Well… Isn’t That Special? Relationship Coaching by Spirit vs. the Ego

special relationships

So, what the heck does A Course in Miracles mean by talking about our relationships being special like it’s a bad thing? Aren’t our relationships with our closest peeps supposed to be special? Isn’t that the whole point, for crying out loud?

I am a coach, teacher and minister of the Course and have been a student of it for around 16 years. Yet, for a long time I just couldn’t really get the thing about special relationships vs. holy relationships.

Probably because, as the Course teaches (and I’m paraphrasing here) whatever we aren’t learning isn’t being learned because we don’t want to learn it. As in, if by “learning it” you mean me giving up judgment, being a victim, or seeing my brother/special relationship as guilty – ummm, no thanks, I’ll take the zero.

A Course in Miracles says of the powerful attraction of God for us who are His Son,

“There is no other love that can satisfy you, because there is no other love. This is the only love that is fully given and fully returned. Being complete, it asks nothing. Being wholly pure, everyone joined in it has everything. This is not the basis for any relationship in which the ego enters, for every relationship on which the ego embarks is special. The ego establishes relationships only to get something. And it would keep the giver bound to itself through guilt.”

Well, jeez, that explains a lot. So, essentially, the only real love is the love that God has for us, and we have for God. This is the same love that we, in reality, share with each other, because the Truth is we are all in one ginormous, ecstatically, blissfully, ridiculously joyful relationship with one another, interconnected with and as each other in a completely, wholly intimate way that knows no separation or boundary.

But that is out of our awareness because we are temporarily living in the world of the ego, which:

1) does not and will never know that, and

2) perceives our constant pull toward the call of Love as a threat to its own existence – rightfully so because it is.

So in its psychotic brilliance, the ego mind made up the concept of special relationships as the mother of all fake-outs, to lull us into thinking that we have – in the awesome words of Rhianna – “found love in a hopeless place.”

Well, except, we haven’t. The ego’s version of love is “conditional love” – the biggest oxymoron ever in the history of the world.

It is what passes for love in the ego mind, but it is actually some combination of need, attachment, and bargaining. Based in fear, it is founded on getting what it needs and wants through guilt, and without having to give anything – because to the ego, the concept of “giving” equals sacrifice and results in scarcity.

Relationship Coaching by Spirit vs. the Ego

Special relationships aren’t just those between spouses, life partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, and lovers – rather, they are all of the relationships that we have in which we feel differently toward one bro, or a group of bros, than we do toward any or all of our other bros.

We also have varying levels within our special relationships, such as, do you love your parent like you love your child? Or love your boyfriend like you do your sister? No, our minds argue, it’s different love. But that’s the thing – love can’t be different.

In the special relationship, the part of our minds that is always drawn toward the light gets completely distracted by the shiny objects in the ego’s house of mirrors.

“You will love me, you will complete me, you will accept me, you will think I’m awesome, you will make me believe I am lovable, and wonderful, and perfect… even though I believe the opposite of myself.”

That is the seductive bargain of the special love relationship – I will see myself through your eyes and fall in love with my reflection. I will momentarily forget how totally crappy I feel about myself as a result of believing that I separated from my Father, and instead, I will have the experience of union.

This is what we are all longing to return to – we are hearing the echo of it when we are in the euphoria of a romantic relationship, or look into the eyes of our newborn baby; when we are completely wrapped up and cared for by our mom, or feel understood without words by a brother or sister, or totally supported by our pop, or share a moment of laughing so hard we pee our pants with our BFF.

We are seen, adored, cherished, wanted, needed, important – they get us. We are LOVED.

Until we aren’t. Because it is not the nature of the ego to love – the egoic part of our mind has no idea of the meaning of real love.

It is the ego’s nature to hate – to be capricious, suspicious, and vicious – but it has to disguise that as something we actually want, otherwise it wouldn’t be nearly as attractive to us.

The ego’s agenda is to get its own needs met, while letting us think we are getting what we want, yet keeping us feeling separate in the process.

Its greatest weapons in doing so are guilt and projection. So, in every special relationship, there comes a time when we eventually end up projecting our own unconscious guilt onto the person with whom we were at one point swimming around and playing in the warm waters of love, and BOOM! We go from basking in the sparkly glow of total symbiotic awesomeness to freaking out about that love leaving us – because deep down we believe we deserve that anyway because we’re guilty bastards.

And what happens as a result of our projection? People CHAAAAAAAAAANGE! And now there’s a story.

The love partner turns out to have all these qualities we didn’t sign up for, or betrays us; our sweet baby who needed us becomes either a defiant two-year-old or an ungrateful teen (sometimes that feels like the same thing), our parent, who just adored us is now controlling and critical, our BFF is jealous, or doesn’t have time for us, our sibling resents us, we hate our step-kid, or someone is “making us” feel a certain way – bad, angry, guilty, stressed, frustrated… is this ringing a bell? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

And now it is ON! Sometimes it is not quite so dramatic, we may feel more like disengagement, boredom, restlessness, disappointment, or dissatisfaction. Trust me, underlying all of those emotions somewhere is projected anger and resentment.

Our special relationships are also based solely on the past, and that is the place from which we write our story of projection and guilt.

“My parents mistreated me, my ex cheated on me, I was told I wasn’t good enough, I was shamed…”

In reality, all that happened was that in our egoic dream our mind just did what it always does, and we got Charlie-Brown-and-the-football sucked into its vortex of crazy.

What’s the definition of insanity again? Oh yeah, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, the only thing that you have to know, the secret to understanding and thus undoing all of the ego’s bullshit, therefore transforming all of your special relationships into holy relationships, is that in the ego’s version it is all about the body.


Loyalty to the belief that relationships are limited to the body is all the ego requires. Special relationships are between bodies, and based on whatever bodies are capable of. They are about physical proximity, being “with” the person in time and space, and having their attention focused on you. They are concerned with behavior, which always has to do with the body.

Listening to me, talking to me, attending to me. Special relationships are evaluated based on what am I getting? What are they giving me, doing for me, how are they treating me, are they meeting my needs as I have assigned them?

As the Course says,

“As long as you believe that to be with a body is companionship, you will be compelled to attempt to keep your brother in his body, held there by guilt.”

So, the Jesus of A Course in Miracles is trying to motivate us to do something different. He’s basically saying, everybody off the special bus.

Specifically, he says,

“Everyone on Earth has formed special relationships, and although this is not so in Heaven, the Holy Spirit knows how to bring a touch of Heaven to them here.”

We are being shown how to transcend the body and be in true relationship with our brothers.

Why is this important?

Well, as if we really need another reason in addition to helping us straight up not be suffering in all of the myriad of ways we can make ourselves miserable in relationship – Jesus assures us that being in holy relationship with each other is necessary in order for us to be able to take the step of being in awareness of returning to our true home, in the Heaven of Oneness.

In reality, we never left – but since we believe we did, we require purification. Not because we are not already perfect – we totally are – but because we believe we are not. Making our relationships holy – aka regarding all of our brothers as the same – with the same degree of gratitude, offering them all the same extension of love, seeing them all in the same brilliant light, means ultimately beholding no difference between them and ourselves and God. From that place we can return to Love, to peace, to joy; to changeless, timeless, eternal blissed-out being.

All it takes is our willingness to practice the holy instant.

So… how do we do that?

As Jesus teaches us,

“Real relationships have no limits, having been established by God. In the holy instant, where the great rays replace the body in awareness, the recognition of relationships without limits is given you. But to see this, it is necessary to give up every use the ego has for the body, and to accept the fact that the ego has no purpose you would share with it.”

love of god for us

We have already established that the ego’s use for the body in special relationships is guilt and projection.

The way to give this up is to only allow the body to be used for one purpose – communication.

Since A Course in Miracles also teaches us in Lesson 62 of the Workbook that FORGIVENESS is our function as the light of the world, that is the only thing we need to intentionally communicate.

In our minds, we forgive our choice of the ego as our relationship coach. We forgive the belief that anything we thought our brothers ever did was true. Forgive every judgement we ever made. Forgive everything we believe we have ever suffered at the hands of another.

But why do we have to forgive everyone for everything? What about all the stuff they did? Do they just get away with it?

No. Because we aren’t forgiving everyone. We are only forgiving the one. We are forgiving ourselves, for projecting our unconscious guilt onto the world in the form of our special relationships. That is the holy instant, which is this instant and every instant in which we are willing to let littleness go.

As the Course reminds us,

“The holiest place on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”

If we do not do this, if we do not withdraw our belief in the dream of the past with all of its imagined hurts and resentments, and stop holding our special relationships in orbit through guilt, we will never escape the gravitational pull of the ego to keep our awareness mired in a world of pain instead of the peace of God.

As the Course tells us,

“It is your forgiveness that will bring the world of darkness to the light. It is your forgiveness that lets you recognize the light in which you see.”

I dragged around my long-ass special-relationships story for many decades, using it to excuse where I was in my life and why things had worked out the way they had. It was something along the lines of,

“Blah blah blah alcoholic father blah … blah blah blah… and that’s why I don’t have this or that and haven’t achieved the life I wanted.”

In response to that story, my ghostwriter, the ego, called and said,

“Girl, you are KILLING IT! Way to put the PRO in projection! Life in Victim City on Denial River sounds fantastic, and your relationships were all at fault for everything bad that ever happened, so rock on!”

Then it called back 5 minutes later and continued the story with how guilty I am for having blamed everyone else in my life for what was my own fault, and how if I would have just been good enough or more of this or better at that or smarter or hadn’t been a slacker or applied myself more then all of those things would have worked out and I would have been…

Wait for it…

HAPPY. (And probably rich.)

But that isn’t my story anymore, and that is all it ever was – a story I told myself.

In practicing forgiveness, and asking every day for all of my relationships to be made holy, my perception of my whole life – and every relationship in it – has actually been alchemically altered by the Light of Spirit. I have experienced a transformation, more and more of a systematic “removal of the blocks to the awareness of Love’s presence” (as it says on like, page 1) in my mind.

Having said that, Imma just take a quick opportunity right here – in order to hopefully avoid the epilogue situation I had after a recent blog, wherein I made statements like the one above, and my ego mind was all like,

“Oh no you did not just imply that you do not have that problem anymore, becuz GUESS WHAT? Now here’s a big situation in which you judge the crap out of several people you profess to love and lose your sh*t just to remind you that you are not spiritually ALL THAT.”

So yes, I still absolutely do sometimes find myself being whipped around on the egoic rollercoaster of special relationships. But I will say that those rides are significantly fewer, of less intensity, and shorter duration than they once were.

What has been my saving grace, when I have been able to call upon it, is surrendering my attachment to the special relationship being the form I want it to be, the person saying or doing what I think they should in order to fulfill some need of mine, some lack I believe I have, to fix me, or make me feel secure, or like I am okay. Nothing and no one in this world can do that, but forgiving everything and seeing the holiness in your bro and thus in yourself actually can.

The central plot of my story was thinking that my happiness had been derailed by fate, or ex-husbands or lovers, or employers, or my parent’s financial legacy, or bad luck, or whatEVER.

In my ignorance, I thought that I knew why I was in those marriages, or relationships, or jobs, or situations – that they were supposed to make me happy, and that they would have if things had just gone the way they should have.

But it turned out that my story was fiction.

Asking Spirit to be my relationship coach, and help me see the holiness in each person I was involved with; releasing my judgment, remembering that my ego mind has been creating a dream-story in which I play the victim, and making the decision to release myself from suffering by releasing whomever I was holding in guilt for my unhappiness – all have resulted in my finally being able to see the Truth.

That every single relationship I was in, and everything else that I have ever experienced – when transformed and made holy by the light of forgiveness – has healed broken places within me, made me stronger, softened me, prepared me, called me to a higher place, and helped me to become who I came here to be and do what I came here to do.

The love of God for us and the love of us for God is the only love that is real. Click To Tweet

So I’m calling that a win.

Thank you so much for being in holy relationship with me today, I am all up on joining with you in this way! If something in this blog moved you to reframe a relationship in light of specialness versus holiness, I’d love to hear about it.

Please leave me a comment below.

If you are looking for help in having a better understanding of concepts and ideas presented in A Course in Miracles, or going deeper with your practice of it, I encourage you to consider the programs offered by the Teachers of God Foundation.

Two of my favorites are Living in Purpose (now being offered as Living in Oneness) and ACIM 365.

I love you IMMENSELY, the exact same as I love God, my boyfriend, chocolate, Jesus as my Teacher, all my BFFs, lobster, my ex-husbands /partners/lovers, my fam, champagne, forgiveness, lit fireplaces, the Teachers of God Foundation, everyone I have ever known, Christmas, and A Course in Miracles.

With all my grateful heart,


Rev Kelly Russell,
Transformational Coach, Psychotherapist & Teacher of A Course in Miracles

29 Comments on “Well… Isn’t That Special? Relationship Coaching by Spirit vs. the Ego”

  1. As always, your blogs are very much appreciated! Kelly, the ability to be helpful in a down-to-earth manner that yet transcends how we’ve taught ourselves to co-exist with others, is both fundamental Course material yet startlingly awakening. Why? For the obvious reasons that even twelve-year students like myself know well. We are attached to special relationships for far more reasons than we have the courage to admit – until Jesus tells us the truth. Thanks to you and Teachers of God for the inspiration to allow our many mortal ties to become Holy Relationships, no matter what. With love ~

  2. Kelly… I woke up too early this morning, the all-too-familiar stories of unjust situations with my ex and my adult children spinning around in my head, provoking the unpleasant, all-too-familiar feelings of injustice/marginalization/hurt, etc… Ugh. I was able to reach out to HS for help in my perception, asking for Peace, but remained a little frustrated at the never-ending repetition of these stories and the feelings of hurt that go with them. Not able to get back to sleep, I picked up my iPhone to look at the time… and there was the notification of your email about this blog! I promptly hopped out of bed, got my coffee, and sat down to eagerly read this. It was EXACTLY what I needed at EXACTLY the right time and I am so grateful!!! Thank you! I am going to bookmark this so I can read it whenever I need it.

    1. Hi Layne! So honored to be the communication device through whom you heard what you needed to hear! Thank you for writing. 😊

  3. Whenever I see a post by you, Kelly, I know I will be so entertained in really understanding and wanting to live the course. you present the concepts so down to earth and make it so easy. Mucho blessings to your pretty little psychoanalytical heart.

  4. Great topic! I don’t think we can get enough understanding of the special relationship. Thank you for a great description Kelly! Always good to hear everyone’s input around it!

  5. Kelly, I am so moved by all the time and effort you (and so many others at The Teachers of God) put into freely sharing what you have learned by actually living the Course. I have been so blessed by all of you and so appreciate that you don’t just give “carrots” that have expensive “sticks” attached to them. There are so many people who have not realized “WHO” they are yet and, because of that, are struggling financially and who would feel as though it would be hopeless to get help. I know because I was once one of those people and it was because of your group and others like you that I have been able to get beyond those limitations. Thank you so much for all you give so freely. It has made such a difference in my life.

  6. Thank you Kelly. You have an amazing ability to explain The Course in terms we can all understand. Thank you for always reminding us of who we are. Exactly the right time for me and my “victimization” stories. So grateful for you and the TOG!

  7. Thanks so much for this Kelly – I love your funny and easy presentation which always packs such a huge punch – deeply grateful

  8. Thanks Kelly! My dad was an alcoholic too, but our specialness was derived in me becoming one also and it was my mom I blamed.
    Thanks for reminding me the beauty of letting the story go and remembering we are all under the umbrella of one Love, one Us.
    This was a meaningful and touching post, thank you!!!

  9. Well, I do understand what you are saying about the egos way of love. But I do have a problem with people trying to deliberately hurt other people. There are sexual abusers, people who steel, kill and destroy others. I have a hard time seeing God in those situations. We have to be aware not all people are searching for the light and the way they live in their world is just fine with them. I realize we are all made in the image of God or his light but action and love go together God took the action in his love for us to give us Sprit but not everyone will accept that So. I just don’t understand if someone hurts another human being are we suppose to say I love you and forgive you and go you way. Sometimes there is some people who are dangerous and we need to not associate with them. You will know them by their Fruit or actions . so I can forgive the way things work in this world but I can not always go alone with other people who are destroying others. Maybe they have been taught wrong and I can forgive that but At sometime we all have to take responsibility for our actions for the good of everyone. My son just had a lot of his things stole for him and he is not the only one it happens everyday. I am confused about how I can say this is ok and I love you and go your way keep doing what you want to do. Maybe you have some answers how to handle people who don’t care about hurting other people. I pray everyone will see the world of Sprit and I am trying to grow in that direction but that is not what everyone in this world wants because if they did we wouldn’t be having all the drama going on as it is now. Thanks for you time and teaching lessons on real Love even though I am a little confused.

    1. Hi Frances! Thank you so much for writing – I totally get it. First, I want to say that I am writing from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, as the blog is written from as well. This is not the only path back to God, there are thousands, as the Course also tells us. But, on this path, the teaching is that in reality, we are all ONE Son of God, one mind. It says that at the level of the mind, which is the only level at which we can exercise choice, we can choose to see our brothers as either expressing love or, in instances where people seem to be attacking or acting insanely, see them as calling for love. In either instance, love is always the answer. Seeing and judging people as “bad” is just a counter-attack and a projection of our own unconscious guilt that we harbor because we believe we separated from God. In the illusory dream projection of the mind that we call the world, we all do insane things as a result of this unconscious guilt – some seemingly worse than others. What the Course teaches us is how to look at everyone as innocent, because it is only in doing this that we can then also see ourselves as innocent, which is the only way we can get ourselves back to oneness and the Peace of God. This is done by practicing the Course’s version of forgiveness – not of others, but of our own erroneous perception and the meaning we give to everything that seems to happen in the world. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out with bros that are acting crazy, or abusively, or whatever – it doesn’t really matter what you do behaviorally, as long as you are aligning your mind with love. ❤️

  10. Fabulous! I love your no-nonsense, humorous approach. You took a concept that can be difficult to wrap my mind around and made it so applicable and understandable. Thank you so much!

  11. Hi Kelly,
    You have so many great comments already and l want to say everything everyone has already said. My mom passed away a few days ago in her nineties. Had a great full life. We had an amazing relationship and l feel very much at peace. We were away with friends on a trip we planned a year ago celebrating 50 years of marriage and major birthdays. . My family waited a week for us to get back. I can feel a strain with some of my family that they are upset because of this and other things. I planned to just give them space but after hearing your talk l want to reach out and try to heal my friendship with them by seeing our Gods love in them. Thank you so much for your wise words. Bless you. Katy

    1. Hi Katy, I am so glad the post was helpful to you, and I love that you chose the light and joining over darkness and separation. Thank you so much for writing.
      Peace. 🙏🏼

  12. Kelly, thank you for this wonderful blog and video and further explanation of Special Relationships. I always love your openness and the examples that you provide. Your joy is contagious!💖

  13. This was spot-on and yet another message I needed to hear in my ACIM journey (which only began in earnest about 6 weeks ago). Thanks so much for making the message a delight to receive with your clarity and humor. The Charlie Brown example!! Too funny. I have sooooo been sucked into my ego’s vortex of crazy just like that poor cartoon character. Maybe I’ll start calling my ego Lucy just to keep things light. 🙂

    1. Such an awesome idea, Virginia! The more humor and lightness we can look at our ego,s crazy with, the less seriously we will take it, thus reducing our investment in and identification with it. As the Course teaches us, this whole idea of separation began when, “Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh.” Humor raises our vibration and allows us to stay in the moment, because laughter is always in the present, the only time there really is. 😊

  14. Hi Kelly. Thank you for this. I thought I “got” the special relationship thing….and then up jumped the ego with another instance of a “fooled you” situation, and found myself in protection mode. Someone close came at me with a “what’s in it for me” conversation – in which I felt attacked – and after which I felt compelled to steer clear of this person. Of course my mind kept spinning the situation, justifying my need for protection justifying also what I might have to say/do to deal with the thing my mind had glommed onto as a future outcome. If this, then that…. And of course I kept catching myself, forgiving myself for my projection, looking for the innocence in the other….but not quite believing in his innocence…. Wanting to unburden myself of this victimhood and reaction/projection….but circling back to it again and again. Even as a seasoned Course student and knowing all the words to say and what I was supposed to feel when the tools “worked”. They worked in the moment, but the spinning mind returns to victimhood so easily. I know I am responsible for the discontent – and your blog here is further affirmation. i have to keep placing this on the alter, keep asking forgiveness, keep releasing, and keep knowing “in my defenselessness my safety lies”. Even if I am exasperated with myself for this circling back and back and back. Big sigh. Gotta keep at it!
    I love that you write these blogs – they really help.

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