themselves on hold and permit the other to move. Otherwise you’re just tied up in gridlock. Whoever’s the stronger in that moment needs to say, “OK, I feel what I feel but I’m willing to hear you out first. It creates a lot of stuckness when nobody’s willing to hold the tension first and hear the other. But when somebody does that, things just start to flow. So Ted and I have traded off there a lot. It goes along with commitment.

TED: I think we were especially inclined to stick together because we’d both had so many relationships and we were both pretty sick of what it felt like to not stick in there through the tough times. We really wanted to find out what was on the other side of all that.

What was on the other side of that for you two?

TED: A really amazing discovery for us both. Saniel had always spoken about the importance of what he called “awakened mutuality,” but through my relationship with Hillary, I was being forced into a recognition that totally blew my mind. I began to see that mutuality wasn’t just a kind of relational capacity that was maturing among our awakened friends, it was actually another whole stage of awakening. It seemed to be a realization in its own right that goes beyond Consciousness realization, beyond the Second Birth, and beyond the ability to really feel others. I call it “Mutual Onlyness” because it’s a shared awareness of Onlyness (Second Birth) that shifts your sense of self into something even bigger, where the previous sense of self is just part of a larger shared reality.

After years of extreme challenges mixed with intense love, we went through a kind of a transition that’s hard to describe, but our relationship was full of love and light for about a month. At the time, it felt as if the relationship just had its own Second Birth. There was a real shift in the feeling of our “us-ness,” a feeling of who we are together, that transcended our individual awakened selves. It seemed to signal the birth of a self that held our whole relationship in a much larger context. This has since appeared to me to be a transition that can only take place in a committed relationship between two or more beings who have awakened into what we call “Onlyness.” The essence of it appeared to be a mutual surrender into what I call the Wound Of Relationship – the feeling of togetherness and separation, the feeling of intimate unity and apparent disunity at the same time. It’s not a state of mutual bliss; it’s a stage of realization that says we’re absolutely committed to each other no matter what, because we’ve already found out what can go wrong, and we’ve discovered that the relationship is so big, it can include our worst nightmares.

It’s very much like what happens in the Second Birth. You get that you’re infinite Consciousness, and you get that you’re a human person. For awhile, you feel like you have to choose sides – am I Divine? Or am I human? ‘Cause I don’t get how I can possibly be both at the same time.

Being both feels like something is wrong. But when you get that nothing is wrong, and that the paradox and the feeling of a wound doesn’t need to be resolved, you fall into Second Birth awareness. Like that, when you and your significant other get that the feeling of being intimate, it often has a quality of “wound” and that nothing is wrong-it’s a whole new revelation. Our love is not just Disney or Hell; it’s both, and everything in between.

Does Mutual Onlyness fuse the relationship into a new whole?

TED: Yes and no. The realization is a kind of “third birth” – Mutual Onlyness is the birth of a third entity that has its own life and reality. Of course, all couples have some version of this, but I’m referring to a relationship entity that is awakened in its own right. Awake to the truth of who and what we are as a divinely human entity composed of us. But it’s not like the individuals who make up that entity are merged or obliterated in the process; quite the opposite. Hillary and I have become more and more who we are as separate and totally unique individuals, and we’ve found the strength to grant ourselves and each other the total freedom to be true to ourselves, even when that appears to threaten the relationship. We found that strength because the relationship appeared to be threatened so many times, and each time it ended up bringing us closer together. After awhile we got the picture: this relationship gets to be true to itself when we’re being most true to ourselves individually.

Is what you call Mutual Onlyness only available to sexually or romantically engaged couples?

TED: No, but deep commitment is a prerequisite. The commitment has to be so deep, that it carries the relationship through the worst of times with each other. It seems to me that, at least most of the time, romantically engaged couples are more likely to endure this. But I’m not talking about commitment as an ideal to be achieved; I’m talking about commitment as a realization that dawns over time. You begin to notice that, time and time again, over a period of years, you find yourself having no intelligent alternative but to be with this person no matter what. Because they are just part of who you are.

HILLARY: And because you really know deep in your cells that your partner is part of who you are, when you are hurting the other you know you are hurting yourself. When you are walled up in yourself, you know you are affecting your partner. It’s a very mature stage of being. You can only know it when you know it. It’s not an intellectual knowing, it’s a whole being knowing.

Can you say more about the role of commitment in your relationship?

TED: Commitment is something we found organically with each other over time. I don’t think we would have said it at the beginning of the relationship, but I think we can look back at it now and say that, in a sense, our whole relationship has been the evolution of mutual commitment. It’s not just the commitment to each other; it’s also the commitment to being true to ourselves. I think if the relationship is right, those two turn out to be the same thing. It seems to me that if you’re not willing to commit to living the Wound of Existence in your own Being, you’re not capable of living the Wound of Relationship with another being. But even if you have committed to living the wound in yourself, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to make that level of commitment with another. A whole lot has to line up for that to happen.

HILLARY: I’ll just add that for me I didn’t really understand what commitment was. Ted really taught me about commitment and relationship because I had no template for it.

TED: I think I was always disposed toward commitment in the past, but I never had a reason to be as committed as I am with Hillary. My love for Hillary made me need to be with her no matter what. I think our organic need to be with each other no matter what is really what has carried us through the kinds of hard times that break most relationships.

HILLARY: I just want to say one more thing about commitment. In so many spiritual circles – you know, so many of us grew up with different spiritual teachers and in different spiritual communities – the word “commitment” was a “downer,” something that would deny us our spiritual and physical freedom. A lot of spiritual seekers just want to feel the limitless part of their being. But life is also limited. You have to feel the limited parts of your being. Commitment is such an integral part of our work because life is both. It’s the intersection of limitedness and limitlessness. And the more you can feel being limited, the more grounded, mature and truly wise you will be. Your relationships can get stronger and stronger if you’re willing to feel and deal with the limited parts.

TED: Earlier, we mentioned that we decided to wait to marry each other until we’d gone through the Second Birth shift. As it turned out, after we had the awakening, we realized we should get at least part of the way through the Wakedown Shakedown before we got married, because there was still a lot to discover about ourselves and each other before we could make that kind of commitment. Later, I discovered that even the marriage commitment I made with Hillary was itself a sort of dress rehearsal. If I hadn’t found myself going through my own worst nightmares, and then deciding that my relationship with Hillary was more important than holding onto my deepest survival strategies, I could never have known what true commitment was really about.

Can you say more about the tension between your individual truth and needs and the needs of the other and the relationship?

HILLARY: This is our strength as a couple – we’ve been told by people we work with and by different healing professionals that Ted and I model as a template for being together in relationship while being utter individuals at the same time. Both at the same time. Both of those have been really important for us – to keep our individuality and to be in very strong relationship with each other.

TED: I guess we could call that mutual individuation. We just discovered that, despite appearances, attending to our own needs was the same as nurturing the relationship. For example, when I first met Hillary, she had a big need for space and aloneness. I quickly learned that if I was to be in relationship with her, I had to spend more time alone than I was comfortable with. As it turned out, spending more time alone was just what I needed. I found out that I was using relationship to distract myself from some of the painful parts of my own journey.

Sometimes in these tense, difficult moments together your partner may feel that they’re to blame for how you’re feeling, that they’ve done

something wrong. What do you in that situation?

TED: This brings up a classic issue that Waking Down practitioners often struggle with. New Age thinking tends to suggest that you are solely responsible for how you’re feeling, so if you feel bad, it’s your fault, and therefore you’re a bad person if you try to blame it on anyone else. It’s basically an extension of the “you create what you think/believe” philosophy. The problem with this idea is that it’s only partly true.

To make a point, I bring up an extreme example. You’re standing in a room with another person. They whip out a gun and shoot you in the foot. You scream “Stop! You’re killing me!” They reply, “Oh, yeah? Well, since the bullet is in your foot, you created it! Ha, ha!” So, who was “to blame”? Was it merely the recipient of the bullet? Was it the trigger-happy antagonist? There’s no real answer here. Maybe the one who was shot had spent the last ten years tormenting the other person. Maybe the shooter was simply insane and didn’t even know this person. Maybe someone else paid the shooter to do the deed. Most things can’t be pinned down to simple causes. Sometimes you’re feeling bad – it’s not your partner’s fault, and it’s not even your own fault. In fact, our whole notion of fault and blame assumes individual authorship of our feelings and our reality and tends to miss the fact that the whole universe has conspired to sponsor this moment. Shouldn’t the universe get any credit for this event? So, having said all that, sometimes our partner IS to blame for how we’re feeling. If someone said to me, “You’re a worthless, good-for-nothing idiot,” I’d feel pretty devastated even though I’d know that what they said was only two percent true. The idea that I’m supposed to be so cosmic that I am not affected by such things is drivel. We humans are extremely sensitive.

If you’re not affected, you’re not embodied. But if I notice that I’ve said something that inappropriately hurt Hillary, it’s my duty to myself, to her, and to our relationship to apologize. I’m not perfect; I make mistakes. We both do things that hurt each other. But we love each other enough to take responsibility for our humanness and to kiss and make up.

HILLARY: Which is why it’s so important to communicate and find out what the truth really is here. You have to be willing to be with the difficult stuff and just keep trying to communicate. If you really love somebody and you really want to understand the other – if there’s that kind of a commitment – then you have to go into these murky places and really find out what is going on here. What’s going on in you? This is what’s going on in me. What’s going on in you? It’s a way of really meeting and holding the other. It may be the first time they’ve ever experienced someone Truly wanting to know what their reality is, not just assigning motives to what they must be feeling. Maybe nobody’s cared enough to really want to go in there and say, “Wait a minute! What is your truth? What’s really happening here? Do you feel blamed? I wasn’t blaming you.” So it requires that kind of time and care. Really wanting to get the other’s reality is so important in relationship.

You need to put yourself in their place. This is so healing for your partner because we never felt anyone really wanted to “get” us. When you do this for your partner they will start to be able to drop the feeling of needing to defend themselves from you because when someone really wants to get you, you no longer need to defend; it drops away and starts to free up energy and attention that has previously been held more tightly. Then love can bloom more fully.

TED: Time and care and the willingness to be uncomfortable again-that’s what really drives the capacity to go into those murky places. It’s not only the willingness to be uncomfortable, but the ability to be uncomfortable and stay present with what’s happening, which Second Birth awakeness empowers like nothing else. If you’re not willing to be uncomfortable, if you can’t be OK in your own Core Wound, you sure as hell aren’t going to be OK in the Wound of Relationship with somebody else. There’s still going to be a tendency to run while convincing yourself that there’s somewhere to go.

HILLARY: You start being willing and more able to actually speak what’s going on for you instead of blaming it on the other person.

TED: A piece of this whole conversation has to do with the willingness to stand in your own imperfections and your own conditioning. I remember that Hillary and I used to have these fights in the earlier days where maybe she would blame me for something or she would say, “You’re just being very defensive.” I’d be saying, “No, I’m not.” And then eventually I learned to say, “Right. I am being defensive because I feel attacked.” And then she’s like, “Oh, well, I don’t feel like I’m attacking you.” Then we could go into and analyze – “Well, when you came on with that energy, I wasn’t even hearing your words. I just felt attacked by that energy.” She’s like, “I just had that energy because I’m frustrated. I wasn’t attacking you.” When you’re able to stand present in the middle of the discomfort, you can actually investigate what’s happening on stable ground and begin to literally untie all those sticky knots.

I remember a classic moment of this when we were standing in the kitchen of our first house. As was my inevitable experience in past relationships, sooner or later, my girlfriend would look at me in disbelief and say something like, “You need a mommy! I’m not going to be your mommy!” Now, in the past, I would have defended myself, saying “I do not-you just need a daddy!,” all the while knowing I had been like totally busted. It was basically a defense against having to feel pain and admit that I’m imperfect. But this time was different. Hillary and I were deep in our awakening process, and a lot was cooking in us. We had a whole new disposition we were working with, and part of it was Greenlighting. We were learning to embrace whatever was happening without needing to push it away. So this time, I found myself taking a long pause, considering it, and then saying, “You’re right. I DO need a mommy. And since no one else could do that for me, it has to be YOU.” Hillary resisted this notion, but after awhile, she started to get that I was asking her to help me, so she agreed to do her best. As it turned out, this broke a big piece of my own code of personal enslavement. By simply accepting the fact that I am flawed, and by asking for the help I needed to heal this piece, I was able to actually get what I needed and then move beyond it.

HILLARY: So a lot of it has to do with how reactive two people are to each other. If there’s only room for reactivity, it won’t go very far. But if there’s room to kind of pull the plug on reactivity and come down into feeling more of what your reality is-what was being reacted to – it can be amazing what can happen from that. Like unbelievable. Like you’re never thought. There can be a huge shift in no time at all.

What are the benefits of being in Mutual Onlyness or a committed awakened relationship?

TED: There are many ways to answer that. One of them is that, for me, life has become much more simple and natural because I’m a very relationship orientated guy. It’s like I need to be in an intimate, committed relationship just to feel happy. But I was never able to get how relationship could really work. Because no matter how hard I tried, it always seemed to go wrong. Something would come up. Something would be discovered. Some brick wall would be hit. It seemed like we could go no further. So for most of my life I was on this long journey of serial, monogamous relationships. Until eventually some part of me became cynical about the possibility of having an intimate relationship really work out long term. Another part of me never lost hope and was always investigating that.

What awakening has done for me, in a big way, is it’s given me the capacity to hold the totality of what relationship is about – which is absolutely fantastic, wonderful stuff and really horrible, nasty stuff all together. In a way awakening has freed me to commit to the totality of what relationship is. Whereas before, as Hillary was saying, I was running from the parts I didn’t like. Awakening has given me the capacity to stay present and realize that it’s never going to be the way I ideally want it. My idealism about relationship and life and Being and the world was just idealism – reality is a different story. So I guess I can say that awakening has allowed me to choose reality and the reality of relationship with all its ups and downs. The ability to choose the totality of relationship allowed me to enjoy the greatest benefits of what relationship can be: deep intimacy and deep commitment and an abiding love that transcends any moment of difficulty or differences.

HILLARY: Well, on some level, in a committed relationship you almost have one heart. It’s like the entity of your relationship is alive. You can’t not take the other into account anymore. They’re part of you in a way you haven’t known before. There’s also an incredible amount of support that you have in an awakened, committed relationship. It’s very different than I ever, ever knew it could be.

TED: When Hillary was talking about the entity of the relationship, I realized that the essence of what takes place in the shift into what I’m calling Mutual Onlyness is that the sense of personal identity actually shifts into a sense of both personal identify and mutual identity at the same time. In other words, you become a bigger person because you’re not just yourself. You’re yourself and you’re a member of the relationship entity. All of that is true. It’s a paradox. This is why Hillary said you can no longer run from things in the same way. It’s because you realize yourself to be not just this personal body/mind, but also the entity of this relationship. When you get that the relationship is also part of yourself, you can’t run from yourself there. I can’t run from the relationship because the relationship is part of who I am.

There’s a kind of magic that takes place in all of this. There’s a magic that doesn’t look like the kind of Disneyland relationship magic we thought we were hoping for. It’s really the magic of a kind of happiness that can permit you to be unhappy, and it can permit you to be ecstatic. It’s a permission so big that it can allow for whatever can come up. With that kind of permission, you can completely relax and just be yourself spontaneously. That’s the kind of a magic that none of us even knew was possible.

HILLARY: In reflecting back on all we’ve said, it may appear that we’ve mostly presented the darker, more negative aspects of relationship. But please don’t get us wrong. We feel relationship is the most amazing path to awakening, deepening, and integration-if that’s where you’re drawn. Some people are alone, and that’s perfect because they are following their own truth. But if you’re drawn toward relationship, it becomes a cauldron for the transformation of everything that has not been seen, healed, or embraced in you. We just want to be real in talking about what couples actually go through. We want to bring all of that into the light of day, be honest about it, and let there be deep healing around it. Awakened, committed relationship can bring you more joy and healing than you ever imagined possible.

TED: If you’re not allowing all of what’s true for each of you, and what’s true between you, if you’re just going for the good parts, the hard parts will stalk the relationship until they succeed in getting your attention. If you’re disposed toward avoiding all that, you’ll end up miserable together, alone and bitter, or living in an endless series of relationships that never quite work.

For couples, the whole point of allowing yourselves to drop into the dark side is to free all the joy, love, and passion that’s possible between you. It allows the relationship to awaken and blossom into its fullest and happiest expression. When you permit all of what’s there, a whole new kind of relationship emerges. It’s a relationship of spontaneous intimacy, respectful honesty, deep mutual honoring, and helpless commitment to serve each other. It’s about real love.

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