A relationship can be an exciting spiritual path to the unknown. It offers an ever-present opportunity to grow―a path to spiritual transformation and mutual discovery and ultimately the divine. The word spirituality derives from "spiritus," meaning vitality or breath of life. Like an electric charge, that force awakens our soul. The more we’re aligned with it, the stronger and more alive is our soul. We tap into this power each time we express ourselves authentically.
Consider spiritual concepts, such as faith, surrender, truth, compassion, and love. As we practice these principles in our relationships, they have a synergistic effect, reinforcing one another and strengthening us.
Faith and Surrender
Faith is the first spiritual premise. A relationship with a higher source or higher power, however defined, must be our priority, because when we make someone or something (like an addiction or ambition) more important, we not only live in fear, but we also lose ourselves–our soul.
In relationships, faith in a higher power enables us to surrender our well-being and self-worth to something other than another person. It helps us rise above our fears and build autonomy and self-esteem. When we trust that we won’t disintegrate from loneliness, fear, shame, or abandonment, we’re able to brave rejection and separateness from our partner.
Surrender requires patience, which also comes from faith. If we want to relinquish controlling our relationships, we must have the confidence to wait. On the other hand, when our fears and defenses are activated, we end up hurting the relationship in our attempts to maintain it.
Our spiritual and psychological development soars when we speak and act congruently in alignment with our Self, especially when we feel we have the most to lose. With faith, we gain the courage to chance our partner’s displeasure and speak the truth. Honest, authentic assertive communication replaces passive and/or aggressive attempts to please and manipulate.
Expressing our vulnerability invites others to be vulnerable also. This builds our spiritual power, resiliency, and autonomy. By giving loving, non-interfering attention, a safe, healing environment is created. When reciprocated, we no longer feel the need to hide, and our ability to risk and be vulnerable grows. Then true intimacy becomes possible.
Compassion and Love
Acceptance is essential for satisfying relationships. Yet, we can only accept and have compassion for our partner to the degree to which we accept and have compassion for ourselves. Compassion develops from self-knowledge and self-acceptance. It requires we surrender the demands of our ego to live up to unrealistic, unforgiving demands and expectations. When we understand our own and our partner's tender points and struggles―our “triggers”― we become less reactive. Then we can listen without judgment, without taking our partner’s thoughts and feelings so personally.
Bridges of mutual empathy with our partner permit us to achieve deeper levels of acceptance and compassion for ourselves and one another. We stop clinging to expectations and ideas about how we and our partner should be. Instead, we experience both our Self and our partner as unique and separate.
Anxiety and the need for defensive behaviors that cause problems in relationships gradually dissolve. The relationship becomes a haven for two souls to experience themselves and each other in a space of love and respect. As trust grows, the relationship makes space for greater freedom and acceptance.
Intersubjective Spiritual Healing
In an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion, unconditional love can spontaneously arise. Martin Buber believed that spirit resides not in us, but between us. He explained that the “I-Thou” experience gives rise to a numinous, spiritual force, a “presence” in which we experience our true Self.
Experiencing the Self in this milieu feels exhilarating. When we’re not trying to hide, intimacy supports our wholeness. Paradoxically, as we risk losing our partner, we gain ourselves, and although we’re now closer than before, we’re more autonomous. The Self becomes substantial and more individuated.
Our defenses, which we thought kept us safe and made us strong, have not only been obstacles to intimacy, but have also fortified old feelings of inadequacy, which stifled our Self and true inner strength. Trusting our vulnerability, we hesitatingly walk through our fears. We grow in faith, self-compassion, and courage each time we express our authentic Self. By risking defenselessness, we begin to see ourselves and others more clearly. We uncover who we truly are, our divinity, within an intimate, “I-Thou” space of unconditional love.
We realize that we’re enough―that our wholeness and self-acceptance don’t depend on what others think, but on self-awareness. Our past conditioning and emotional blocks slowly evaporate, and we become stronger. By living in a state of presence, our lives are enriched and vital. Our being generates healing that strengthens our soul.
Such a relationship necessitates two people committed to a spiritual process. Of course, relationships require safety. Learning to value and protect ourselves are also lessons on our spiritual journey. When we don’t feel safe, we have an inherent right and duty to protect ourselves―not through defensive maneuvers, but by directly expressing our feelings, needs, and wants. Sometimes, we must set boundaries or leave a toxic relationship.
Relationship as a spiritual path requires a willingness to experience the pain of working through our fears and old programming and a belief that in truthfulness lies freedom. In most cases, couples get closer. A healthy relationship will flourish, and an inappropriate one will end.
Compassion starts with self-love. Listen to a Self-Love Meditation.
Copyright Darlene Lancer 2019