Doing a bit of shadow work for relationships is a good way to see whether your relationship is a lie or not.
You and your partner’s shadows play a huge unseen role in your relationship.
It’s the source of many arguments, issues, and failed misunderstandings. As well as “love”, admiration, and order.
If you haven’t integrated your shadow at all, there’s a very high chance that your relationship isn’t as healthy or stable as you think.
My goal is to show you how your shadow is distorting your relationship, and how you can integrate your shadow to become a better partner.
But first, I want to go over some key concepts.
What is the shadow and what is shadow work?
The shadow is the side of yourself that's disconnected and unfelt. It's the part of yourself that's been rejected since childhood, and you have no awareness of.
Shadow Work is integrating the entire spectrum of your being. It's the intentional process of admitting the parts of yourself you've ignored and repressed.
If you haven’t come to terms with yourself, or your entire personality, you will end up shifting that baggage onto your partner.
This is due to a lack of self-awareness and lack of self-love.
How does the shadow impact your romantic relationships?
There are many ways your shadow is messing with the way you perceive your partner. Each way is fairly complicated, so bear with me.
Take the time to contemplate the points listed below.
Shadow Projections in Relationships
There are ways you can be projecting disowned parts of yourself onto your partner. Examples include:
“Falling in Love” and idealizing your partner.
When you are in the honeymoon phase of a relationship, you are basing a lot of attraction on your bodily sensations. This is adrenaline and dopamine, definitely not love.
But you do this because of all the potentials you see in the partner that you idolize—
Are potentials that are actually within yourself.
Sometime during your life, you’ve disowned or didn’t feel good enough to carry this quality you admire.
The quality is and always has been within you. But you just aren’t ready to accept it yet.
When a quality is disowned, it is pushed outside of your awareness and into your shadow.
Your mind doesn’t want you to see these qualities. It self-deceives you into believing that those qualities aren’t you. Hence, it refuses to acknowledge your shadow side.
But your shadow thirsts for your validation and acknowledgment.
The only way to get it, without getting caught, is indirectly.
Projection is one way of doing this.
When you admire somebody or are “on love” with someone, you are actually projecting your own qualities out onto this person.
Your shadow has delegated this person to hold onto your projection. Until you are ready to integrate it yourself.
This can explain why you lose some attraction towards your partner when the honeymoon high simmers down.
The illusion you projected has been pierced by reality.
If you can manage past your delusions, and accept your partner as they truly are, you’re on your way to a genuine loving relationship.
Expectations of your inner contra-sex.
Society has influenced our psyche’s image of what a “man” and “woman” are.
We grow up with ideas of what makes a person a man or woman, which we naively try to fit into.
The problem is that qualities are not inherent to either the masculine or feminine. Personality qualities being inherent to sex is societal conditioning.
This archaic way of thinking impacts us to this very day.
For example, stereotypically a man is taught to not be emotional, while a woman to taught to be a loving housewife.
A young boy will grow up disowning his emotional qualities.
Now when he is in a relationship, his shadow will project these emotional qualities onto his partner.
He can’t see when he is being irrational because his mind has self-deceived him into thinking he isn’t like that.
Instead, he projects all his emotional qualities onto his partner, which can include his—lovingness, worriedness, caringness, and so on.
She will be the one who acts out all of these qualities for him in the relationship. Some of the times when she is expressing these qualities will be because he has unconsciously triggered her to act it out for him.
That’s not to say he won’t ever express these qualities himself. But you’ll notice that both partners will express the majority of a certain quality, due to their unconscious delegations.
Both men and women do this to their partners to varying degrees. Based on the qualities they’ve disowned in themselves AND what they believe is inherent to their contra-sex image.
People can feel when they are delegated to hold a projection. It feels like a sense of expectation or obligation.
In modern society, many women have been raised to be polite and amicable. Meaning that many of these women will try to fulfill the projections (expectations) that have been placed upon them.
This is an example of a person not wanting what they think they want.
NOTE: If you want to want something, it means you don’t actually want it.
If you think about societal conditioning, the psyche’s image of inner man-inner woman, and projection deeply enough, you can kinda see how gender or sex would be a construct.
Unconscious Beliefs from your Inner Child
Many people have a wounded inner child and don’t know it.
These wounds can cause you to live out dysfunctional, unconscious behaviors within your relationships.
There are many types of these unconscious beliefs that come from the wounded inner child that the shadow causes you to live out.
I will go over one strong example.
Let’s say there is a fairly neurotic woman; deep down she’s afraid of life.
Due to her unconscious beliefs, she has a habit of getting in relationships with men who are controlling.
The reason she repeats this dysfunctional pattern is because she actually likes it.
Internally, she can feel safe because she doesn’t have to grow up and face life.
Externally, she’s allowed to complain that it’s all her partner’s fault that she can’t do anything. So she has something to talk about with her friends and she carries an emotional debt on him.
The unconscious belief she’s living out could be “I am helpless”, “The world wants to dominate me”, “If it weren’t for him”, “Men are tyrants”, etc.
This is a lack of maturity and even evidence that the relationship is built on an invisible lie.
You can learn more about these unconscious beliefs in my article Inner Child Healing: Emotional Maturity Using Inner Child Work.
What shadow work should I do?
You need to integrate your shadow so you can take back your projections. When you’re able to accept who you are, you’re able to experience self-love.
When you can give yourself love, you’re able to give your genuine, and even unconditional love to others.
Now keep in mind, just because your love is unconditional, doesn’t mean it’s uncritical.
You won’t be a victim of your love. Which we’ll get into in a bit.
You also need to put an end to your dysfunctional patterns.
This also involves taking back your projections and doing inner child work.
How do you know if you’ve got enough self-love and self-acceptance to be in a healthy relationship?
Well, for starters, if you say you want a relationship, but you only desire people who are taken or unavailable, you definitely don’t know yourself. Go do more shadow work and inner child work.
I also want to point out that even if you understand how to love yourself, and love others—
This doesn’t necessarily mean you are cut out for a romantic relationship.
Not everyone is relationship-oriented.
(Societal conditioning tells us otherwise)
And even if you are, that doesn’t mean the person you are interested in has the same romantic or committal desires as you.
Some people always want to cuddle, and others want to have their own lives where they rejoice occasionally.
Everyone is different.
Your job in love is to find the person who is on your level of love and romance.
That being said—
The truest sign of the desire for a fully, intimate relationship is the commitment to work through problems that come across your paths.
The commitment is to the bond you share with the person.
This DOES NOT mean you are trying to change the person or anything of a similar juvenile nature.
If you believe this is permission to nag your partner into doing anything that you want, you’re a fool. And chances are, you lack self-love.
Again, you would only understand how to love others AFTER you have learned to love yourself unconditionally.
The desire to control others is a sign of fear. Evidence that you would love yourself less if this happened. If this did that which impacts you in a way you don’t like.
Only an immature person believes this is love in a romantic, committed relationship.
Shadow Work Journal Prompts for Relationships
Here are some shadow work prompts that will help you do self-inquiry to determine if you’re ready, or becoming ready, to be in a real, adult relationship.
Write about a time where you felt betrayed by someone you knew. Next write about why you expected them to not betray you. Finally write how you believe you were entitled to these expectations.
Write out a quality that you dislike about your current partner. List out all the times you’ve seen this quality in your current partner and past partners. Finally, look back at your childhood and write out why you suspect that you attract this quality.
Write down how you believe other people see you, whether positive or negative. Next write why you believe people see you this way. Finally write whether you believe this is how others see you or if this is how you see yourself.
Can you laugh at something without the need to have others laugh with you? Or can you enjoy finding something, without the need to share it with others? Can you do a good deed, without having to tell anyone you did a good deed? Based on your answers, could you be happy and satisfied with only yourself?
“Everything is perfect as it is”. What person or object makes you doubt this quote? Write out all your judgments on this imperfect person/object. If you can’t admit that it’s perfect, can you admit you don’t understand it?
You can get your free 30 shadow work journal prompts here.
Shadow work in relationships isn’t always easy
You need to be deliberate about the lifelong process of maturing.
This means taking back your projections, healing your inner child wounds, and developing your universal love.
Although I can’t give you all the answers, I hope this article gave you insight into the inner work you need to do next.
Until next time.
Check out the Shadow Work Course here.