We’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, which is a time when all of us give a little extra nurturing to intimate relationship. If you’ve been married for 40 years, this might be a time to express your gratitude for all that’s been shared. If you’re newly together, this is the season to commit more deeply. And if you’re single, Valentine’s Day often prompts us to think about who we’d like to draw in as a lover.
There are many ways to dedicate an intimate relationship, and this is a great season to stay with the question, “Why do I want to be in an intimate relationship with another person?” It’s a question we don’t always ask ourselves before we jump in.
You probably know that the divorce rate stands at higher than 50%, and even for those who stay together, relationship can be fraught with misunderstanding, hurt feelings and unmet needs. So for most people, this is not an undiluted joyride. The highs and the lows fall into place when we really know deeply why we’re together, and have a clear and shared understanding between us.
One very real reason to share your life with another person is to avoid loneliness. Human beings thrive on touch, connection, interaction, even if it’s sometimes laced with conflict. At the end of the second World War, hundreds of thousands of babies in Europe ended up in camps. Their parents had either been killed in the war, or separated from their children. Initially a policy was introduced not to touch the children, for fear of infecting them with disease. The small babies didn’t grow well, had little appetite, they were floundering. Then, as an experiment, the policy was reversed: “Touch, pick the children up, hold them as much as possible. Give them human touch and we’ll take the risk.” The same babies were now thriving. So that’s a good and real reason to want to be in a relationship: simply to have contact with another person.
A second reason many people choose to be in a committed relationship is to raise a family. As many of us know, there’s a tremendous fulfillment in pouring the best of what you have into your young children, and watching them flourish and grow, perhaps beyond the ways that you’ve been able to do yourself. We’ve raised two boys. My oldest is now off to University. It’s probably the greatest sense of fulfillment in my life, to see these two young men as healthy, capable and creative. It takes a team of adults to pull that off.
And the list goes on. You could want to be in a committed relationship so as to have regular sex. For sure, that’s also important, but probably not enough to sustain a relationship on it’s own.
I met my wife, Chameli, 10 years ago. We met in Sweden when I was over for a visit, and then we didn’t see each other for many months afterward. We had contact by email and phone, and slowly began to realize that we had the possibility for a deeper kind of relationship. But these few months really gave us the opportunity to dive more deeply into the question, “why do I want to be in a relationship?” It was actually a great benefit to us to be separated in this way while we could each get clear about this question.
To break free of the automatic habits of distraction and emotional reactivity, so as to live your deepest nature in an abiding way, can be very challenging. Mainstream culture doesn’t really support it very much. For this reason, some people have chosen to live in a community with a teacher, or to be frequently on retreat. We came to discover that intimate relationship, or a marriage, can, if it’s dedicated in the right way, become the ideal context to support living awakening.
So this is another possible way to dedicate a marriage, one among many. You come to discover that you can be more honest with yourself, that you can drop deeper in yourself, that you can discover your unique gift and give it more courageously in the world, with the support of a fellow traveler by your side. Of course, we’ve raised two boys together. Of course we enjoy our sexuality and sharing good food and friends. But it’s this deepest dedication of transforming marriage into a spiritual discipline, that has brought us the greatest fulfillment.
We’ve been supporting couples and singles for many years now in this approach to relationship, which we call The Deeper Love. Please join us for a tele-seminar this Thursday, February 2nd, at 6pm. We’ll be delighted to share more with you about The Deeper Love, and to enter into a dialogue together.
We are offering our Deeper Love Retreat-at-Home, a complete course for couples and singles, which you can do over 30 days, for 50% off, up through Valentine’s Day. We have 50 sets available at this price. If you’d like to grab one, you can do so here. Enter the code “valentine” for a 50% discount.