Thursday, August 1, 2013

The alchemy of intimacy: should I stay or should I go?

In response to my post from yesterday (The beloved arrives as an electrifying mirror), a few of you have written to ask how to know when it is time to leave a relationship, or whether you are being called to stay, to engage, and to burn; you want to ensure that you’re not habitually turning from that which is unresolved within you, while at the same time honoring the possible truth that it is in fact time to move on. This is such a groundless sort of inquiry, in my experience, and takes real courage to look at closely. I really appreciate how much you care. Because I do not know the details of most of your situations, let me respond more generally here, in as honest as way as I can: I really don’t know. These questions you are raising are some of the most mysterious and subtle in the area of intimate relationship, healing, and couple therapy and, in my experience, just serve to expose the wide-open, groundless dimension of intimacy itself, and remind us that it has not come into our lives to provide surety, certainty, and answers. In sum, you want to know: Am I fleeing out of a habitual need to escape from having to feel those feelings I just don’t want to feel, or has the karma truly run out; has the opportunity that intimacy offers simply burned away?

I wish I had an easy answer for you, my friends, as to whether these particular lovers have come to provide those very core lessons that your heart longs for, or whether the core lesson itself is for you to move away. What I can say, though, with some certainty and experience, is that transitions like these (true death-rebirth experiences for many) require a radical sort of willingness for you to be immensely kind to yourself, and to your partner, and to the field between you – to meet whatever surging feeling or emotion arises in a field of kindness. This does not mean subjecting yourself to abuse or aggression and so forth, but to be willing to receive and to hold the difficult feelings and emotions as they arise in your body, and let in the reality that they may *never* be resolved. In my experience, love has not come into your life to bestow resolution upon you, but to transmit to you its totality and wholeness.

There is clearly a somatic process which is unraveling here and your body and your heart are pleading with you to stay embodied, to stay in the experiential intensity. Somehow, you are being asked to resist the temptation to heal these feelings, transform them, or subject them to your spiritual processes; perhaps there will be a time later to do this. But for now, to somehow cultivate enough caring to stay very experience-close, to stay intimate with your immediate embodied experience as it presents itself. And the only way you could ever do this is through kindness, a kindness that perhaps you have never, ever known. Everything that is arising is valid; all is a pathway of intelligence and creativity, set in motion to reveal to you something important. You need not reject any of it, for your embodied experience is sacred. It is made of the stars and of all of the gods and goddesses that have ever been and ever will be. Please honor it. Love does not need you to heal any of it, transform it, change it, or transcend it.

In my experience, it is only through such a holding environment of kindness and a real embodied willingness to sit in the fires of intimacy’s paradox, knowing that there may not likely be a satisfactory answer, that guidance will arrive. For love it seems (fortunately or not) was not designed to provide us with surety, certainty, and ground. Of course, in situations where there is real abuse occurring, the advice is much easier: leave. Though I don’t know you and your situations, I can say that you are not alone with these questions, and I can really feel you. In my experience, the real energy, the real clarity, the real wisdom, is in the questions themselves; not in the answers. Practically speaking, one thing you could do (that I would highly recommend) is to find a couple therapist that you really trust and can help you to create a holding environment in which you can really get to the heart of things, and feel deeply into what it is you truly want; what you really, really want more than anything. And to presence your partner as he or she takes this same journey, with you as their witness, holding their subjective experience as deeply and in as attuned a way as possible (please don’t shame yourself for not being perfect here; and please don’t assume that you aren’t shaming yourself in some way). 

When all is said and done, this person may be your life partner, or they may be the vehicle through which you are to see that now it is time for you to be alone, for the next part of your journey. And what an amazing life partner to help you to see that, if that is in fact what occurs.

Above all, please be kind to yourself and your partner as the journey of intimacy demands everything, and much, much more; it will inevitably bring roaring to the surface *everything* that is unresolved within you, and that is its gift. Yes, it requires everything; but it offers even more.