Tag Archives: Spiritual Partnership

What Makes a Great Relationship?

cute penguin couple - exploredIt seems that everywhere I go, every conversation I choose to engage in, the relationship issue shows up as the central theme. If I thought monogamy was a hot topic, it seems relationships are a crackling wildfire. Generally, the feedback I’ve been getting, is that good relationships are few and far between. And, the longer people have been together, the more challenging it appears it is to stay together. How very sad to me.

I recently told someone (a somewhat disheartened woman in a 30-year marriage whose spouse’s hip pain had put out his fire), that I was finally ready to be in a great relationship. She smiled and said she admired my optimism, but our conversation made me quickly realize that I’d be wise to take off my rose-colored glasses and take stock of what’s going on out in the real world. If a good relationship is almost impossible, a great one, although an admirable pursuit, may not be attainable. I’m determined to keep hope alive though.

I admit I’ve been on my own, relationship-less, for many years. My principal relationship has been with myself for all those years. The obvious reason was for my own physical healing (most thought I would not be here to even tell my story). I was so far down that frankly, the only way was up. It was, even more importantly, about my personal spiritual growth.

I’m trusting this concept of personal spiritual growth isn’t big news to anyone anymore. It is part of our human challenge and condition. Anyone who ever watched Oprah might agree that she offered a great service by bringing these kinds of topics to the everyday consciousness. I believe it is an ongoing conversation that needs to happen for our human species to keep evolving. I’m sure this means different things to different people, but I don’t think we can easily ignore it anymore.

My personal belief is that all of us are here to experience and learn through relationships. These opportunities come to us all the time. With parents, children, friends, business associates and even the casual stranger we meet and connect with. Every interaction with another, offers us a chance to be in relationship.

No man is an island.” John Donne.

For me, I’m most curious about the one on one personal and intimate relationship. I remember many years ago reading Gary Zukav define the concept of a “spiritual partnership”. In his incredible 1989 book Seat of the Soul, he says, “A spiritual partnership is a partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.” I know this is what I want, but wonder where do I find the other who is ready for the same thing?

Zukav goes on to brilliantly explain his four “c’s” or guidelines for a spiritual partnership. Briefly, the guidelines are: commitment, courage, compassion and conscious communication and action. It is well worth reading their full explanations here. I learned much from his wise words and know these are what I see as keys to putting the “great” in a relationship.

I’ve actually heard that people make “lists” of the things they are looking for in their ideal partner and stick by that list until they’ve ticked off all the boxes. This seems like somewhat of a futile exercise to me. Personally I’m more about another person’s energy, than a list of must-haves.

I’ve also discovered many people say they are ready for a relationship, but in actuality may not be ready. I smiled when I got a recent Hugh MacLeod Gaping Void daily email. Subject line: Forever. Graphic and Message: It took forever before I was ready… to find you. The piece went on to say:

And as we all know, Mr. or Mrs. Right isn’t just floating out there in the ether like some abstract, platonic ideal. You too have to be ready. You don’t get the person of your dreams ’till you’re ready to be the person of their dreams first. The giving precedes the getting, always. It simply has to.

We do all know this, right? Thank you Hugh!

I’ve been asking for interesting, intelligent, creative, and spiritual men to come into my life, and I admit a few have bravely shown up lately. Age doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. Not to me anyways. I know that in our youth-obsessed culture, if there is to be depth and meaning, it has to be about something more than just the external, the physical.

I was shocked to read that 96 per cent of all adults say they would change something about their appearance if they could. This is one of the factors that led philosopher Jonathan Zap to say,

Suffering associated with body image has reached such epidemic proportions in our culture that it must be counted as one of the greatest spiritual plagues ever to be visited upon mankind.

My recent observations would lead me to agree. A culture that has lost it’s ability to age gracefully, looking for the fountain of youth, hoping to find it using fillers, injections, implants, surgeries and more. It’s not even that hard to tell who is keeping it real anymore. Somehow, it is no longer okay to get older and look it too. This isn’t only a women’s issue, as men are playing catch up in this arena as well. There are lots of statistics, if one cares to check out who’s doing what to themselves in the name of staying young. Perhaps I might need to explore this more fully in another piece.

In regards to the every changing way we do relationships, it is sad to see that current statistics show 50 per cent of all marriages end in divorce. But, the actual statistical breakdown I found, shows even more startling results. The range of results indicates that divorce rates might be anywhere from 50 per cent of first marriages, 67 per cent of second, and 74 per cent of third, depending on the source. The odds seem to clearly be stacked against the possibility of successful marriage.

Enough to make me re-examine how a future relationship might look to me. As one of my men friends recently said to me, “Marriage is a contract two people try to make work.” And I tend to agree. Sometimes for all the wrong reasons if the statistics are correct, and with very discouraging results.

Many years ago Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.” And they are. Many of the institutions we have clung to for so long, including the traditional concept of marriage, are changing. And quickly. I feel grateful that I’m at a place in my life where I have total freedom and can take responsibility for every relationship I choose to be in.

I admit I’m still the little girl who believes in happily ever after, but I’m aware how that must start with happiness from within instead of looking for something out there to “complete me.”

If I can take anything from the brilliance of Marianne Williamson’s lecture “Relationships and Spiritual Adulthood”, it relates to this one line: “It is our job to affirm a person.” She explains, “It’s not our job to change a person. It is our job to celebrate a person. It’s not our job to imprison a person. It is our job to free a person.”

I see a bright and hope filled future in this. The more I do my own spiritual work, I can only draw closer those who are doing theirs as well. Somehow in my own seeking, I continue to trust I will be found.

We all deserve to be seen and loved for who we are, not a media ideal we will never attain. It is our individual responsibility to continue to explore and reveal who we are both as individuals and as a species. This will be the key to attracting the other who themselves is doing the very same work. As the Beatles said, “All you need is love.” Sound too simple? We all deserve to give and receive love. In many ways I believe it is that simple if we allow it to be.

So, let me ask you, what have you found makes a good relationship? Okay, dare I take this up a notch… What makes a great relationship?

Please visit me at:  www.beverleygolden.com

 

Originally published November 2011

The Four Faces of Intimacy

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 5.16.10 PMIt started with a simple question. That question (not surprisingly for anyone who knows me) led to a series of additional questions. When I couldn’t get clear answers for myself, I started asking others. The results of this process have fascinated me, and I wanted to explore the topic more fully. The basic question: “What does intimacy mean to you?”

The range of responses I received was wide and varied. I asked both men and women, different ages, some in relationships and some not. Most people had to stop for a moment to really think about and put into words what intimacy meant to them. As I looked more deeply at the topic, I found that there seem to be four types of intimacy we engage in in our relationships.

1. Sexual Intimacy

The people I asked generally started describing the most common of the four types of intimacy: Sexual. This wasn’t too much of a surprise, as sexual intimacy is probably the most stereotypical and most familiar definition of the word in modern society. Having sex, however, often has less to do with intimacy and more to do with a physical act between people. As it ended up, the people I spoke with desired more than just the physical act of sex, they wanted depth. They wanted to feel safe being vulnerable, wanted to be seen by their partner. That makes sense, as this form of intimacy also includes a wide range of sensuous activity and sensual expression, so it’s much more than having intercourse.

It is interesting that the word intercourse is actually defined as “connection between persons or groups” and as an “exchange especially of thoughts or feelings.” Curious to explore why intimacy is challenging to people in their relationships, I continued to look further.

2. Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy occurs when two people feel comfortable sharing their feelings with each other or when we’re able to empathize with the feelings of another person. The goal of emotional intimacy is to be aware of and understand another person’s internal experience. My guess is that women have an easier time with this, but I’d like to believe that men too are becoming more comfortable experiencing emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a healthy part of the exchange in all relationships, whether female or male. But not everyone is comfortable with it.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D, refers to the fears people have in relation to emotional intimacy. She says that, “Many people have two major fears that may cause them to avoid intimacy: the fear of rejection (of losing the other person), and the fear of engulfment (of being invaded, controlled, and losing oneself).” This makes sense to me.

In this area of intimacy, people must act from their hearts and love unconditionally. As I talked about in my piece on what makes a good relationship, the heart of a spiritual partnership is love. Love is also at the core of emotional intimacy.

3. Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy is personally the face of intimacy I am most comfortable with. This one is all about communication, and as someone who lives and breathes words, it’s extremely familiar to me. Intellectual intimacy happens when two people share ideas and explore the similarities and differences in their personal opinions. The ability to do this in an open and comfortable way can lead to a very intimate relationship indeed. As someone who engages in this type of interaction all the time, I can say that it has offered me a wonderful and fulfilling form of connection with people I care about. I think this may be my strongest area of intimacy.

4. Experiential Intimacy

Experiential intimacy is the intimacy of activity, and it happens every time we get together with a group to create art in a silent process. This type of intimacy is all about letting the art unfold and working together in co-operation. This form of intimacy is not about a verbal sharing of thoughts or feelings, but more about the activity and feeling that emerges from this involvement. I recently experienced this at a Contact Improv jam with a complete stranger. I interacted with a young man, letting our body energy lead the dance, with no eye contact and no words, just movement in a sensual and open, if not dramatic, dance. I was somewhat surprised to learn that experiential intimacy actually is in my intimacy vocabulary.

According to Rick Hanson, Ph.D, to have intimacy in our life, we must have a natural balance of two great themes — joining and separation — which are in fact central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees. He goes on to say that “individuality and relationship, autonomy and intimacy, separation and joining… are often seen at odds with each other, but this is so not the case!” This also made perfect sense to me. Yin and yang. Light and dark. All the polarities we live in life, lead to a balance.

My understanding and curiosity about intimacy were greatly expanded by asking others about what intimacy means to them. I  believe that when we establish balance in the four faces of intimacy, we find a deeper connection and understanding in all the relationships of our life. I also fully recognize that we all have different definitions of intimacy. Are men and women’s definitions dramatically different? A fascinating conversation to continue to explore.

I recently received a daily Gaping Void email by Hugh MacLeod with the subject: Has your soul been seen lately? Synchronistically, the topic was intimacy. What followed was a beautiful way to end my piece:

Intimacy isn’t strictly about romantic relationships, or even relations with family–sometimes it happens quickly, and often times in ways we hardly notice.

I’m talking about that moment when someone allows the world to see what’s inside…what they are really about. It’s about seeing someone for who and what they are and that the glimpse was offered either voluntarily or without the person’s knowledge. This is an incredible moment where our existence suddenly makes sense and all comes together in a singular place. 

For those of you who have experienced this, it’s something that never gets lost in memory or time. It’s like a little mirror we take out every now and then to remember a time when something so complex became so inconceivably simple. It’s pretty incredible.

For me, this is the essence of what intimacy is really all about. Dare to be vulnerable, dare to be seen.

Now let me ask you the question I began with: What does intimacy mean to you?

Visit me at: beverleygolden.com

 

Originally published February 2012

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