Published in “Jung and Aging,” 2014
Jerry M. Ruhl, Ph.D. and Roland Evans, M.A.
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it with another.” 1 This quote from Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and author, points toward a neglected aspect of relationship in the second half of life: that it can become the container for profound inner growth.
C.G. Jung suggested that later life is a time of introspection and the search for meaning and wholeness.2 He called this the way of individuation, a central concept in his psychology. Individuation, reaching our fullest potential, is a natural process for every human being and, like a plant, it blossoms and thrives given the right environment. That environment is almost always some form of intimate relationship. After the children are raised, the careers advanced, the mortgage paid, what is our life task? It is to deepen our natural growth through conscious intention, effort, and inner guidance. A powerful container for that process is a supportive relationship.
Jung recognized the importance of relationship: “Individuation has two principal aspects: in the first place it is an internal and subjective process of integration, and in the second it is an equally indispensable process of objective relationship.”3 The main focus of Jung’s life work was on inner integration within the individual. He did not emphasize interpsychic relations between or among people, though he did underscore that relationships and intimacy are critical elements for personal development.
From an adult point of view, the most important and influential aspect of our physical and emotional environment is that significant other, the person with whom we share our inner and outer lives. As we age, primary relationship becomes increasingly important, not only for our physical welfare but also our psychological and spiritual wellbeing. We look for new meaning in the relational aspects of existence as we grapple with physical challenges and losses that naturally accompany the aging process. The ability to be close to another person, to share our changing experiences, takes on new meaning. Eventually, this sharing is curtailed by disability, illness, and death. Yet even then, for the survivor a deep relational bond may continue.
There are different forms of primary relationship, marriage being the most common and obvious. However, the term primary relationship extends beyond the social definition of marriage. It includes gay and lesbian relationships (which only recently may take the form of marriage), cohabiting couples and asexual connections that are self-defined as more than friendship (often called soul mates). In this chapter, we will often refer to primary relationships as marriage, using that term in its widest meaning: an intimate, exclusive, committed union with another. Marriage is no longer a prerequisite for child rearing, nor for economic and political security. The times when a husband and wife ran a farm or small business together has all but disappeared. The political marriage by which royal houses or powerful families joined to ensure a continuing dynasty or resolve conflicts still exists, but this seems like a relic of the past.
So why marry in this day and age? In the 21st century, a deep intimate relationship has increasingly come to be understood as the archetypal container for individuation, what we will call transformative relationships. Our contention is that primary relationship is fundamental for individuation, spirituality, and meaning in later life.
In The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler writes: “In turbulent, troubling times, a good marriage can be the one safe place we know we can go. Once we’ve been to that place, known that peace, we can never forget it.” 4 A primary relationship then becomes the training ground for attainment of our highest aspirations: love, compassion, forgiveness, surrender, generosity, selflessness and gratitude. These are qualities that wisdom traditions describe as the means to and rewards of spiritual progress.
As we age, we hunger for meaning beyond the personal, yet many continue to focus on the past and the private self when it may no longer be the most relevant priority. In the second half of life, instead of the continuing analysis of childhood wounds and self-absorbed ego development, we might look to expand the quality of our relationships and explore how they can become containers for profound spirituality, meaning, and purpose.
Individuation and Relationship
Jung believed that there is a destination, a possible goal for life beyond maximizing pleasure, pursuing power and material goods. He termed this individuation: the process of becoming more self-aware—finding our wholeness. Just as the acorn contains potentials to become an oak, there is a drive that pushes us to individuate, and it kicks into high gear in the second half of life. When it is blocked, we feel trapped, stagnate, and may become physically ill. Post-modern life forces us to develop one-sided personalities, cut off from our roots in the unconscious. To live a more balanced, meaningful life, we must transcend our ego identity—that aspect of our being molded by family and culture—and become fully developed human beings.
Jung’s choice of the term “individuation” is unfortunate; he constantly had to explain he did not mean individualism—a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress without a creed aiming not at heaven but at self-centered development. According to Jung, “As the individual is not just a single, separate being, but by his very existence presupposes a collective relationship, it follows that the process of individuation must lead to more intense and broader collective relationships and not to isolation.”5
Individuation, indeed all spiritual development, is inherently relational; it requires that we listen to the other, whether in the form of another person or promptings from beyond our ego. Thus our conscious plans and desires are constantly modified by forces hidden beneath awareness. The sage of Zurich referred to this inner interference as an act of the deity: “To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.”6
Sharing your psychic house with someone who exasperates you, changes your plans, spotlights your shortcomings? That sounds very like our experience of relationships. What better container to have our willful and often misguided intentions thwarted than marriage?
Much of psychotherapy and personal growth is searching within—analyzing emotions, cognitive patterns, dreams, and fantasies that occur outside of our willful intentions. This may be incredibly helpful at certain phases of our life journey. However, as we mature, our awareness must extend beyond the personal. Without intimate connection, even spirituality begins to look like a self-centered activity.
What is required is the other—the reflection of our humanity in the eyes of a separate but connected being. A deep relationship to an analyst or therapist can provide a corrective experience for childhood deficiencies, but ultimately such professional relationships are one-sided. We need a mutual other to know the world and ourselves. The Hasidic scholar and philosopher Martin Buber7 insisted that the sacred comes to us in encounter with one another, what he termed the I-Thou relationship. Every meeting invites a response from our being; relationship is not a means to some end but is the point of being alive. We become fully realized in order to be more available for relationship, not the other way round.
Importance of Relationship in Later Life
Consciously or unconsciously, human beings yearn for enduring, supportive, loving relationships. As we age, this need becomes ever more urgent; personal connections in later life, as in infancy, are essential for wellbeing. The research on aging shows categorically the physical and psychological benefits of intimate relationship: couples live richer, healthier, longer lives than singles.8 But it is not just relationship per se that is beneficial. As Corey Bolkan states: “… the quality of the relationship is the best predictor of health and well-being,”9 We all know instinctively that love is the force that will keep us alive and engaged with life until the last breath.
This accepted folk wisdom is evidence-based: 72% of men and 45% of women over the age of 65 are officially married.10 That number does not include couples in nonconforming primary relationships. And getting married does not lose its attraction with age: as many as 500,000 Americans 65 and older remarry each year.11 Even with the high rate of divorce, 33% of married couples reach their silver wedding anniversary and 20% survive through their 35th anniversary.12 It is obvious that as we age, intimate relationships are ubiquitous, highly valued, and beneficial for our lives.
The statistics show that not only physical health but also mental health is influenced by relationship. Aging brings an inevitable weakening of the body but often coincides with a softening of the heart. As work commitments are scaled back, there is increased time for social activities and couples spend more time together. Men particularly can take a cue from their partners and begin to value intimacy more than when they were working full time.13 If we view ‘retirement’ symbolically, we see that it implies a withdrawal from the demands of the material world; it reflects the increased importance of both social connection and spiritual exploration.
These benefits only happen if the relationship is not compromised by emotional distance and unresolved conflicts. If it is, intimate time can become increasingly painful and problematic. If, however, the couple has a solid and steadfast relationship and has moved beyond petty bickering and resentments, retirement becomes a richly meaningful period with increased loving contact. In that fertile soil, individuation flourishes and the partners can experience the inner reality of marriage.
The Marriage Archetype
More than two thousand years ago, Plato in his Symposium14 wrote of the separation of humans into two halves. The primeval human was round, his back and sides forming a circle: it had four hands and the same number of feet; one head with two faces looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike. One day the gods took offence at the insolence of the new race of humans and Zeus cut them in two with a thunderbolt. Ever since, we have been looking for our missing half. This powerful myth points to a numinous inner reality: we are all desperately seeking our soul mates, trying to achieve a deeply instinctive union and become whole.
Ancient Greece was not the only culture with myths and rituals concerning primary relationship. While the forms differ, all cultures have religious rites concerning marriage. These rituals are sacramental, indicating a deep archetypal aspect to the joining of the couple. Marriage ceremonies include powerful symbols of wholeness and unity: the wedding ring, the joining of hands, the ritual kiss. They point toward the inner meaning of the wedding; marriage is an archetype—a powerful template characterized by instinct and images that implicitly shape human perceptions and actions.
Traditionally, marriage was a socially recognized bonding of man and woman. More recently, with gay marriage and the growth of cohabiting couples, the expression of the marriage archetype is changing. Guggenbuhl-Craig provocatively argues in his book, Marriage is Dead – Long Live Marriage!15 that the cultural and social aspects of marriage are ever changing, but the urge to merge in a sacred joining of two souls is instinctual and archetypal
Because it is an archetype, it is hard to fully grasp marriage’s meaning and power. Like an iceberg, much of its inertia and import is hidden beneath conscious awareness. The mythologist Joseph Campbell attempts to conveys its depth and authority: “When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship…It’s the reunion of the separated couple. Originally you were one. You are now two in the world, but the recognition of the spiritual identity is what marriage is.”16
Archetypal energies of relationship arise like the gods of old, archaic and impersonal. We are gripped by the ecstasy and selflessness of falling in love—a state of being enthralled by unconscious forces. We get lost in the compulsion to fight with our loved one, not even knowing what it is about. Relationships have the power to move us to blind rage and sublime altruism, to wound us terribly and to heal us absolutely. As we mature and become more self-aware, and as we connect more deeply with our instinctual and spiritual natures, the power of relationship increasingly turns toward supporting inner growth. As Campbell puts it so well: Marriage is not just a social arrangement. It’s primarily a spiritual exercise.”17 The archetype of marriage becomes harnessed in service to enlightenment.
A transformative relationship necessarily encompasses the shadow aspects of human nature as well as the light. The fantasy of a totally easy, ‘happy’ marriage still dominates our culture, even in the face of a divorce rate surpassing 50%. Self-help books and marriage counselors seldom present the unvarnished truth: relationships are painful and challenging, hard to comprehend and fraught with danger—because that is the nature of individuals. This truth is nicely illustrated by a dream from a female client:
The Holy Spirit appears to the dreamer in the form of a truck mechanic. He tells her, “You know you can have a relationship if you want one.” To which she replies, “But I am too difficult to live with.” As he walks away the Holy Spirit gives his parting shot, “You know, everyone is difficult to live with!”18
We each must face the fact that we are hard to live with. We even have trouble living with our most cherished loved-ones. All primary relationships are filled with conflict and suffering as well as joy and contentment. Zeus and Hera,19 the archetypal married couple for the ancient Greeks, were constantly quarreling. Zeus had innumerable sexual liaisons and Hera avenged herself pitilessly against her husband’s lovers. The image of a strife-filled marriage is reflected not only among the gods, but also in popular stories throughout history: many of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales tell of marital discord.20 Disruption, dysfunction and differences seem to be natural and even essential in all relationships. Even with all the difficulties, even though the majority of relationships include disappointment, we are still driven by the archetype to seek out primary relationships. We have no choice.
To understand the path toward transformative relationships, we begin not in the cradle (though early experiences clearly shape later relationship issues), but in the stormy, hormone-driven seas of adolescence: the emergence of immature, unconscious relationships.
Do you remember an early adolescent love? It was wonderful and terrible, uplifting and disheartening; mostly it was simply unreal. We all start with idealized illusory connections—not relationships in a true sense because we are not coherent enough to see the other person, to know what we are feeling or to understand why it is happening. These early attempts at relating are mostly unconscious: need, lust, affection, hunger and attachment all wrapped up in unreal expectations. When it happens in our youth, immature love is rather sweet and endearing, if tragic. As with Romeo and Juliet, these early love-entanglements are doomed—and rightly so. They are learning experiences, flexing of the emotional muscles and should not be confused with enduring relationships. When these patterns of relating continue into adulthood, they quickly turn monstrous.
In Jungian terms, these immature relationships are driven and dominated by unconscious projections.21 Like the projected images on the movie screen, everything is larger than life, more intense, ultimately unrealistic yet emotionally compelling. Each of the participants is attempting to heal unconscious wounds and satisfy unmet needs stemming from childhood and beyond, using the other person as a projection screen. What we don’t or can’t recognize in ourselves is first projected upon the other, someone who carries enough of the qualities we desperately seek. As we get to know that person, we gradually realize, mostly to our chagrin, that they are much more or less than we bargained for.
Our psychic and behavior patterns are profoundly influenced by early experiences, deeply programmed patterns that tend to control the choice and character of our relationships. Projection inevitably leads to disappointment. The person we thought we loved is nowhere near as perfect, faithful or loving as the image we project onto them. So we try everything we can to remake them into that unrealistic image. The deep anxiety of being attached to someone we do not know or understand yet cannot let go of, causes inner turmoil. Affection turns to antagonism and the compulsion to control. In Jung’s memorable words, “Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”22
Such immature couplings, if they do not end in chaos and recriminations, tend to burn out, become two dead stars orbiting each other endlessly. Jung writes that antagonism leads to decreased affection and ends up as emotional emptiness: “First it was passion, then it became duty, and finally an intolerable burden, a vampire that battens on the life of its creator.” 23
In the unconscious relationship, sex tends to be self-centered—a physical release but not a full emotional or spiritual connection. Eventually, unresolved emotional patterns—be they withholding, controlling, non-communication or insecurity—begin to show in how a couple relates sexually.24 Couples fight and make love unconsciously as the only means to reconnect. Ironically, as resentments build towards total disconnection, couples stop having sex and thus lose their only path to reestablishing harmony.
Whatever the outcome, however dissonant and unkind, it is important to realize that the original impetus to lose ourselves in a shared connection arises from the spiritual power of the marriage archetype. The act of falling in love, however unrealistic, is an attempt to enter a spiritual identity with the other. The love-struck teenager glimpses the divine, is filled with a heavenly joy, a feeling that eternity is here and now
Projection is a useful psychological concept to understand our inability to truly perceive and engage the other. However, it is based on the assumption that most of what is happening in relationship is ‘just inside my head.’ In truth, relationship occurs in an inter-subjective field and is an exchange of energy more aptly described in the concept of resonance.25 Think of two strings on a violin, resonating to one tone. Those strings are in harmony; their combined sound becomes one pleasing note to our ear. Then imagine those same two strings a fraction of a tone off, a dissonance that grates and annoys, that sets our teeth on edge. That is what happens continually in an unconscious relationship: the two people keep missing each other energetically, keep getting on each other’s nerves.
The majority of immature unconscious relationships end in failure. But there is always the possibility that projections are withdrawn, lose their compulsive power and allow realistic love to blossom. Then the relationship stabilizes and settles into something we might term a mature, functional relationship. Conscious love participates in a divine mystery that potentially mixes the mundane and the miraculous. We stir the oatmeal, take out the trash, learn to listen and be considerate, and we grow up and put into practice the qualities of mature relationship.
Mature primary relationships are complex, fluctuating processes that change over time. They exist in a continuum: some stay stuck at a more unconscious level, while others evolve towards a state that is not only stable but also transformative. Much of the extensive relationship literature focuses on those skills that are needed for a couple to progress away from immaturity and misery towards maturity and satisfaction. Foremost of these skills is the ability to communicate honestly and intimately.26
Problems and misunderstandings arise in every relationship and have to be worked through in order to maintain and deepen trust and connection. Unresolved resentments fester; ‘no-go’ areas promote emotional distance; poor communication creates mistakes and misunderstandings. Every couple needs to learn to work together to repair ruptures.
We tend to identify communication with speech but that is the tip of the iceberg. A loving touch, a bouquet of flowers, a shared movie, passionate sex: non-verbal sharing is often more communicative and healing than endless hours processing problems. To generalize, mature communication must be truthful, heartfelt, fitted to the needs and personalities of the participants—and effective.
In the realm of non-verbal communication, the giving and receiving of pleasure, comfort and affection through sexual intercourse is possibly the most powerful. A fulfilling sex life is one of the essential elements of a stable relationship that reinforces a deep sense of intimacy and connection. Sexual pleasure is often more possible in the middle and later years as the couple develops deeper levels of trust and acceptance supported by mature and realistic expectations.
Trust and acceptance in a primary relationship require a shared commitment to staying together. Stable couples are seen as securely attached; they have few anxieties about the enduring nature of the relationship and believe that their partner cares for them.27 In a securely attached relationship, the couple is most often committed sexually and emotionally; they may have more or less conflict but the dissonance does not dangerously impact their commitment. They share positive beliefs about marriage and experience satisfaction with the intimacy, communication, and emotional involvement in the relationship.28 In essence, they have embraced the idea that their marriage is a life attachment—and it is where they want to be.
The maturity of the relationship mirrors the emotional maturity of the participants. Each person must learn to moderate their emotional reactions, to think before they speak, to consider the effect of their words and actions on the relationship bond. The emotional climate of a stable primary relationship should be like good weather: mostly sunny with occasional showers and infrequent thunderstorms. The couple who share high levels of affection and low levels of antagonism —more love than fights—experience greater satisfaction in the relationship. 29
The ability to understand, to show emotional restraint, to be generous and forgiving, requires that we know ourselves, that we become conscious of our own emotional triggers and over-reactions. This happens as we withdraw our projections and unrealistic expectations and accept the other person as they are in reality—not as we hope they will become. This is a gradual process: we get used to the person, tolerate their flaws and learn to accept and love them anyway. Like rocks in a polishing tumbler, the sharp edges gradually are smoothed out. Mature love is less about passion and more about patience.30
Of course, it is easier to be patient with someone who shares our attitudes and values. According to research from the University of Virginia,31 mutual generosity is a core value that strongly predicts decreased probability of divorce: generous couples are significantly more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriage. Generosity is not just the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly; it also encompasses small acts of service, expressions of affection and the willingness to forgive mistakes and failings. Spouses who value a generous open heart are rewarded accordingly. Loving-kindness begets loving-kindness.
In a similar vein, a strong indicator of marital success is religious or spiritual values. According to University of Virginia researchers, those who share “the sense that God is present in one’s marriage—that marriage has a transcendent meaning,” are not only least likely to divorce but also experience the most marital happiness.32 For these mature couples, the later years of a committed relationship bring the highest level of satisfaction.33 Older couples are more affectionate with each other, have less conflict and show more respect to each other compared with their younger counterparts.34
Espousing values traditionally viewed as religious or spiritual—generosity, compassion, forgiveness and selflessness—allow the mature relationship to evolve beyond mere functionality. Viewing marriage as a committed sacred path, becoming more self-aware, communicating clearly, honestly and intimately—these are spiritual practices that allow the individuals and their relationship to evolve far beyond the ordinary. The primary relationship becomes a numinous container for transformation.
What exactly is a transformative relationship? What does it look like? Marion Woodman, a wise elder in the Jungian community, describes what we call transformative relationship as the inner marriage: “The relationship is no longer two people in love, but loving each other through God.”35 This form of connection brings a profound sense of wholeness, a sacred quality to the relationship that reaches above and beyond the personalities of the participants.
Woodman suggests that in the inner marriage, the individuals have realized and integrated, to some extent, the masculine and feminine aspects of their own personalities: “Both these energies are in balance in a mature person.”36 This only happens after years of spiritual and psychological work and is most likely to occur late in a couple’s life.
According to Guggenbuhl-Craig, individuation in older couples is characterized “less by struggling with each other and the world, and more by serving.”37 That does not mean a transformative relationship is free of conflict or personal difficulties; it remains a human relationship with all that entails. Woodman is eloquent in describing these difficulties: “Marriage has an archetypal dimension where we are working out our flaws, our gifts, what we have inherited, and what is unique to us. So a real soul mate is not the perfect partner, in the sense of being there to give us what we want.”38
To transcend and work through these difficulties requires an attitude of detachment, a profound recognition of who we are and who the other person is in their essence. Detachment does not imply not caring but, “allows destiny to work through you, so that you are totally involved in life at the same time as allowing something else to be lived through you.”39 Such an attitude, acquired after years of loving, allows the other to unfold to his or her full potential.
Love, to Woodman, is a magical numinous force: “By love I mean an energy that is actually vibrant between people. If that vibration is cut off, the cells of the body change… I think this vibration which passes between two people changes them. Love transforms.”40 This is resonance at its most sublime.
In sum, a transformative relationship evolves within a stable long-term relationship in which both members take responsibility for their own inner work and recognize the sacred nature of their connection. It transcends the mature functional relationship by recognizing that love has a spiritual quality, that being together has a transcendent purpose, and that the relationship is a container for individuation.
The Transformative Relationship Interview
To explore and illuminate the nature of transformative relationships, the authors interviewed three couples whose relationships were self-identified as successful and who had been together for more than two decades. They exhibited qualities of connection, contentment and engagement that were easy to recognize; each couple was known to the authors as possible examples of wise elders. The ages of participants ranged from sixty to eighty-eight and had various religious affiliations: Christian, Jewish and Buddhist. The couples agreed to share their experiences in structured face-to-face interviews that lasted about 75 minutes each.
The first part of each interview aimed to discover how the relationship had developed and evolved. As expected, all the participants described extensive change in the relationship over the years:
“Total transformation—another incarnation!”
“We feel more naturally intimate with each other and more connected.”
“Now what at first felt a difficulty is not even a bump in the road. There’s a sense of comradeship.”
“We have become more relaxed and open around the other person’s style and needs.”
The overriding theme was that the primary relationship had become an essential part of their being and, though there were still differences, these were not experienced as problematic.
All described how their relationship was challenging in the early years, with more fights and struggles. But as one person commented, “How can you get to truth if there are no difficulties?” Over the years, each of the couples developed a more accepting and supportive attitude towards the other and better skills at resolving problems:
“I don’t want to hurt him anymore. I have total acceptance of things that used to bug me.”
“We’re less likely to get triggered now.”
“We often walk away unsettled and come back with a willingness to compromise.”
“When we get into a difficult emotional situation we have some awareness.”
“Letting go of fixation of being right and seeing what the other sees.”
When asked how the relationship contributed to individual development, the participants emphasized how they learned from their partner and how the relationship made them face things about themselves:
“From (my partner) I get equanimity, a relaxed quality, an open view.”
“You must move from the ego to the Self in that nakedness that you cannot show to the whole world. Your partner knows you with your foibles, weaknesses, cowardice.”
“It’s also necessary to know the partner loves you anyway with your foibles and faults and failures. It makes it possible to live through it.
“I have given up trying to measure her with my idea of what is the proper way of experiencing spirit.”
“The relationship provided a container for it (transformation). Then I could survive and eventually move into thriving.”
One aspect stood out strongly: the quality of appreciation, respect and affection each has for the other:
“Something very deep was my attraction to (my partner). I sense her essence.”
“I take delight in seeing (her) in my environment; it makes me happy.
“I appreciate I learn things I can’t on my own.”
“Just appreciation… To see that unfold with a partner and share insights is wonderful.
“I experience love, a deep sense of integrity inside myself from watching her.”
The couples emphasized deeply intimate sharing and communication that transcends words and separateness:
“A lot of that is communication. In our situation it has been inner communication as much as interpersonal”
“Very often I write a love letter to (her) and put it under her plate. Every time she leaves me a note I save it. If I were to say what do I treasure, these are the moments.”
“I’m committed to her seeing everything.”
“We become one mind when we work together.”
The experience of love had also changed over the years, gaining in selflessness and a quiet numinous quality:
“My experience of love has taken the form of her feeling her greatness, feeling her depth. The movement from self-love is to create energy—considering what I can do to help her feel good about herself and see her own greatness.”
“I feel our hearts get to a place of communion and eyes filled with tears; we sit in these movies and hold hands.
“We spend lot of time not talking at all.”
“An underlying recognition that we belong to each other.”
With respect to sexuality, there was surprising agreement. Sex had been central to their early relationships and it still had its place, but increasingly it had transformed into a shared physical intimacy and closeness:
“Sexuality is so much bigger than usually defined. I like when we wake in the night and talk for a couple of hours and then go back to sleep. That is deep intimacy—often more than physical sex.”
“Just want to hold each other even if there is no longer physical fire.”
“Not as much as the years have unfolded—more early on in the relationship. We do cuddle, and sleep in the same bed.”
When asked what attitudes were essential to their marriage, they offered a wide range of comments:
“Depth of honesty with oneself.”
“Not to twist yourself out of shape in order to be liked by the other.”
“Taking time regularly to put yourself in the other’s place and understand what they feel.”
“Compromise, flexibility, sense of humor, easy going energy.”
“Patience, compassion, forgiveness.”
All of the participants emphasized how important it is to live a conscious life, maintain a spiritual practice and work unceasingly to become the best person you can:
“Bring everything back to your own process, self observe, take responsibility for it, and work on it.”
“Self responsibility and the desire to be the best you can be. To humble oneself completely.”
“I feel that my own meditation life has continued. What I learn from you are things I would find in a prayer book but not notice before.”
“We wouldn’t have gotten together if (we) had not done our own work.”
“I definitely feel that being together has helped us work out future karma, raising awareness, increasing the ability to not fixate on certain goals or outcomes. We can work together and assist each other. I feel really blessed being able to work our meditation practice both alone and together.”
The fruits of the transformative relationship extend beyond the mundane and predictable into different realms. These couples experience small indescribable moments of transcendence:
“Our last stop in summer before bed is the balcony to see the stars in the dark… They are quiet moments, not a lot of activity. They don’t come with a fanfare.”
“One day (he) came down the steps and there was this strange little moment in which time stopped. They occurred all the way through.”
One last comment from one of the participants: “Who would have thunk you could meet someone as a teenager and we would still be so close!”
Individuation is the pursuit of wholeness; love is the essence of wholeness. On the one hand is our personal drive to individuate—to find our individual meaning and purpose. On the other hand, in counterbalance, is our archetypal need for loving connection. Most Jungian literature focuses on one side of this balance, individual development. In this chapter, we suggest that the “complete” whole be recognized, in that individuation happens within the context of relationship.
Just as each soul must journey from unconsciousness through trials and difficulty towards ultimate transformation, so the quality of our relationships mirrors this evolution. Each immature relationship contains a kernel of potential. This seed may germinate into a mature partnership in which the members experience deep connection and contentment. Through grace, intention and effort, some mature relationships further transcend their limitations to become sacred containers for spiritual growth—most often after many years together in the latter part of a lifetime.
In a transformative relationship, partners learn to face difficult truths about themselves. Friction between ‘dueling egos’ are necessary for growth, but ultimately must be sacrificed on the altar of a greater good, an ultimate potential. Wholeness becomes a harmony of “I” and “You,” a transcendent and transformative unity. In the daily give and take, the meandering path of an evolving relationship, one observes a hidden hand directing the slow process of psychic growth – this we call individuation.
- Thomas Merton, Love and Living (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc, 1985).
- See C. G. Jung, “The Stages of Life,” in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol. 8, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960).
- C. G. Jung, “The Psychology of the Transference,”, in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol. 16, The Practice of Psychotherapy, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960), §448
- Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1985) p. ??.
- C. G. Jung, “The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious,” in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol. 7, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Edited by Gerhard Adler, Bollingen Series XCV: 2, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), para 241, footnote 10.
- C. G. Jung, “Letter to M. Leonard,” Letters: 1951-1961, Vol. II, Edited by Gerhard Adler, Bollingen Series XCV: 2, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press) p. 525.
- Martin Buber, The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of HasidismNew York: Routledge, 1965).
- Kristen Stewart, The Health Benefits of Marriage (Everyday Health, Nov. 2010), http://www.everydayhealth.com/family-health/understanding/benefits-of-tying-the-knot.aspx
- Cory Bolkan, quoted in Paris Achen, More People over 65 Find Marriage, Love (The Columbian, April 29, 2013), http://www.columbian.com/news/2012/jul/29/ageless-romance.
- Administration of Aging, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, A Profile of Older Americans: 2012, http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2012/docs/2012profile.pdf
- See Paris Achen, More People over 65 Find Marriage, Love (The Columbian, April 29, 2013), http://www.columbian.com/news/2012/jul/29/ageless-romance.
- Diana B. Elliott and Tavia Simmons, Marital Events of Americans: 2009 (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports, August 2011), http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-13.pdf
- Ruth Walker, et al., “Subjective Well-Being Dynamics in Couples from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging,” Gerontology, 57 (2011), 153–160.
- Plato, The Symposium, in The Portable Plato, ed. Scott Buchanan, (New York: The Viking Press, 1948) pp. 143ff.
- Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig, Marriage Is Dead—Long Live Marriage! (New York: Spring Publications, 1977) p. 122.
- Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth (New York: Anchor Books, 1988), pp. 6-7.
- Joseph Campbell, Power of Myth, p. 8.
- Adapted from Roland Evans, Seeking Wholeness (Hygiene: Sunshine Press Publications, 2001), p. 107.
- See Guggenbuhl-Craig, Marriage Is Dead.
- See Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)
- See John A. Sanford, The Invisible Partners (New York: Paulist Press, 1980).
22. C. G. Jung, “The Psychology of the Unconscious” in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol. 7, Two Essays on Analytic Psychology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960), §78
- C. G. Jung, “Marriage as a Psychological Relationship” in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, The Development of Personality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960), §331a.
24. See David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1997)
- See Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, A General Theory of Love (New York: Vintage Books, 2000).
- A Google search for the term Marital Communication brings up 19,000,000 results.
- John Bowlby, Attachment and Loss, Vol.1: Attachment (New York: Basic Books, 1969).
- See P. Shaver and C. Hazan, “Adult Romantic Attachment: Theory and Evidence, ” in D. Perlman and W. Jones, eds., Advances in Personal Relationships, Vol. 4 (London, PA: Jessica Kingsley, 1994), pp. 29-70.
- Mario Mikulincer et al, “Attachment Security in Couple Relationship,” Family Process 41, no, 3 (2002), 405.
- See Laura L. Carstensen et al, “Emotional Behavior in Long-Term Marriage,” Psychology and Aging 10, No. 1, 1995, 140-149.
- See The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, The State of our Unions: Marriage in America 2011, http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Union_2011.pdf
- The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, Husbands Who Have The Happiest Marriage, http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/NMP-Fact-Sheet-Husbands-1112.pdf
33. See Susan Turk Charles and Laura L. Carstensen, “Marriage in Old Age” in Marilyn Yalom, and Laura Carstensen, eds. Inside the American Couple: New Thinking, New Challenges (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) pp. 236-254.
- Fran C. Dickson, Aging and Marriage in W. Kim Halford and Howard J. Markham (eds.) Clinical Handbook of Marriage and Couples Interventions (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997) Chapter 11.
- Marion Woodman, Embracing the Dark in Roger Housden and Chloe Goodchild, We Two (London: The Aquarian Press, 1992) p. 197.
- Marion Woodman, Embracing the Dark. p.203
- Adolph Guggenbuhl-Craig, Embracing the Dark, p. 122.
- Marion Woodman, Embracing the Dark, p. 205.
- Marion Woodman, Embracing the Dark. p. 204.
- Marion Woodman, Embracing the Dark. p. 206.