Loving Our Partner, A Spiritual Discipline
A majority of people join with another to form a love relationship. Coupling up is just what we do. Of those who have become single due to breakup or divorce, many go on to search for a new partner with whom to form a loving bond. Probably more than not make a commitment of love. What is underneath this urge to practice love?
In our lives love is of primary importance. Years ago a song declared in its refrain, “Love makes the world go round.” Many songs are about love, or the loss of love. A similar theme is expressed in most every world religion and many spiritual traditions; loving the divine, loving life and gratitude for life. Is the consistency of these themes across popular music and spirituality a coincidence?
No. Whenever and wherever we love the deepest purpose is always the same. Music is considered a universal language, but an even more compelling element of universality is love, which exists among every people everywhere and during every time. Though how love may be expressed is unique in each time and place.
The strong pull of attraction to another often results in a loving bond. Early in a new relationship the intensity of attraction and connection is ecstatic. (See the article “Better Loving Through Chemistry”) It leaves an impression that lasts throughout the relationship or throughout a life. When a deeper love is possible, it is hard to resist. Love is as essential as every breath we take. Love is the most powerful drug that exists. An even more magical quality that love possesses is its unifying ability to transform separate people into a community, a nation, a world and two people into one couple.
If love is so wonderful, then what about all the adversity romantic partners experience at maintaining a love relationship? The divorce rate is near fifty percent. Unmarried couples end their loving connections even more frequently. Relationships and marriage are hard. A truth often expressed is that hard effort is necessary to obtain something of truly great value.
Our love relationships are the arena in which we practice so as to strengthen our love…not the love that is most often spoken about, but the love that is unconditional and perfect. (See the article “Love is Perfect”) Just like when people go to the gym to strengthen their muscles, getting toned, fit or making muscles big requires hard work and much sweat and maybe tears. It’s not easy. Love is much bigger than that. Love, or in other words the Divine, wants us and the way to get more of us is through love.
In spiritual traditions, seekers, aspirants or monks practice discipline to rid their lives of anything which separates them from the Divine, to have an ever closer relationship. It is an arduous grind characterized by asceticism. Loving the Divine through longing and devotion rids anything from coming between themselves and the One with whom they seek. For their hard work, and some grace, they are rewarded intimacy with the Divine.
For those of us who are not consciously following a spiritual tradition, the love we practice serves us similarly. By making effort to love more deeply, to love more kindly, more patiently and to stay with our loved one through adversity and dissatisfaction, we are perfecting our love which results in being ever near to love, which is none other than the One who is the love…the Divine. All along we didn’t realize that by being attracted to our partner we were being called to travel the path of love towards a closer relationship with life. Our love relationships are the discipline and practice that grinds us and perfects us so that we get closer to pure love, closer to the Divine. It is hard work; no easier than the ascetic or monk, but nothing is easy that has real value.
Andrew Aaron, LICSW