Do romantic relationships trip you up? One major way the ego blocks us from happiness in relationships is with what A Course in Miracles calls special relationships. When you see someone as special, you make an idol of them.
What are idols and special relationships?
From the perspective of the Course, an idol is someone you make better than yourself, your friends, your family and even your higher power. You believe your idol is your source of happiness. This act of turning someone into an idol is one of the ego’s craftiest tricks. Idolizing someone reinforces the illusion that we are separate from others.
Why we have special relationships
The ego uses special relationships to protect us from feeling the pain of separating from love, which most of us do at some point when we are young.
As I say in Judgment Detox, we feel a lot of guilt and a deeply uncomfortable sense of incompleteness as a result of separating from love and cutting off our truth. We try to find relief in someone else, choosing to believe that another person can “complete” us and projecting our guilt onto them. This is how the special relationship is created.
We make all kinds of people into idols, but we’re especially susceptible when it comes to romantic relationships. This is what the Course calls the “special love relationship.”
The special love relationship
When another person is your source of happiness, to put it bluntly you are screwed. The ego convinces us that all the love we need is in one “special” person. This kind of relationship is different from your other relationships because you come to believe that you need this person to be complete.
The special love relationship is exclusive. It makes that one special person better than you and everyone else. Your ego tells you that they’re your source of serenity, happiness or security.
There is no way that special love can ever work, because no other person can be your source of happiness. But without knowing where to ﬁnd that true source, we’ll keep searching for it in all kinds of people, hoping to ﬁnd the one.
I was stuck in special relationships for a decade
I was stuck in the pattern of special relationships for a long time. Starting in high school, I made my boyfriends into idols. I was so afraid of being alone that I compromised my own needs to stay in a relationship. (I share my whole story in my memoir, Spirit Junkie.) The ego had convinced me that without a man I was incomplete and therefore unsafe, taking my fear from the past and projecting it onto the present.
In retrospect, I can see that this fearful addiction was based on the ego’s lies. The story wasn’t real, but it sure as hell felt real at the time. I was convinced of it.
This fear lived deep inside my mind and took over my reality. I was so scared of being alone that I clung to relationships that were totally wrong for me. Plus, the fear made me completely inauthentic and insecure. For more than a decade I lived in a delusional nightmare of codependency and a search for that “one special love.”
Romantic relationships are the ego’s playground
Romantic relationships are the ego’s playground. Our ego convinces us that we cannot live without a “special” partner. The need for a special partner is a primary cause of codependency.
This fear-based thinking leads us to do whatever it takes to make people happy so that they don’t leave. We become inauthentic. We try to be what we think our partner wants so that we don’t lose our special relationship. We put their needs before of our own, and we deny our true feelings.
Future tripping in romantic relationships
The ego also uses future projections to hook us into the illusion. Often we project specialness onto someone we’ve just met. One flirty message on an app, one wink at a party or one hint of affection will lead us down the ego’s road of special future-tripping. Within minutes, in our imaginations we’re saying “I do”!
The ego will grab any shred of attention and become addicted to it. Our ego has the capacity to convince us that someone we don’t even know is super special. A stranger can become an idol fast.
We make all kinds of people “special”
The special relationship presents itself in many areas of our lives. We can make romantic partners special, but it doesn’t stop there. We often make celebrities special. We can make people we admire special. Maybe there is a friend who you’ve made special, imagining they’re cooler, smarter or just have their life together more than you and everyone else.
The concept of “special” is based on anything we make an idol of. The ego has all kinds of ways of convincing us that people are special. When we perceive that someone is better than others, we’re thinking with separation. We’ve forgotten that we are all one, and we’ve bought into the ego’s thought system of “better than” and “worse than.”
Whatever person you’ve made special will inevitably disappoint you in some way. Their ego will always shine through (they are human!) and you’ll be left disappointed and feeling alone. In response, you’ll judge the “special” person for not being who you thought or hoped they were.
How to ‘de-special’ a relationship
No one can be expected to release the illusion of specialness overnight, so it’s important to be gentle with yourself. This is a long-term goal that requires daily dedication.
The dedication is worth it. When you break the pattern of special relationships, a whole new world opens up to you. You can be vulnerable, you can be authentic and you can connect with your partner in a much deeper way.
If you are ready to release the illusion of specialness, follow the steps below. (Note: These steps are adapted from Spirit Junkie.)
Step 1: Recognize who you’ve made special
The ﬁrst step to relinquishing the ego’s projection of specialness is to get honest about who you’ve made special. Ask yourself: “Who have I made the most special, and how?”
If you are in a relationship, your answer might be your partner. But I encourage you to get fearlessly honest here. Have you made dating sites special. Or maybe you’ve made an ex special, and as a result you struggle to truly connect with new people.
You can go beyond romantic relationships. Maybe you’ve made a teacher or celebrity special. Open your journal and write out all the ways you’ve created special relationships within your life. Shine light on those special relationships. You can even include yourself.
Step 2: Out it
One of the most powerful ways to release your special projections (even temporarily) is to out them.
Once you recognize where your ego has created special relationships, you can begin to call them out. Speak openly about how you’ve perceived others, and stay committed to seeing things differently.
You may not want to tell your special relationships how special you think they are. Instead, just share with a friend. By outing your ego to a friend, you weaken the ego’s projection and begin to see others as equal.
Step 3: Choose to see it differently
In all situations we have two choices: We can see with the ego or we can see with love. Each time you witness your special projections and say them out loud, you have a choice to defend them or release them.
The ego will work hard to keep you in the dark by reinforcing the specialness in others and yourself. Because of that, it’s important that you continue to choose to see equality in others.
Whenever you witness that you’ve made someone special, choose in that moment to see things differently. This simple mental shift will do all the work for you because you are inviting in love. Say to yourself in that moment, “I choose to perceive this person as equal. I know that the light in them is equal to the light in me.” You can make this a mantra that you turn to in the moment.
Sit up straight in your seat, with your palms facing upward.
Breathe gently in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Identify a person you have made special. Imagine their body entering into the room with you. Looking directly at them, witness a ball of golden light forming in their heart.
As you breathe in, welcome the light from their heart into your heart.
On the exhalation, extend this light from your heart to their heart.
Continue this cycle of breathing the light in and out.
Breathe in the light from their heart.
Extend the light from your heart to their heart. As the light extends, it begins to grow around each of you.
As you continue breathing, the room is ﬁlled with light.
The light surrounding both of you is a reminder that you are one.
Breathe in: I see you as equal to me.
Breathe out: We are one in the light.
Breathe in: I release all specialness.
Breathe out: The light I see in you is equal to the light in me.
Take one last breath in and open your eyes to the room as you exhale.
This meditation is a powerful tool for reigniting your inner belief in oneness. Each of us believes deep down that we are all one. We know that specialness is just an illusion. We know separation is an illusion. We’ve just forgotten.
Through meditation you can allow a power greater than you to lead you to remember. Practice this meditation often to deepen your belief that we are all equally special. Release specialness and form happy, healthy relationships!
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