Love Without Limits

Reports from the relationship frontier

Inner Marriage

Lasting happiness with a partner is an inside job.

So many of us, whether married or not, are still searching for that intangible sense of wholeness, happiness, and excitement we’ve been taught can be found in intimate relationships. When we fall in love, for a short time it appears that we’ve succeeded in our quest. Little by little, difficulties emerge and we find ourselves struggling to hold on to the joy we’ve found with each other. But the harder we try, the more elusive salvation becomes.

Many people become frustrated with their efforts to find enduring satisfaction in their relationships, and settle for a bit of companionship, with or without mediocre sex. Increasingly, both men and women are prioritizing jobs and careers over personal relationships, putting their marriages on auto pilot or choosing to remain single.

Nevertheless, the longing for the beloved often remains. Some may pay lip service to the disconcerting truth that in order to find lasting happiness with a partner, you must first create a harmonious relationship with the Beloved within. But when push comes to shove, when an exciting romantic prospect appears, most end up confusing romantic illusions with spiritual redemption. For generations, spiritual inclinations have been misguidedly channeled into a quest for romantic love and sexual thrills.

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In the past, societal and family pressures ensured some degree of marital stability, and the price for allowing personal needs and desires to disrupt the family was more than most people were willing to pay. As these influences erode, relationship breakdowns have become so widespread, it appears that our difficulties are not just personal, but are part of a tidal wave threatening to submerge the whole institution of marriage.

While communication and compatibility are important parts of any relationship, some of the issues encountered in relationship are best addressed internally. The trend toward redefining relationship success in such a way that harmony and longevity are no longer part of the equation doesn’t solve anything. Ultimately, the question is: How can we chart a more satisfying course for sustainable intimate relationships?

A lifetime of both personal and professional focus on love and sexuality has shown me that the quest for marital bliss is doomed to failure if it’s taken out of a larger context which addresses the integration of all aspects of personal development.

Ultimately, the pathway to successful relationships is part of a larger process involving the restoration of harmony and balance between masculine and feminine forces on many levels. This crucial task has been linked in many ancient traditions to establishing world peace. In other words, until we end the war within ourselves, and the war between the genders, there is no possibility of peace between nations.

Over the past twenty-five years, I’ve explored the ancient wisdom traditions of Hawaiian Ho’o pono pono, Kaballah, Sufism, Taoism, and Tantra as well as modern psychology, Jungian and neo-Reichian approaches. At the core of all these disparate practices, I’ve discovered the same hidden truth: The perfect union of male (releasing/freedom) and female (receiving/love) that we all instinctively seek must ultimately happen inside of you! This inner alchemy has been referred to as Hieros Gamos or Sacred Marriage, but the exact process remains shrouded in mystery.

The reality is that our longing for love and intimacy can be a powerful motivation for the work of creating harmony between the inner masculine and inner feminine forces within. For thousands of years men and women have been taught to feel ashamed of their natural cross gender characteristics. Meanwhile, patriarchal beliefs that the feminine is inferior and must be dominated by the masculine spread all over the globe, creating massive conflicts internally and externally. More recently, a backlash phenomenon has shown up in which men feel shame about their masculine traits, and try to eradicate these from their self expression, while women feel freer to express masculine qualities but fail to honor their feminine nature as well.

In the 21st Century, neither men nor women can access sustainable intimacy with a partner, until they have created a harmonious marriage between their own inner man and inner woman.

Ironically, the need for a romantic partner wanes as the inner marriage approaches consummation, and harmonious relationships turn out to be a byproduct of this larger process.

As the thirteenth century Sufi poet, Rumi, put it:

If you want to hold the beautiful one,

Hold yourself to yourself.

When you kiss the Beloved, touch your own lips with your own fingers.

The beauty of every woman and every man is your own beauty.

 

Rumi’s poetry is experiencing an unprecedented popularity in the West. It speaks deeply to something our souls long for but our minds can not quite grasp.

 

Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D., is the author of Polyamory in the 21st Century and other books.

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