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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hart

Relationships as Reflections

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

I am so grateful for the perspective I gained on relationships over the time I had with Karina. I transitioned from looking to others for validation and happiness to seeing relationships as a reflection of myself and an opportunity to understand myself on a deeper level as I open up to vulnerability and share experiences with others.


All relationships will eventually end. There is no forever. Whether by choice or by nature, there will be a last moment that you see each and every person in your life. This is an undeniable fact, the only uncertainty is the timeline and the process of separation.

Whether it is a breakup, a divorce, or death, the end of a relationship always involves pain. When a relationship ends, and there is no longer a destination for your love energy, the result is grief. This is a very important time. While this love energy is fresh and available, we have the opportunity to deny and deflect it or accept and process it. The former involves running away, escaping, and the latter involves grieving, feeling, and expanding.

I have walked both paths, and I can say without a doubt that active grieving is harder and more painful but infinitely more rewarding. In my article Grief and Grieving, I wrote about this process in more detail.

So then what? Time has passed; you’ve grieved, are feeling better, and found some peace within yourself. It may become very appealing to be alone. What’s great about being alone is you don’t risk the pain of loss again. It becomes safe. Comfortable. You might hear yourself saying things like “I’m just going to focus on myself” as an excuse to not open yourself up to vulnerability again. The pain of loss is so intense, and you are feeling good now, risking that feeling again can seem daunting, especially when it is inevitable.

Important Note: If you have not grieved or processed your emotions and are using others to fill a hole that you have not filled yourself, then being alone is a necessary step in your growth. See Self-Love

This interesting moment occurs when you’ve done the personal work and are feeling good on your own. For most, I believe, you can only go so far by yourself. At some point, you need others to be your mirror so that you can see parts of you that are only visible in relation to another. This is the case in all relationships, intimate, platonic, professional, and familial, but I am focusing on intimate relationships here because these are often the most vulnerable and, therefore, the most stimulating.

Imagine getting ready for a fancy event without a mirror. You can do your best to pick out the right clothes, do your hair, put on your makeup, etc., but without a mirror, it would be hard to get it just right. We need the mirror to see ourselves from a new perspective. This is how relationships work.

You may feel great about yourself, but the moment you meet someone who sparks your interest, your insecurities present themselves. You may have developed internal self-worth and validation, but once another person sees you in a vulnerable state and has the option to validate you, you feel unsure and insecure.

You might send a text and not get a response. As the hours pass, the mind starts swirling. What are they doing? Do they not like me? Did I say something wrong? Why aren’t they responding to me? Been there. This is okay; it’s part of the process and the reason why we need others to better see ourselves.

These moments are a huge growth opportunity. A time to say, “Wow! I wonder what about this situation is causing me to feel this way?” Then, without judgment, feel the emotion, listen to the message, process it, and let it go. Easier said than done, I know, but this is the work.

Most of us have felt this anxiety at some point, and that anxiety is not a result of another's actions. No one controls your emotions but you. They didn’t make you anxious by not responding. Something already within you began to surface because you’ve made yourself vulnerable and held up a mirror to see it.

As your relationship with this person develops, you do this again and again and again all the way until the relationship inevitably ends. Then, you can look back and see how much you’ve grown over that period, whether it was 10 years or 3 weeks or 1 day.

This opportunity is missed in those who sit in the safety of being alone beyond what is necessary. Being alone is fine; there is no judgment in making that decision, and you can certainly grow in friendships with others. But deep connection, vulnerability, profound love, and intertwining your soul with another’s, is a unique experience that comes with joys and pains that I don’t believe can be experienced in any other way.

For those in grieving the loss of a partner, how do you know when is the right time to open back up to intimate love?

I’ve been asked this a lot and spent a lot of time meditating on this question. I believe that time really has nothing to do with it.

People will tell you that “time heals all”. I disagree. Grieving heals all. Time is merely a container, it is what you do in that time that matters. As one who values personal growth, I believe in pushing your comfort zone. I don’t believe there is ever a true feeling of readiness to find another after losing a partner.

At some point, after and along with your grieving, you just go for it. You will hit your boundary. It will be uncomfortable and awkward, but in doing so, you expand just a little bit. You keep going and keep going and keep going, despite the discomfort, because each time you learn more about yourself, you expand and get closer to what you want.

I don’t see this as moving on from your lost partner. I see this as moving forward with them. A false sense of guilt commonly arises as this process starts, that you are somehow being disloyal to your partner. This may even be reinforced by friends, family, or the community of the lost. In reality, the ego dies with the body. The energy that lives on is pure love. Your partner wants you to be happy and find love again. Letting go of that guilt, and any judgment of those around you, is essential.

For me, this message was clear as day. Even in her human state, Karina often told me that I will have what I want in life. She said, “even if it’s not with me, you will have the love and family that you desire and deserve.” I always found that an odd thing to say coming from my partner of many years while we were on track for a marriage to each other. But that was Karina. In a way, she was making sure I got the message I needed years before she transitioned.

Since, I can still hear her words of encouragement. I consider her my ultimate wingwoman these days. Helping me to get into alignment each morning, encouraging me to be open and vulnerable, and reminding me to put on sunscreen before going outside. My next relationship will be much better because of Karina, the growth I experienced with her, and the abundant love I recollected after her passing.

Life is hard sometimes, and relationships are often the hardest part, but the most beautiful and rewarding. I believe the balance of loving yourself and loving others is the main mechanism for growth in this life because it gives us all of the fear, pain, and uncertainty to work through. The old saying “it is better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all” rings true. Again and again, onwards and upwards.


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