One of the fundamentals of understanding love is that love comes from within oneself rather than from someone else. Getting this understanding backwards is a not a subtle misunderstanding that usually leads to co-dependency. It is true that someone else can help you to access that place of love within yourself and add to it, but this is not the same as being the source. Not acknowledging or consciously accessing that the divine source of love within is where people often get very confused in relationships.
Another level of relationship confusion is the politically correct term “unconditional love”. As a family therapist I consistently see that people and healthy and successful relationships usually have bottom lines. In other words, there is a healthy conditionality in relationships that needs to be respected and not idealistically ignored. This is important to be aware and sensitive because when these bottom lines get crossed there may be irreversible damage to the relationship. It is important that one maintains dignity and self-respect in relationship. Even if the relationship ends, it is important that one should come out of the relationship loving oneself. Respected bottom lines are healthy, because they maintain self-esteem, create a sense of safety, and help to avoid unnecessarily irreparable damage to a relationship, which often occurs when bottom lines are crossed. It’s productive to verbalize these often conscious or suppressed “bottom lines” in relationship between all family members so that everyone knows where they stand, and/or if one even has a conscious stance. It may be confusing for people because they have theoretical, politically correct belief about how they “should” be unconditionally loving and therefore “anything goes”, rather than setting physical, psycho-social, spiritually healthy boundaries that honor and protect the love in a relationship. A healthy relationship benefits immensely from healthy boundaries and clarifications as they create safety, which is essential for mature intimacy to develop.
A third level of understanding in relationship is you may love the other person, but not necessarily love the relationship. Or you can love the relationship, but not really love the other person. This nuance is a little subtle yet important. Sometimes people love each other but they simply cannot get along in an intimate relationship. The fear of intimacy dynamics may be such that they cannot work out their family of origin issues or differing personality issues within their relationship. Polarity in relationship, which is part of the attraction is beneficial, yet if there is too much or too little polarity it may not work. For a healthy relationship you have to love yourself, love the other person and love the relationship.
A healthy intimate relationship involves the physical aspect, the mental aspect, the emotional aspect, and the spiritual aspect. All of these have to be in line for a full complete sacred, intimate relationship. Sacred relationship, a deeper level of relationship, which is a relationship which invokes the Divine in all levels of interaction, and in which you are committed to elevating your partner as well as yourself to the highest spiritual potential. This is an optimal interdependent but not codependent relationship. In an interdependent relationship you are happy in the relationship but you do not need the relationship. You are choosing the relationship because it is one that creates continuous elevation, but your existence or your survival does not depend on the other. Naturally when two people partner there has to be a cooperative interdependence. A key part of relationship is the ability and joy of working as a team. In the most successful evolutionary evolving ongoing sacred relationships the Divine is included as a partner. That teamwork is in the context of interdependence not co-dependence; one of choice not need. Love is the language of relationship. It is also the love-connecting fire of relationship that opens up the door to intimacy. Intimacy is not a one night’s stand in which people are all tender and touchy. Intimacy is an enduring aspect of the relationship in which people are able to maintain an openhearted love and a sense of safety. In order to have intimacy you have to feel safe. Moments of intimacy are not the same thing as steady, safe, and ongoing romantic love that sustains the ups and downs of what is going on. This is why sacred relationships are both the oldest and newest frontier.
One contributing factor as to why our society is breaking down is that people’s fear of intimacy, often from growing up in dysfunctional family of origin relationships, is becoming stronger than the power of love. The challenging question that I am putting out there is – “Are you willing to allow the power of love to overcome your fear of intimacy?” The cosmic play in relationship is for love to encourage one to overcome their fear of intimate relationship.
When we look at that whole complexity of relationship we understand that one spiritual purpose of intimate relationships is to enhance one’s spiritual development. There are other forms of relationship in addition to sacred, intimate relationships. There are dharmic relationships, which may be for raising children or sharing a specific life mission. There are relationships where there is a specific healing of the rift between male and female energies. The He-Adam and the She-Adam were androgynous before there was a split. Intimate relationship slowly brings them back together again. The cosmic teaching is one becomes two, becomes one. The two become one flesh.
Enduring intimate relationships do not need a marriage contract validated by the state. The state is not needed to legislate intimate relationships. Intimate relationships are a spiritual contract. Marriage, which is about bringing life into the world –Be fruitful and multiply, also does not need a state certification either unless you like the idea of having the state have jurisdiction over your children. People sometimes ask about gay and lesbian relationships. I performed same-sex marriages as early as the mid-1970s, when few clergy were willing to do them. I was one of the few options for gay or lesbian couples who felt they needed to be married. In these relationships there are still male and female polarity elements and intimacy issues that arise from family of origin experiences just as with heterosexual relationships. These sacred relationships can be as spiritually evolving as any other relationship. In my 40 years of working with all combinations of relationships, the fundamental dynamics of all sacred relationships are basically the same.
The meaning of intimacy, the goal of sacred relationship, is about relationship as a spiritual path (a broader category). Marriage is a subcategory of sacred intimate relationship. Love of self, partner, and God is the foundation of all sacred relationships and most all relationships. The ability to love another transcends gender and depends on one experiencing the source of love within one’s own heart and the rejoicing and experiencing that in the other. This is way beyond sexual lust as a foundation of relationship. Sacred intimate relationships in any form remain the great and challenging frontier of our society. The ability to love intimately is the eternal and final frontier. Are we up to the challenge? Or do we not even acknowledge and honor it as a challenge?