Excerpt from Amy Edelstein’s book Love, Marriage & Evolution: Chapter 3
We depend on our partners for so many things and we share so much together. Some people feel that the romantic context is our arena for personal work—that because we’re so involved with each other, our partners are the best people to use as our mirrors and work out our personal knots. Not necessarily. This is subtle territory. Just because we live with our partners doesn’t mean that they are our on-call therapist available 24/7, regardless of what’s happening for them.
It’s essential that we truly recognize that our partners have their own lives, their own interests, their own involvements, their own concerns, their own pressures, and their own obligations.
We each have needs, rhythms, and flows. We’re also each sensitive to how we feel with and are perceived by the other. Of course certain reactions get triggered. Caring about each other means we treat each other with respect and sensitivity. This agreement can have profound results in relationships.
It’s essential that we truly recognize that our partners have their own lives, their own interests, their own involvements, their own concerns, their own pressures, and their own obligations. Therefore, we can’t impose ourselves on them just because we’re a “couple.” This posture of respect allows our partner the freedom to be and to breathe, and for them to be there for us when we truly need their support. The more we respect each others’ time, attention, and emotional space, the less chance there will be for miscommunication and the more opportunities to support each other.
It is so important to become sensitive to each other in this way. But this takes putting our attention on what’s most important at the time, and letting go, renouncing our own neediness while bearing our own emotional insecurities and challenges. In short, it means being responsible for ourselves as the mature adults that we are.
For many of us our closest spiritual “community” is with our partners, but it’s unrealistic to rely on one relationship to support us in every aspect of our lives. Many of us have a healthy ambition when it comes to our inner development. We want to progress, we want to create, we want to evolve, we want to be examples. Learning how to do this with balance and grace, subtlety and flexibility in our closest relationships takes time and attention. It’s a mission and goal that we can work on together, and learning how to do this (rather than working out our issues on each other) builds trust, love, appreciation, and gratitude.
If we’re on a spiritual path and find ourselves challenged by something, for instance, personal idiosyncrasies that we need to change, we cannot simply dump this on our partner. There are times we need help to free ourselves of our blind spots.
We’ll need input from someone with vision and a vantage point higher than our own. Cultivating relationships with others who can provide that for us, developing a congregation, a sangha, a spiritual community that can offer that degree of clear vision will support us to go much farther and will make our own process of transformation and change one that is inspiring to our spouses. Working out this process with your partner alone puts enormous pressure on that relationship, which is simultaneously your sexual relationship, and often your financial relationship, and a source of love, affection, camaraderie, daily support, and companionship. That’s a lot to impose on and expect from a single friendship. We want to extend our network so that we have other committed relationships with peers who share a spiritual path.
We can work with other friends in a deep way and then share these insights in our relationship, enriching it with unexpected growth. If you don’t live in a spiritual community or have close spiritual friends with whom you feel sufficiently connected, then you’re going to have to tread lightly with this one. You’re going to have to think about ways to bring in respect and establish boundaries that protect your mutual development. Simultaneously, you might want to start looking for ways to extend your network while your partner does the same thing. Doing so will allow your marriage to become unexpectedly warm and fulfilling.
This is an excerpt from Amy Edelstein’s new book Love, Marriage & Evolution. If you like what you read here please download the entire book, and share this content with friends and family.