Shadow Work in Relationship: Deeper intimacy in Partnership

Relationships bring up a lot! No matter how “evolved” we think we are; a relationship can bring up all our past negative patterns. 

Focusing only on the positives of your relationship can at best be spiritual bypassing, and at worst, enmeshed both of your shadows —leading to co-dependency. 

In this article, I will be talking about Shadow Work and how it can be a key to a healthier relationship. 

How the Shadow affects relationships:

Making Friends with Shadows by SmartAllecSquirrel

The Shadow is the repressed aspects of our psyche (shame, guilt, addictions). In a relationship, the Shadow of both individuals can become more pronounced and destructive if there is no awareness. For a relationship to be healthy, both partners must look towards their Shadows.

When people first meet and fall in love, there is a honeymoon phase where all they see is their partner’s beautiful and good aspects. 

Over time that projection begins to fade, and reality sinks in. The reality is that people aren’t perfect; everyone also has a Shadow. 

A good relationship isn’t just between the couple, but it’s the couple and their shadows. 

If your shadows don’t get along… well… the relationship is eventually doomed. 

But luckily, you can do this work before or while in a relationship. It can be incredibly healing when partners explore their shadows together.  

Shadow Work while in a Relationship:

When in a relationship, shadow work becomes increasingly important. As you grow together, you have the opportunity of being a reflection for one another. That reflection can be used as a tool for healing or one that leads to destruction.

Shadow Work helps partners understand each other’s shadows and hold compassion for each other. 

“If both people in a relationship are willing to unlock their past and reveal their root fears, it is entirely possible for the partnership to find balance. Accepting the shadow side within you allows more tolerance of other people’s shadows. When you blame another person for their unresolved fears and a past which shaped their belief system, you are wasting an opportunity to see a mirror of truth.”

― Collette O’Mahony, In Quest of Love: A Guide to Inner Harmony and Wellbeing in Relationships

Benefits of Doing Relationship Shadow Work:

  • Partners can help each other recognize negative behaviors
  • Having openness and honesty about your shadows can strengthen the relationship
  • Less fighting/bickering
  • Fewer grudges
  • Exponentially grow together
  • Build or rebuild trust

How you do Shadow Work as a couple is very similar to how you practice by yourself. The difference is you can help each other grow through honest accountability and reflection.

Shadow Work is all about seeing your negative patterns and behaviors.

Your Shadow is the parts of your identity you try not to pay attention to—usually pushing them down into the unconscious. 

The “work” is taking the time to reflect and bring these behaviors into your conscious awareness. It’s about looking at the uncomfortable parts and bringing compassion towards that part of yourself. 

Check out the article that shares writing prompts you can use to heal the Shadow as a good example. 

Shadow work in a relationship can also help you heal wounds that are very specific to relationships. Such as facing your Shadow around infidelity, your connection to family, sexual trauma, and other shadows that come out more frequently during intimacy. 

Learn More: What Men Need in Relationship

As a partnership, you could share your progress. By exploring the shadow aspects with each other, you can help your partner catch parts of their Shadow they are unaware of. It will also help you strengthen your bond.

Unlocking your Shadow while Single:

You don’t have to wait to be in a relationship to start Shadow Work. 

Actual, it is better for you to start now and begin the healing process so you can show up fully in your next relationship. 

You can do a lot of work around your Shadow alone, but as social creatures, we really do gain a lot through the support of others. Studies have shown a huge benefit for the group interventionsbrainstorming and many activities are greatly improved when we don’t do them alone.

You don’t have to be in a partnership to explore your shadows around relationships. You can look towards your friends for help, a past partner, or even parents as someone that can help you uncover your Shadow. 

Writing Prompts and rituals are another great way you can explore your Shadow alone. 

Shadow work and breakups: unlocking old wounds

If you are going through a breakup, it can be the perfect time to explore your Shadows around relationships.

About 5 years ago, I was in a deeply passionate relationship. The kind that was so good and so bad. 

We were on and off again, and I wanted nothing more than to be with her. Then one day, it hit me, what does love even mean to me? This question snapped me out of a spell, and we broke up. 

After that relationship, I started a year of deep inquiry. I was looking at my Shadow that was acting up during our relationship. I was looking at my fear of losing her, my fear of not being good enough, and how we started to build a codependent relationship. 

That was one of the most challenging times of my life but one of the most transformative. 

A breakup can give you a jolt of energy that you can use to unlock past patterns.

If you are currently experiencing a breakup, take the time to evaluate what happened in the relationship. Try and see how your Shadow was affecting your dynamic and how you might want to change. 

This inquiry will give you deep insight and can free you of past patterns. 

I love this quote from Sheleana Aiyana about Shadow Work after a breakup:

Here I was, a newly separated young woman who just had her entire life uprooted overnight. Taking responsibility for how I got there meant I could do my healing work and prevent the same lesson from rearing its ugly head twice. I knew that until I worked out my own inner-childhood wounding that stemmed from abandonment and my relationship with my mother, I would continue to call in men who reflected my wounds back to me. This lesson was hard, I didn’t want to have to go through this again. So I dove in, I accepted the lesson, I owned my part, and I kept moving forward.

In Conclusion:

Shadow Work is a vital part of a healthy relationship. It is easier to find compassion for your partner when you can accept your own dark parts in yourself. 

There are also some unique things that a partnership brings to your inner work. A partner can act as a mirror and help you see patterns that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. 

While in a relationship, you can also explore Shadows that might only come out through intimacy. Such as healing past sexual trauma, uncovering childhood wounds, and exploring how you cultivate intimacy. 

If you find a partner willing to explore the Shadow together, you have found a true gem. If your partner is unwilling to face your Shadow, then most likely, the glimmer will fade one day, and they will leave you. 

That’s harsh, but the reality. 

Doing this work together will bring a deep and lasting bond.

Isaac Cotec
Isaac Cotec
Creator of HeroRise, Isaac Cotec has dedicated his life to empowering others through art and creativity. He is a scholar of the subconscious and has studied the power of symbolism to help create enduring change.

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