The spiritual relationship: what a thing of beauty! Two people on the path together, practicing together, loving and supporting each other in their journey towards realization…
Many people dream of this, especially in the world of tantra, where there is so much emphasis on sexuality. However, it’s not a reality for everyone. What happens when someone who is already in a relationship discovers spirituality on their own?
We’ve seen this so many times in our tantra workshops, usually with the woman catching on first. She’ll come to one workshop, fall in love with the practice and show up at the next one leading her boyfriend by the hand! (If he gets this far, it’s a good sign the relationship is already heading in a spiritual direction.) But sometimes, the boyfriend (or girlfriend) just doesn’t feel the calling. In that case, is it possible for the relationship to work? It is indeed possible, if the love between the two is strong. However, the dynamic will pose some complications and challenges, for both partners. Here are a few pointers to keep the relationship healthy and continue growing spiritually.
For romantic relationships as well as friendships and family: don’t push the other person into spirituality! It’s very tempting to do this, especially when you’ve just started on the path and everything is so new and exciting. When you have experienced for yourself the life-changing power of spiritual practice, it’s natural that you want to share this with everyone, especially the people you’re close to.
Seeing someone else caught in drama or anxieties, it’s easy to say, “Just meditate! Come to yoga class with me, it will fix everything!”
The problem is that you can never, ever force another person in their spiritual growth. It has to come from within, from their own inner longing and desire for transformation. Pressure will only create resistance, plus tension in the relationship. Remember that everyone has their own path and everyone is evolving in their own way, whether or not you can see it. Your partner’s path might not look like yours, it might not look like you want it to, but its all theirs to walk.
Focus on your own practice
No matter what, keep practicing. I know, it sounds so beautiful to meditate side by side with your partner and do tantric rituals together, and it is. But if that isn’t on the table, keep going on your own. Your practice is always your own, no matter what external factors are there or aren’t.
Your practice will give you the love, compassion and equanimity to relate to your partner as they are, without expectations. It will allow you to see your partner as a teacher and learn from your relationship. Being strong in your own practice, you’ll have a spiritual relationship whether or not your partner knows it.
Find your sangha
The sangha (spiritual community) is one of the most important elements of a spiritual life.
Spiritual friends provide a mirror, inspiration and support. Especially living in materialistic Western culture, where you’re mostly swimming against the tide, it’s essential to have a like-minded community. In an ideal case, as in the tantric relationship, you and your partner form a sangha of two. If this isn’t happening, find your sangha outside of the relationship. Join a community, go to meditation groups or yoga classes, or even connect with others over the internet. This allows you to have support in your practice and worldview, while taking the pressure of this role off your partner’s shoulders.
Lead by example
The best way to teach someone about spirituality is not to teach at all, but to live. You can talk your partner’s ear off about the benefits of yoga and meditation, but why not show them instead? When they see the transformation in you – when they see how you become more calm, more loving, more joyful and comfortable in your own skin – they might get curious. They might even ask, “Hey, so what about that meditation thing you’ve been doing?”
Knowing when to grow together and when to let go
Love is the strongest force in the universe. Love is always the most important, no matter what the relationship looks like. That said, it is important to be aware that the dynamic of your relationship can change when you start on a spiritual path. When one partner becomes serious about their spiritual practice and the other is not interested, this can create tension within the relationship. The non-spiritual partner may feel insecure and even threatened by their partner’s practice, sensing that they might not have the same place in their partner’s life anymore.
The spiritual partner might start to resent the other, especially if there is a pressure to sacrifice their practice or “tone it down” to make things more comfortable. You can still learn a lot from a partner who isn’t on the path with you. But if the relationship starts to become an obstacle to your spiritual growth rather than a support, sometimes the wisest and most compassionate choice, for both partners, is to let it go.