Intimacy and Passion in Relationships — keeping intimacy and passion alive… it’s not as difficult as it seems. Featuring ideas from my most popular book, This Endless Moment 2nd. edition
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How do we find intimacy and passion in our lives? For some, the search for either is fraught with peril — for others, it is a seemingly unattainable goal.
We begin this week’s explorations with the following e. e. cummings quote, (found in my present favourite book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry ) —
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest human battle ever and to never stop fighting.“
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry Jack Kornfield, p. 213
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OMG! Is that what I think it is???
I suspect that most people go through life singing a variation on, “One Day my Prince(ss) shall come.”
I once worked with a client whose husband had been married three times. One of her issues was that he had met another woman, and was heading off to spend a month with her. His mission was to see if she was, finally, the “right woman for him.”
My client was trying to figure out what her husband wanted.
Actually, what he wanted was clear. He told her what he wanted. He told her that, for all his life, he had been looking for the one woman who would both “turn him on” forever, and with whom building a relationship would be “easy.”
His marker that he was with the wrong woman? Any hint of disagreement, any reluctance on her part to instantaneously meet his needs.
Now, we can shake our heads here, but I don’t think this guy is all that much different from most people who haven’t gotten the “relationship thing” figured out. He’s just more honest about what’s going on in his head. He’s looking for unconditional love and unconditional sex. He’s confusing the first with relationship, and the second with living life passionately.
It’s clear that this guy, (and most folk in relationship,) are basically going, “If only my partner were more (intelligent, caring, sexy, demonstrative, etc.) and less (angry, weepy, sarcastic, etc.) then I would be happy.” They look outside of themselves for what’s wrong and then spend the entire relationship trying to fix the other person.
I, on the other hand, think that being in relationship is about providing witnessing and mirroring for our partner’s self-exploration. I am in relationship to learn about myself from the honest feedback of another — and vice-versa.
That’s e. e. cummings’s point.
I did actually see my client’s husband once — he later found another therapist. He told his wife that I asked too many questions — he want a therapist who would “just listen.”
Now, call me daft, but it seems to me silly to listen to someone describe, over and over, what they do to make themselves miserable, as if, by mere repetition, somehow they’ll change something.
My advice, as you would suspect, was for this guy to go inside of himself and examine his own belief system — to, in short, figure himself out. Something was out of whack for him, and it wasn’t his wife.
Her issue was why she chose to be in relationship with this guy.
So, what are the practicalities here?
Each and every one of us needs one or a few intimate friends,
with whom we can “play” the mirroring game.
This is such a lame example, but a couple of friends were visiting, and after a swim in the pool, I was lounging around, reading. Their dog had been in the pool. The dog wanders over and shakes, right next to me. I and my book got wet.
So I said a rude thing to the dog and sent her away. Five minutes later, the dog’s been back in the pool, and, you guessed it, came right back over and shook all over me. Dar was vacuuming the pool, and… and… she laughed!!
Well, I started sulking and went into the house. When Dar came in later, I said, “I’m really angry that you laughed at me.” She replied, “You might want to look at why you are angering yourself over this.” That’s mirroring.
Now, I decided to choose to be miserable for an hour or so, but I was fully aware of that choice, and announced that this was what I was going to do. In other words, I owned my own responsibility for my anger.
And I don’t care what your issue is — the question is never about your partner’s behaviour. It’s always about yours.
The contract Darbella and I have is to stay present with each other, to listen without attempting to change the other, and to be honest. That’s it. This approach to life means that both of us have chosen to explore the depths of who we are as individuals, and to share that exploration with each other, and also with a select few intimate friends.
The piece I want to reiterate is that, with self knowledge comes choice, not change. Change implies that, with time and practice, I can totally stop from being a certain way. This, I am afraid, is not possible.
As Jack Kornfield, in After the Ecstasy, the Laundry writes, wisdom is being able to be at one with ourselves.
“Like Ram Dass, who became a connoisseur of his own neuroses, we come to know ourselves as we truly are, but without indulgence or self pity. When we are truly aware of our feelings while not being bound by their energies, we can choose: no matter what the circumstances, we are free to follow our wisdom.” (pg.213)
And then there is passion.
From a Bodywork (see this page for more on the pelvis / lower back) perspective, there is a direct parallel between passion for life (located in the lower back) and erotic and sexual and sensual energy (located in the front pelvic/genital region.)
And it is so with all of our feelings. The depth of our loving, for example, is directly proportional to our ability to express our fear, which is love’s opposite. (Both are located at the heart chakra.) If our expression of passion is limited to a few minutes of sex, the depth of our passion for life is also going to be paper thin.
Opening to ecstasy, to passion, to the utter bliss of life is a spiritual discipline involving every cell of our bodies. In our rush to accumulate toys, bigger bank balances or more notches on the bed post, we miss the one thing all souls crave — depth. Indeed, most people who “count notches” of whatever they measure their “worth” with are lost in a shallowness that only partially disappears with the next conquest.
Instead, there is the depth of passion that comes from taking the time to go deeply into ourselves, feel our feelings and stay there, in a decidedly goal-less way. I find that Bodywork, as it allows us to release more and more of the tightness that comes from suppressing the things we hurt ourselves with, often opens into feelings that are both mind and body altering.