Friday, February 23, 2007

The Marriage Industrial Complex, Part 2--Spiritual Partnerships

In my first post on marriage, which I referred to as an industrial complex, I examined the institution’s current state, it's history and the many challenges that many people face in the attempt to fit their modern lives into what I deem to be an archaic set up ( I am not married so this is an outsider's view). Recently, author and leader in the New Thought Movement, Gary Zukav appeared on Oprah to discuss the concept of Spiritual Partnerships, which he says, is the new paradigm that will replace traditional marriage. I was truly happy that Oprah had Gary on to discuss this concept and present it to the world. Like myself, Gary Zukav believes that in order for people to become truly evolved, partnerships need to be formed with spiritual growth as the main focus and intention. M. Scott-Peck brought forth a similar vision for people who were looking for something deeper, and more meaningful than the current relationship model in his book The Road Less Traveled.
Spiritual Partnerships are formed with the intention that the two individuals are on a journey, and are together in order to assist one another first and foremost with spiritual growth. Meaning, the traditional roles of "wife" and "husband" that people believe they are forced to assume, are replaced not with another role, but with freedom to grow while learning what would be best for each individual, both practically and spiritually.
I recently experienced an example of this while hanging out with a friend on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland. We met a beautiful man who was with his three-year-old daughter walking along the beach. He lovingly pushed his baby girl in her stroller with the care of someone dedicated to the task at hand, showing her the beauty of the ocean and allowing the sun’s rays to shine lovingly on her beautifully brown and perfectly round little face. My friend, being much more open and outgoing than I, asked the brother what brought him to the beach during the day with his child. The man told us that he ran his own business and spent as much time with his three kids during the day when his wife, after giving birth to their children, proclaimed: "This is not for me!" He took over and became the primary caretaker of his children, since his wife did not feel suited to the traditional role of "mother". I was amazed at the ease with which this young man told the story. He obviously loved and was committed to his wife’s evolution as a person, and was able to accept that his wife felt more comfortable working. He did not force her to assume the role of caretaker and assumed the role himself. As a result, their relationship shifted its dynamic, with each partner assuming different roles in order to preserve the individuals identity. His wife went back to work and he started his own business. He was not afraid to take on a role that is usually reserved for the woman. He was much better suited at taking care of the children than his wife, so it worked for both of them. Both of them obviously wanted to see their family remain intact and both were willing to make the necessary adjustments. This is vastly different from what most people in relationships do, which is try to force each other to assume roles that do not reflect the truth of who they are. This, in my opinion, is what causes people to become despondent in relationships. This man and his partner's choice to do things differently is an example of being committed to your partner on both a practical and spiritual level. A new paradigm.
Gary also talked about how people in marriages and relationships end up so unhappy because people blame and judge each other, making the other person the scapegoat for their own emotional issues and the resulting unhappiness that stems from these issues. He advised couples to take responsibility for their own emotional well-being. He spoke about how maintaining happiness and contentment is first and foremost an inside job. He suggested that once people work on themselves and achieve inner peace, then the state of inner contentment will flow outward and positively impact the relationship. This differs vastly from the current paradigm that exists, of partners endless attempts to figure out how to make the other happy(which we all know is a futile pursuit). Happiness is first and foremost an inside job.
Oprah also brought up the fact that "romance" has really "screwed up" people’s expectations in relationships, and how many people create false expectations of their partners based on the fleeting feelings of romance. Of course neither Oprah nor Gary were suggesting that romance in itself is bad, but that true partnerships are firmly grounded in reality, not fleeting emotions. True partnerships are created intentionally, with both people aware of the work and level of commitment that is required for both individual and collective spiritual growth. It is based on expansion of the individual’s soul. Not, restrictions and control:"You do this to please me, and I do this to please you." And this mutual support exists even if it means that the person evolves beyond the realm of the relationship. Not and easy endeavor to consider, but it sounds much more inviting and liberating than ‘Till death do us part". And even if it is your intention to remain with your partner until death, in the ever-changing world that we live in, we need to make our intentions less permanent, learn to live in the present moment, and deal with the reality that "till death do us part" may not be as long as we think.

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