Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Healing and Transforming Intimate Relationships on the Spiritual Path

One of the common things that happens to many people on the spiritual path is that they move into a very different heart-space, head-space, and really soul-space than everyone else around them--including their romantic partner. This last one is the really hard one because you will be touching such amazing new intimacies on a wide variety of levels that you can't help but want to touch those deeper spaces with your dear one. You think to yourself, "How can I feel so much so deeply with all these other people and not get to feel it with this special person?"

I know. It's one of those difficult things, and it's one of those things that dissolves many intimate relationships as you complete the lessons and karma between you. Many people have to leave the relationship because it no longer serves their continued growth and because they don't want to interact in many of their old habits that weren't healthy. But with that said, this post is a much more hopeful post. I'm writing because you've dedicated yourself to the spiritual path, and you have a husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or other significant lover in your life who is willing to give this spiritual thing a shot. So here we go.

Letting Them Find Their Own Spiritual Path
You know conceptually that everyone needs to find their own path. But secretly, you want your partner to find a path like yours. Who doesn't? It's so wonderful to share these discoveries. If you're really into hatha yoga, you want to share partnered poses and all that fun stuff. Well, that may not be what's right for your partner. It may be the exact wrong direction for them. Can you now find space to allow that? Can you find space to allow your partner to find his/her own spiritual path? This is one of the biggest things that many people have to learn to deal with.

I believe that the deeper two people develop their spirituality, the more places of connection are opened between them, and it doesn't have to be because you do the same outward spiritual path. Ultimately, all spiritual paths are inner-work, and that inner space is the same for all. It is love. It is union. You're into hatha yoga, tantric energy transmission, Christian mysticism and breathwork. Your partner is into Buddhist meditation, journaling, Qigong, and attending spiritual talks. That's fine. You're still both heading in the same direction. If anything, this gives you an incredibly rich ground of sharing if you both cultivate spaces of acceptance around it. It's a very funny thing to suddenly run into your intolerance in this space when you hear that little part of yourself that says, "That's great that my partner is doing all this, but I really wish s/he'd do this other thing with me." Ahh...your ego is hard at work. Time for you to do more of your own spiritual work.

Letting Go of Control in the Relationship
There's a shitty little control game that likes to play out underneath these supposedly benevolent feelings to help your partner become "more spiritual," whatever the Hell that means exactly. Essentially, you've said that you DO NOT accept your partner completely as she or he is. You're saying that they'd be better if they did this spiritual thing. It's true. This is what you're saying. Dig into the feelings around it. You may find other things. You may find a feeling of being separate or isolated from your partner. It's not that someone who isn't doing the spiritual work is doing their part in connecting to you. They may not be. But we always have to start with ourselves on this path. How can we expect a beloved partner to connect more deeply with us when we keep throwing up roadblocks to that deeper connection? Intimacy can only fully come in our relationships when we're fully intimate and connected within ourselves.

So start looking at all the ways that you're putting judgments on your partner about what she or he should be. Look at all the ways that those judgments and expectations limit your current ability to connect in that intimate relationship. It may be revelatory and slightly depressing to see just how much crap you still have to own in the relationship. It may also be incredible how much more intimacy comes when you no longer put all that junk on top of your love.

Being a Gentle Witness and Guide
You already know a lot about this space, and that should definitely be added into the relationship. Your partner will very likely turn to you for advice on what to look into. Offer your suggestions gently and without attachment. It's a great way to show support without holding onto an outcome. I love dancing, and any woman that I happen to be with, I most certainly love to suggest conscious dancing as a great outlet for mindfulness and exploration of the body. But that may not be right for a partner I may be with. It doesn't mean that I don't make the suggestion. It means that I don't seek a response. Ultimately one of the great truths many of us learn is that no matter how clearly we see the world, we never really know what's right for another person. You need to accept that piece. As you do, what you have to offer can really flourish.

Helping During Difficult Transitional Moments
For awhile, you may not feel very equal to your partner. This in and of itself is an ego illusion because the ego still loves to rate everything. While there is some validity in some ways, you shouldn't get caught up in evaluating where your partner is on his or her path. Instead, it's important to help when requested and especially during difficult moments. It's important that when your partner initially hits a wall (gets bored, gets scared, gets overwhelmed) that you mindfully address it together. It can open up a lot of space for intimacy although it may be hard at times. You will be pushed in this process (partly because your relationship is coming more fully into the space of spiritual  work--you'll be learning oh-so-much). Your partner may act out. They may say, "That this was a stupid idea" and "It's all your fault." Can you learn to be with this? That's what's important here. They're not angry at you. Your partner is angry at him or herself, and if you both can create a way through these difficult moments, more connection can grow in the relationship. Or not. Not everyone is ready to make that commitment, but if your partner does, now more than ever is the critical stage to hold space for whatever comes up for your partner without judging it.

(Hold space is a term that I'm sure not many of you are familiar with. Essentially, it means to focus on being present, loving, and without judgment. Check out this blog post for more: Understanding How to Hold Space).

Accepting That the Spiritual Path May Complete the Relationship
I like to use the term "completion" in regards to relationships ending. Many people consider any relationship ending to be some kind of failure or great sadness. I don't think that way. I think some relationships are meant to serve a purpose for a little while and then to close. All things arise and then fall away. And stepping into the space of spirituality may cause your lover to decide that he or she has to move on from you. This can really hit all the hot buttons. You thought you were strengthening the relationship. You thought that this would bring you both closer together, and beforehand, perhaps you'd thought about ending it. And now your partner comes and says that s/he can't be with you anymore.

It's hard. I know.

But it also may be time. You both will have served each other to the best of your abilities, and your partner is now honoring the truth of this situation. That's a beautiful thing. See if you can let it end honorably, lovingly, and completely. This isn't a tragedy. It may be hard, depending on your living situation. But it may now be making space for better partners for both of you. And that's okay.

Letting the Healing and Transformation Continue
For many of you, you have a lot to heal through relationships. So the next relationship may be very temporary for you. Or it may not. Sometimes as our spirituality deepens and we move through something major, our cycles of completion speed up. People and relationships flow in and out of our lives faster and faster. That's okay. You're heading towards a critical juncture in your life. Go into these moments and intimate relationships as deeply as you can. Allow this deeper healing and cultivation of intimacy to further transform you. Because as you transform, you are calling forth a more able partner to travel with you on your spiritual journey, and while no one will stay with any of us forever, it is a beautiful thing to continue to learn how to connect deeply, profoundly, and even more lovingly with new partners as they appear in our lives.
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