In today's "me, me, and more about me" world--many people do not think outside of the personal realm of work, money, and appearances. More and more people live as if on a private island. Eventually, after wandering around, onefinds that the island is deserted--and we are truly alone.
There is a beginning. Loneliness itself is a catalyst.
As technology becomes more ubiquitous, relationships suffer. Meeting someone with whom we share important values and virtues is becoming more challenging and relatively rare. More and more people report that even though they have plenty of interaction on social media, they feel bereft, depressed or lonely. People "text it in," instead of calling one another or spending face-to-face time. It is easy to say, "I'm busy." We mustn't lose sight of the fact that it is in relationships--of all kinds--that we are bound to learn the most about ourselves.
Spiritual partnership is something that transcends normal relationship. The notion that we can singularly and autonomously learn everything we need on our own has natural limits. Inevitably, when we choose to enter a relationship of any kind, we wish to learn. We move into collaboration at work to learn; we enter parenting to learn, we move into intimacy, to learn. Anyone who denies this, or posits that the individual can exist fully and autonomously in any relationship without self-reflection or introspection and sharing is signaling that they do not want to be in a relationship or worse, that they feel they have nothing to share or learn from another person.
There exists a paradox in all relationships like everything else, of course. I will tell you that I believe most people choose relationship for the wrong reasons and do not have a deep one—and so, pent up anxiety from not having dealt squarely with themselves, and resentment for the inability (rightfully so) of the other to help them, is almost inevitable. Too many people end up living in a sort of quiet desperation for their choice—and that choice is derived directly from their failure to have done the needed, depth of work on themselves before they entered into the relationship.
I ascribe to the notion that we ought not to process our shortcomings, our “issues” in the context of the relationship. When we do, we kill the relationship. There is truth in the notion that we must come to relationships whole—not to be made whole. No one makes another person “whole”. I also believe that romance has nothing to do with relationship—and that all the feelings we usually associate with it—can be organic, intimate, and real without the overlay of “romance,” or infatuation, or obsession. Many people (myself included) have tortured themselves for these very reasons—the ego and the “not-whole” part of our self-gets a hold of a deep, unresolved emotional need, or the sex, or wants more emotional support than their partner can muster, and the relationship suffers. This dilemma is often overlooked by therapists, marriage councilors, and clergy. Most people believe that a partner should be everything, wife, husband, therapist, friend, co-parent, and that is a nearly impossible expectation for anyone to live up to.
We cannot be anything for anyone but what we are naturally for ourselves. I’d add that relationship—real, relationship where the individual is fully celebrated, allows the other person to emerge fully, to be free fully; and in the end, yes concessions need be made, compromise need be made—but what happens when one partner needs the other? We must find someone whose needs basis is the same as ours. Finally, I wouldn’t ever ignore the issue of day-to-day compatibility. Can I live with this person’s moods, quirks, needs, even faults, and still fully love them—have a deep respect resonating so much so that they are not made to feel dumb, ashamed or less worthy because they sometimes behave in ways that I do not like.
The Dalia Lama was once asked—Why be a monk? Isn’t there great value in intimacy? And he responded, “Yes of course, but that is a yoga that I have somber concerns about”. Today—I do believe that unless a person or two people have an explicit, long-winded, knock-down, drag it all out and put it on the table conversation about what relationship is—perhaps over an initial period, then the risk is greater. At 46, I am not willing to risk my heart without examination, without thorough exploration, without a real connection.
Like everyone else, I have had many disappointments— not because of other people, but because I did not take my needs seriously enough because I was motivated by the wrong things and the wrong people for me who did not share the primary value I speak of here. Chief amongst my concerns, maybe the most important in fact, is that of having a spiritual connection that is front and center—paid attention to, cultivated and encouraged every day. The “work” of a relationship is then a practice and less work. The relationship IS the spiritual path. With respected freedom and autonomy for the individual and spirituality at the core—there can be something more than two people making eggs and f-cking.
When two people come together out of choice, without compunction, or pressure, without unrealistic expectations, the relationship begins in earnest. They choose to love one another with the highest measure of consciousness that they can muster--and that is an awareness borne of reality and acceptance.