Happy couple
Photo: Pixland/Thinkstock
Do you really know what you want in life, or do you often become obsessed with a fantasy of what you think you want, which only ends up becoming the source of much of your suffering? Because that fantasy symbolizes an unobtainable perfection, you are unable to recognize that the life you have is actually suited to you in spite of its many limitations, drawbacks or challenges. The truth is: If you weren't somehow already connected to your "right" path, wouldn't you try a lot harder to get on the right track? I mean, wouldn't you just stop whatever you're doing and immediately quit or leave where you are going if you truly recognized: "I'm not where I belong"? But most people don't.

Instead, you make up excuses for why you stay: money, timing, kids, not sure what to do or where to go. Maybe the truth is beyond all those familiar and lame excuses. Maybe the truth is as simple as this: You don't change what you're doing or where you are because in spite of all the surface chaos, there is something about the situation that serves you at a deeper and more complex level, though it is very difficult to admit.

Just for the sake of examining this question, let's apply it to the delicate topic of relationships. The general assumption is most people want to be in a relationship. Let's qualify that by saying most people want to be in a happy, balanced, mutually supportive, financially successful, physically sexy relationship. In other words, most people want a perfect relationship. Okay, who doesn't? But here's the catch: Is that really possible? That's really more of a fantasy. And because you've set the bar so high for what you consider the ideal relationship, is such a relationship even possible to find, much less to sustain over the years of your life?

In the meantime, while waiting for this perfect relationship to drop out of the sky or come into your lives through the Internet, you still have to create a life for yourself. Now bear in mind, this life you're creating while waiting for your fantasy life to materialize is one that suits all of your odd quirks and growing list of personal needs, many of which continue to surface as you get to know your underbelly. This is the life that is built around your nutritional needs, your boundaries, your spending habits and your debts, your secrets, your therapy sessions and support groups—not to mention your scar tissue—as well as your housekeeping routine and everything else that makes you who you are. In short, while waiting for a second life with a partner to start, most people are becoming quite settled in their first life. Any relationship that attempts to kick in after all these systems are under way in a person's life—well, good luck.

Let's face it—relationships are mysterious creatures. You are most certainly designed to be in a relationship, and yet so much of the personal work you do these days is ironically aimed at making you more independent, self-sufficient and, well, more self-focused in general. While there are endless, countless, wondrous benefits to the path of self-realization—in fact, one might say this is the only path to the integrated, whole self—is this also the path that makes being in successful relationships more difficult? It may be incomprehensible for some people to even consider such a question as this, but the world of relationships is changing so fast that, at the very least, you have to recognize nothing is conventional about the relationship archetype any more. Nor can you make assumptions about whether a person wants a relationship or will be with the same partner for life. Few are these days. So for the sake of discussion, let's just say it's likely that this question would draw pro and con responses, depending on the personal experiences of an individual, which, at the end of the day, is the subjective data that this type of question draws upon. This is a question that doesn't have a final answer; it just generates discussion and hopefully some insights but never leads to any final conclusions. Why? Because, in truth, there aren't any final conclusions. Life experiences lead people to come to their own conclusions in matters such as relationships.

Meet Caroline's client Ann: a 40-year-old looking for love