In primary love relationships -marriage and partnerships -there are three possible stages. These stages are progressive and sequential; you must pass through one to get to the other. Although most of us are stuck in the first stage, to achieve your full life potential you should try to experience all three for the deepening degrees of happiness and fulfillment they offer.
Have you noticed how unhappy people seem to be today in their relationships? Everyone you meet seems to be dissatisfied, discontented, unhappy. We have euphemisms for the series of events that inevitably seem to lead to the relationship breakup: “She and he are going through a hard time just now,” “She says she need some space from the marriage,” “He’s always working late at the office.”
Plus we tend to be judgmental about our friends when they enter into a new relationship. More euphemisms: “He’s not good enough for her,” “I don’t know what he sees in her,” “They make a very strange couple.”
Or critical. Euphemisms again: “I think they deserve each other,” “What an ugly pair,” “He deserves all that she gives him (sarcastically),” “I don’t know why they stay together.”
The only ideal couples are the actor and celebrity ones – and this in a week when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are breaking up (no surprise there) and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are not (big surprise there) – but then again, they are actors of course!
In the real world of ordinary, emotional, physical, flawed, vaguely neurotic, sensitive and insensitive, actual individuals, the Beatles and Le Morte d’Arthur comprise the philosophy we live by. Whether we know it or not. So, when John Lennon sings, “Love is the answer” or when we, in dreams both waking and sleeping, meet the partner of our dreams we are embarking on a preordained, archetypal journey into love. But love has three distinct levels or stages in the full human experience.
These three stages are self-love, love of another and, finally, spiritual love, and this is what this article is about.
The first stage is the one in which relationships show you yourself. This is true whether you are aware of it or not. This is why marriage and partnerships do not have a good success rate. We think that relationships are fun, the partner an object of desire, and that pleasure and satisfaction can only follow. Some or all of this may be true, but far more potent and relevant than all these is the mirror the relationship holds up in front of you. People do not like to see themselves. They shy away from the accurate reflection. When your partner tells you how moody you are, or how impossible to live with, or nasty, unforgiving, or insensitive you are, your first thought is to leave the relationship. Preposterous though this may sound, isn’t this why relationships usually finish? We don’t like what we are seeing in ourselves.
The way to approach relationships is as a learning experience, learning about ourselves so that we can grow in awareness and insight about ourselves and, over time, become more the person we would like to be, less reactive, controlling and controlled, less subject to automatic impulses and more liberated, awake and expansive, more loving, happier and more fulfilled.
The second stage is the one in which relationships help you to grow in love. Once you have got over yourself and your repressed emotions and unfinished business, you have some inner space for the person you’re in the relationship with. Time to be with them, to listen to them, to act selflessly sometimes and to love them. One of the primary functions of love in outward expression is to give time. When you love somebody you find that you have time for them. And you want to spend time – quality time – together. As you learn to relate more deeply to your partner, you find that your heart expands and you feel the flow of love within you. Loving is a circular flow, irresistible and endless, and the more you love your partner or spouse, the more love you have available for yourself, for others and for the world about you.
The third stage is the one in which you live as companions in God or your Divine nature. It bears repeating that you are a spiritual being having a human experience. You don’t have to wait for time to convince you of this. Although as you age, it will become more apparent to you. In middle years and old age (even within this predominantly pro-youth culture) you increasingly orient yourself to the immaterial world and your approaching demise. The spiritual, inner world becomes more real for you and your relationship to the spiritual backdrop and forms in which you live and exist become more central to your life. You are growing in love, knowledge, and inevitably, wisdom.
If you are fortunate enough to have a loving relationship and a life companion alongside you, you look with the eyes of the Divine upon him or her and you celebrate your partner, along with all the other gifts of this divine world. Passing through the spiritual and transcendent realms of truth and reality, you turn your face to God, to the Divine, together.
These are the deepening stages of love in marriage and partnership.