The next dharma e-news comes out in early August. I have written 21 tips, plus a PS (remember Anicca – Impermanence etc) to remember in an intimate relationship. The tips are glaringly obvious but small reminders won’t do us any harm.

I have been reflecting a little on my love life over the past 30 years. Roughly, I have been in a relationship more of this time than not in one. I have spent years and years exploring the synthesis of the role of partner and role of spiritual teacher. I don’t even call myself a spiritual teacher, but you know what I mean.

Over the years, my partner, whether about same age, ten years younger or a quarter of a century younger, whether a teacher or in a career in her own field, or neither, has had to cope with, like myself, the baggage, projections and archetypes of the ‘spiritual teacher. ‘

It is a great credit to partners who have a long and genuinely deep relationship and can see through the baggage around a role.

Over the years, my partner has come regularly on my programmes in one capacity or another thus easily reinforcing the stuff around the role. I never encouraged them nor discouraged them. So a beloved partner was constantly moving to and fro between seeing the partner and seeing the teacher. It seems to me that partner life has to be liberated from the teacher role, so natural intimacy can develop without any impingement of the baggage around the role.

I find the opportunity for the variety of expressions of love one of the precious elements in a relationship. ‘Til death do us part’ is a narrow social, religious and economic attitude that shapes the formation of the view about a relationship for many people. We can also view a relationship as an extraordinary dependently arising process that has its place in the field of time. Religion and society tries to make marriage and the family immortaI, a transcendent metaphysic that most go on and on. Why cling to this view?

I can’t recall regarding any relationship that ended as a “failure.” I find I learn so much about co-exsting with another, the sharing of resources, insights into our respective personality and unexpected challenges. How can that be a failure? That would seem to be yet another problematic projection onto change, into impermanence.

Would it be better that the partner never/rarely sees their partner who is a teacher in the role? I’m not sure. Freedom of spirit is suffocating under the weight of ‘should’ and ‘should not’ in terms of roles and the controlling morality at the expense of love. I take the view that both partners have to take practise to see clearly, to see through the archetypes of social identity and sense and love the human being amidst the afray of a minor public role.

Psychotherapists are blessed. Their partner doesn’t sit in and listen in with the client, thus reinforcing the archetype of the wise, benevolent counsellor. In a retreat, dharma gathering etc, the teacher is on stage morning, noon and night. There are lots of professions, of course, where the partner is on stage but he or she is not expected to get off the stage and sing all day at home! The archetype is not human, merely a coat of projections draped over the partner. The role is not the person. Unreasonable expectations can arise between the couple. Natural humanity has to emerge through all of this.

Fortunately, I still trust the depth that can be found in the time of the relationship, in the shared language of intimacy and explorations of the heart with the partner. Owing to numerous contingent factors, we may not experience a long relationship over years and years but let us not make continuity the issue. Quality not quantity applies in relationship as much as anywhere else.

Let us be generous around change in priorities for a partner or ourselves, and thus remain true to joy, depth, exploration and freedom of being. May we feel content to be a bus stop in somebody’s life, not the terminus. Anicca.

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