I remember reaching my fiftieth birthday. I’d relocated to theSan Diegoarea, was single again, and broken-hearted. I so wanted to be with my “soulmate,” and each time I fell in love, I was sure he was “the one.” Now I’d reached “the big 5-0,” and another relationship had ended, leaving me baffled, unsettled, despairing. After all, I’d read all the right books, attended the latest seminars –even taught a few: I was supposed to be an expert on intimacy. WHAT was I doing WRONG? I sat in front of the angel candle gracing the “soulmates altar” in my bedroom weeping, getting my relationship tarot deck soggy again.
As we know, teachers appear when the student is ready. Apparently I was ready, primed for surrendering into new information, because in the next few weeks, I would score interviews with two mentoring “conscious relationship” couples and up the odds for success.
I was excited to be invited to the luscious country home of rock-and- roller Kenny Loggins and his wife Julia, a healer, in the Santa Barbaraarea. I had interviewed Kenny in 1983 for a songwriters’ newsletter I was publishing at the time. Now fifteen years later, he was divorced from that wife and apparently very happily remarried to his “soulmate”. Their publicist arranged for the three of us to meet. Soon I was sitting in the Loggins’ library over iced tea, basking in the palpable glow of their love: it was a teaching in itself – to say nothing of the thrill at conversing in depth with such a devoted and articulate pair about what soulmateship really is about. I had read their bravely naked book, The Unimaginable Life: Lessons Learned On the Path Of Love, in which both Julia and Kenny shared their love letters, their fears and their resolves to make Truth, Love and Spirit their guides on all matters. The level of ‘risk’ they embodied for radical honesty corroborated for me my own leanings in that direction, even though the prospect of practicing it with my next “soulmate” raised more than a few hairs on my neck.
We discussed a range of intimate issues: managing jealousy (mostly hers), shared fears of commitment, Kenny’s infidelity, and the aftermaths of Julia’s childhood sexual traumas. I felt a rush of new resolve as I identified with both of them, their issues, their intuitions, their ways of responding to relationship challenges.
The practice was simple enough, if not so easy to pull off: make “love and truth” your highest aim, do whatever it takes to be consciously responsible for your own part of things, both the conflicts and the daily gifts of giving care. Risk telling everything you can to your partner, trusting him/her to be your best friend, most able and willing assist, and apply the Golden Rule. Don’t quit until you find the win/win loving solution. Face your fears, and trust that Spirit/God wants you to be fulfilled, in love with life, yourself and your lover. Et cetera. Lots of et ceteras.
I leftSanta Barbaragenuinely moved and inspired. I promised myself to be more conscious and dedicated, and to not rush my own process of grieving and letting go of my current “ex” soulmate.
A few weeks later I read in a local magazine that another couple, a pair of PhDs named Judith Sherven and Jim Sneichowski, were coming toSan Diegofor a book signing. I remembered them from seminars inLos Angeles, and decided to attend. I was delighted and impressed once again; this couple had been married for ten years. It was his third try and her first, and their first real experience at long-term success.
Their relating had a very different flavor than the Loggins’, more down-to-earth practical and personable than mystical, dreamy eyed and starkly revealing. Jim and Judith were articulate, seasoned presenters, real and thoroughly likeable. I bought their new book, “The New Intimacy: The Magic At The Heart Of Our Differences” –to be supportive. But surprised and grateful, I learned more than expected. I got a sobering look at the incredible mess “Hollywoodfantasizing” can make of real relationships, but most importantly, I noticed for the first time an undercurrent of the fear of differences I carried. I saw how invisible much of it for us, and thus the poor and ineffective ways we try to feel safe around them.
For instance, in my last relationship, my partner perceived lots of differences between us and concluded that we must be incompatible and unsuited for a long-term commitment. I spent my time trying to find and point out our similarities, never realizing that I, too was scared by my beliefs about these differences.
When a few weeks later I arranged to interview Jim and Judith, I enjoyed a most intriguing ride as I deepened my appreciation for the enrichment that valuing differences right off the top could make (in ANY relationship of any kind). I considered how being more curious about my lover’s different habit, practice or passion than being discounting or competitive could create intimacy, or at least respect.
I vowed to notice my ways of trying to control my partner’s behavior, or even my own, in futile attempts to allay my anxieties, and substitute asking interesting questions instead. Giving the other the benefit of the doubt before judging them or discounting their preferences was more beneficial to us both, whether the situation applied to a blind date or a thirty-year marriage. My new mentors made it clear: “The other person is NOT you! We ARE different people!”
Apparently soulmateships are not made by trying to get someone else to be another you, or even passively hoping for it. Of course, this doesn’t discount the importance of having values, habits and passions in common in order for a relationship to work over time (or even in the short run). However, it does warn that our otherwise best endeavors will fail if we cannot welcome the differences that often make us so uncomfortable – differences that might be the very stretches we need to grow into even more wondrous human beings. Of course, discernment is needed: some habits are neglectful or even abusive and “should not be tolerated,” says Jim, adamantly.
I left my second mentoring interview sobered and more certain of being on the right track. Yes, I could see how in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, I’d been maneuvering, squirming around differences since my first date. Now I could open things up, take a new interest in the other person, possibly learn more about my authentic self in the process, let alone convey more respect for my significant other. I mulled over Judith and Jim’s stories about how much more trusting and intimate their partnership is growing over time, as they practice appreciating that they are not the same person, but complimentary ones and teachers for each another. It felt really good to know that most conflicts and arguments in the future might really be seeds of soulful change and spiritual growth.
I now had a new lens, vantage point, framework. Truly, I was blessed to have been sent such great teachers, mirrors for my search for lasting love and spiritual truth via the path of conscious relations. I had seen through a fantasy-illusion or two about soulmateship being about finding someone just like me in a male body. While I had realized years before that it took work to achieve true intimacy and longevity, I saw that I hadn’t really risked being radically honest or outrageously myself with any of my former “soul-mates,” nor had I really considered loving them for who they might really be.
Here’s to expanding and deepening into Love. And to finding and keeping our soulmates.