“Fulfilled souls like to be alone, because they never really are.”
When it comes to relationships, most of us preoccupy ourselves with what kind of partner to be with.
We wonder if they are smart, rich, sexy, young, old, spiritual, healthy, emotionally available, or fun enough. But few seem to question — more deeply than a passing musing — why one wants or needs a partner in the first place.
If our hearts are open, so to speak, we want to be close to all of life. Our drive to partner, I believe, is significantly influenced by how much of our intimacy needs can be met through other relationships, including with ourselves.
To come to a decision on this, we have to spend good stretches of time with ourselves, outside of relationship, to truly learn just how far we can go, and how much self-fulfillment we can find without a romantic intimate other.
This path of self-fulfillment is tough to cultivate in relationship, yet crucial to make our relationships holy.
After seeing how far you can go outside of relationship, after filling your cup in this way to the extent possible, if you decide that a romantic partner is desired, you can gain a clearer sense of what is only possible in partnership and what your true motives are for wanting a partner.
With self-fulfillment cultivated outside relationship, we are less willing to want to sacrifice our hard-won happiness and fulfillment for the struggles, energy consumption, distraction, and drama that inevitably come with trying to fit two complex human beings into the same relatively small space of one life, including all the trimming of our character this often requires.
Despite all the perks of partnering, the amount of nonsense we are willing to put up with in partnership depends perhaps on how inspired the rest of our life is.
If it doesn’t feel so important and purpose-driven, if we haven’t made that journey to see how far we can go in self-fulfillment, and if we’re not called to be alone for significant stints, or if life is just sort of boring and empty alone, then a partner can seem more attractive, if not necessary.
But coming to that relationship from this place of relative emptiness usually rewards us with stress and emptiness, at which point we might realize and wonder,
“Wow, who am I alone? What is my purpose? I think I need to be alone to get my act together and figure some of this out!”
And being alone does do the trick, if one can persist long enough to move through the initial delirium tremens of aloneness… which are just the initial shakes on the way to shaking free to be with everything.
At this point, it might become clearer that one of the things we can’t get alone, and that we crave, is sex.
Ah, Nature is so smart! But to what degree can we truly gain perspective on sexual desire and the meaning of that drive (and therefore of relationship at all) without having cultivated our own creativity, our passionate service, our self-fulfillment and intimacy with the natural world to a deep level?
If we are truly honest (and this is just for you for no one is taking notes, except your own soul’s joy), how much do we want a partner for sexual interests weighed against non-sexual ones? A reality check clue for this is to notice what interests you about someone new you have you eye on — your attraction to their body versus their character — and what you act on.
This can be a gauge for determining your self-interest versus an interest in partnering to join and serve the world in grounded fashion (not just experience an ethereal “oneness” through sexual ecstasy). What I am getting at is that so much of our underlying interest in partnering isn’t so obvious unless we consciously investigate our drives and cultivate our inner life.
And if we remain in the dark about ourselves, our drives and reasons for action can short-change our hearts and soul callings. I discuss more of this in my recent article, Sex – Truth and Dare, Pleasure and Purpose.
In the end, we may still want to partner up. We may even need to in order to grow and reach our potential. But, how often do we earnestly — whole-heartedly — embrace the painful parts of relationship for growth?
Usually we just want our immediate needs met, to be fulfilled where likely we should have filled the spiritual tank before coupling.
On the other hand, if we have passed through a robust process of self-enrichment and self-inquiry, maybe, just maybe, we can come to relationship that much more whole, that much more full, with a lot less of the inner voids that we seek to have fulfilled by another, to remain comfy — those that grab and grab and twist into a thousand different configurations stranger than the strangest yoga poses.
It might also mean that we have that much more to give, and less to need, or try to take, from our would-be partners. Maybe we would seek a partner based more on character, and just enough sexual attraction, with whom we could build a stronger bridge into the world?
So, when it comes to relationships, let’s consider partnering with ourselves first, find out who we are and what we need before getting involved. Then, we can figure the rest of what we couldn’t figure out alone in relationship, if we choose to go there.
At the very least, doing this creates a rich inner life, a treasure no one can take from us and which we can’t really give away, even when the proverbial shit hits the fan.
We need to marry ourselves, at least for a time, before we start trying to decide if someone else has what we want and what we think we need from them… because we don’t know what we need, because we don’t know the extent of our own inner resources which too often lay dormant in relationship.
Now, relationship can reveal these to us, but it requires that we embrace heartbreak to do so, which is why I asked above: how often do we earnestly — whole-heartedly — embrace the painful parts of relationship for growth?
Not owning our own compass first, relating with another person’s complexity in addition to our own, and without knowing our inner resources to turn pain into pleasure, can be undoing and disastrous.
At some point we have to marry ourselves.
New Paradigm Partnering
“The old dating mentality became part of our social framework hundreds of years ago when marriage was based on survival. Partnering up helped us with the intense physical effort of feeding and clothing ourselves, fitting into societal/religious expectations, and tracking the dozen or so kids we’d need to raise to help run the farm.” ~ R. Mihalko
So much energy goes into that one special other we decide to couple with — not only to satisfy them, but to work out our differences.
In a sense, I see goof reason for changing even what is considered the modern alternative to partnering and marriage. At a time when the world begs for our greater participation, how much is left of us to give to it?
When we are already busy enough, and perhaps too busy, could our caring be used differently? What if we took all that energy devoted to one special other and gave it to ourselves for a time so we could then give it to many, either of our own venture or coupled with someone else who wants to expand grounded care into the world instead of retreat from it?
If we found a more creative relationship with passion, belonging, and calling, I think many more of us could fall happily into Joanna Macy’s World as Lover, World as Self vision of intimacy.
World as Lover, World as Self
So, here’s a proposition, something to consider, to whatever degree seems appropriate, even just as a way to shift a stagnant relationship. Or maybe this is timely if you are single, burned out on crash and burn dating, or finally want to merge more deeply with yourself and what calls you from your deepest self:
Is being in relationship the right choice at all? Being single and taking the world on as lover, tempestuous consort, can be the new eco-intimacy — unless your partnership with another serves primarily as a bridge into the world more than a refuge from it.
This way, each of us can become more available for a bigger-picture loving, fuller participation with the world that needs us now — embracing all as special for collective change and grounded Oneness, which is another way of saying “justice.”
Special relationships have their place, especially if they bring us into specialness with everything else. Whether this happens for us or not depends lots on how much of ourselves we have fulfilled on our own, to what degree we have cultivated our own soulfulness and heeded its calls.
If we are partnered, especially if for a time, then it also depends on how much we have grown through our relationship and reached into the world… something like a big, beautiful, robust, and deeply rooted forest tree. This tree stands firmly in itself, both giving and receiving from its forest of relations.
By Jack Adam Weber L.Ac., Dipl. C.H., Wakeup World