They are perpetual questions in the consciousness movement- how do I stay authentic and grounded in myself while relating whole-heartedly with others? Can I be totally integrated while vowing to stay true to someone else for the rest of my life? Are all marriages to some extent co-dependent? And why is it natural for us to flow into different jobs throughout our career without a thought, but we don’t have the same attitude towards relationships?
Like many people, I have wrestled with these questions for many years. I am now married with a son, and for a long time it was difficult to reconcile my path as a seeker with my path as a wife and mother. But for now I have come to peace with it. Most nights, I go off to sleep feeling like the luckiest woman in the world, with my husband by my side and my son in the next room. I feel like I am wrapped up in love. I am grateful to be in a warm bed while the wind blows outside on a cold night. I am grateful to know someone so intimately that I can picture his next move, his next need and his deepest desire.
And it makes me realise that the ego is a cunning voice. It used to try to convince me that I was better off alone, in my perfect emotional universe that I could control. It said that I could only be happy if I was doing my own thing, my own way.
But now I know that my happiness can only come from surrendering to love. We are all here on earth to connect with each other; to grow and learn. That learning needs to come from the heart. And we learn most about ourselves and others through intimacy. This is where the greatest growth comes from. We learn when to yield and when to stay strong. We learn to weather all the colours of life without needing a high or a change or a pick-me-up. We learn how small and yet how clever the ego can be with it’s constant demands of ‘I want and I need to be separate from you.’ We learn the joy of committing ourselves to others. We don’t just commit our physical bodies; we commit our souls. This is a vow. This is spiritual growth. This is getting down on our knees and honouring the soul in another person. This is love. We learn the kindness of just being present for someone else, without them fearing that we will flee if they place their hearts on the line. We learn the sanctity of commitment, when a woman is vulnerable in childbirth and the man stays by her side. Or on yet another early morning, the man says, ‘I’ll get up.’ These simple yet life-changing gestures are the foundations of a rich life. They are consciousness-in-action. And I believe that this is what the consciousness movement needs more of- less analysis, less reflection and more action.
Consciousness can be messy and chaotic and unprepared. It is not just the quiet contemplation of a massage or a yoga pose. It is also holding one child on the hip and holding another’s hand as you cross the road. It is calling out to your partner as you cook dinner for the family. It is getting everyone off to sleep at night and taking a deep breath. It is the grateful smile as you look around your family dinner table.
So this week’s blog is dedicated to those people who have mastered the art of relationship and family- the ones who found true love, had the honeymoon, and then created a beautiful marriage over 40 or 50 years. Joseph Campbell wrote,
“One of the things I have realized – and people who have been married a long time realize – is that marriage is not a love affair. A love affair has to do with immediate personal satisfaction. But marriage is an ordeal; it means yielding, time and again. That’s why it’s a sacrament: you give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship. And when you’re giving, you’re not giving to the other person: you’re giving to the relationship. And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life building, a life fostering & enriching experience, NOT an impoverishment because you’re giving to someone else.”
There are always three parts to a relationship: you, the other person, and the relationship. The relationship needs as much attention as the two people in it. So if you have two people blindly pursuing their own pleasure and interests, the relationship will suffer although the two individuals may be personally satisfied. We must caretake the relationship if we want it to last.*
*This blog applies to relationships that are generally free of the 3 A’s: addiction, adultery & abuse.
Here are some tips from people who have been married for over forty years:
1. TELL YOURSELF & YOUR PARTNER A POSITIVE STORY OF THE RELATIONSHIP
When you are by yourself with your own thoughts, think positively about the relationship. Have fondness and gratitude for it. When you are waiting for and drinking your morning cup of tea or coffee, have one positive thought about your relationship. This sets the tone for your behaviour towards your partner and your brain responds to your positivity.
2. NEVER STOP DATING
Go out together at least once a week. Go away on holidays together at least once a year, even for a night. Don’t let the details of your life define you. Even if you are parents or grandparents, still keep the feeling alive of your first bonding patterns. What did you do together? Where did you go? Who did you see? It’s so simple- one trip to the gelato shop you used to go to when you were first together rekindles the old emotions.
3. STAY PHYSICAL
Honour your own body and honour your partner’s body. Exercise, have baths & be intimate as often as possible. There will always be a reason not to. Some women who were married for 50 years were interviewed after their husbands’ deaths. One said, “I wish I hadn’t had so many headaches. Life’s shorter than you think.”
4. COMMUNICATE, TALK, SHOUT, ARGUE, MAKE UP
All couples highlighted the importance of constantly communicating. It is the key to everything. Many people confide more in their friends than their partners. Make your partner your confidante. This will be a reward in itself.
This blog was written with love!