Womanhood-Motherhood (by Roya Monajem)

CHAPTER FIVE

A LOVING

 MARITAL RELATIONSHIP

 

I hath not heard a more pleasant tone than the sound of love

The souvenir remaining in this revolving dome.

                                                                              Hafiz1

 

From the youngest children to the oldest people, from the emperors and kings to the peasants and ordinary people, from the civilized to the barbaric, the most common subject ever talked about, thought about, written about, sung about, discussed, studied and ... is LOVE. So naturally, there are countless ways to define this most ‘lovable’ aspect of human life.

In martial relationships, the definition of love we choose to use is to take the literal meaning of marriage: living one life in two souls or  sharing one’s existence with another person.

Now “one life in two souls” should imply two separate independent entities or beings or individuals.

Independence is the most important criterion for marriage, and in reality any love-relationship. Otherwise the relationship formed would  inevitably and in essence be a parasitic one which like any parasitic relationship would eventually and virtually lead to the death of both sides, if not actually in the physical sense of the word, but definitely in its spiritual sense.  To make it short, they deplete each other of vigour and energy as any parasite does.1  In addition, all other  prerequisites of love, defined by specialists such as Erich Fromm, Scott Peck and other authorities can never be observed and actualized without this single category.2  But what is independence for us, i.e. for a species that is social by nature and thus dependent on others for the fulfillment of its needs.

Independence is recognition of the fact that each one of us is a separate, unique individual, with our own personal distinct individual path in life and our specific personal individual needs. No two paths and no two needs can ever be exactly the same; there can only be some overlap between them.  This overlap of needs is actually what makes communication possible.  In other words, relationships are formed between people with overlapping needs and paths in life.

Once we accept that we are all single separate individual beings, then our definition for independence renders to the awareness of our needs, just as freedom is the knowledge of our limitations. The mere awareness of our needs is in fact the first step toward independence.  The second step is to realize that no body can fulfil our needs except ourselves, for nobody is usually in the position to discern the exact nature of another person’s needs. Moreover, all of us are usually so preoccupied with our own needs that it leaves us no extra time to deal with other people’s needs.

It sounds quite paradoxical; on one hand humans are social creatures that are absolutely dependent on each other for fulfillment of their needs, and on the other hand we are claiming that we should not depend on any body except ourselves for their fulfillment.  In order to illustrate this point, let us take an example.  We need bread to fill our empty stomachs. To say we should only depend on ourselves for fulfillment of our needs does not mean that now we have to cook this bread ourselves.  We can choose any bakery for this purpose.  But it is also possible that we insist on buying our bread from a definite bakery and no other.  In other words, we make ourselves dependent on one specific bakery with the result that if one day it closes down, we will be left hungry.  Therefore it is dependency on specific people or attitudes that is harmful.  There is nothing wrong in dependency in itself; what makes it troublesome and catastrophic is its inappropriate application.

A simple glance at any human needs particularly the ‘psychological needs’, will ensure us that each one of them is so individually defined, that it is only a delusion and illusion when we think we ‘understand’ each other.  Take the very subject we are considering now, Love, for example.  As mentioned before, each one of us defines it according to our own individual history and the nature of our relationship with it.  In order to illustrate this point more clearly, let us consider another concept such as tree, or sheep, or flower.  Of course, we are all familiar with these objects, but would they have the same meaning and significance for us as they respectively have for a gardener, a shepherd and a florist?  We all need love.  There is no question about that, but some of us are more in need of physical love (caressing etc.), some need its emotional aspects more, some need to be constantly reminded that they are lovable, some need to be loved in silence, and so on and so forth.

One of the most important reasons for the collapse and rupture of love-relationships is that it is based on ‘need-fulfillment’.  What I mean is that both sides expect the other to fulfil his/her --present as well as the past -- needs. The problem with this kind of very common and prevalent approach is that, it is doomed to fail, since sooner or later one of the sides or both, no longer finds the ability and capacity, the competency and strength to fulfil the other person’s for ever arising new needs since there is no end to human needs and once they are fulfilled at one level, other needs are bound to arise at another level. (Refer to Abraham Mazlow’s pyramid of human needs.)  So even  in the cases where the couple are capable of satisfying one another’s needs at the beginning of the relationship, the probability that there comes a time, when they no longer have their early competency in this respect is high.  And from this moment on, the relationship is bound to cool and lose its meaning.

Let us take a concrete example.  Consider a woman in a financially unfavourable condition with a relatively well-to-do boyfriend.  Even if that alone is not her main reason to continue the relationship, she would depend on it as a solution for her desperate financial state.  Suppose they do get married and her problem does get solved in this way. The man succeeds in fulfilling another person’s need.  Previously, her immediate difficult financial situation would not give her chance to even think about her other needs.  Now with her present state, and once she has satisfied all her corresponding wishes (all those that money can buy), she will gradually start to see her other ‘holes’(emptiness, void, needfulness).  Would the man still be capable to satisfy those too?  For how long can this approach continue without reaching a dead-end? Let us not forget that the same process is taking place in the man’s life, too.  At the beginning, his manly need to feel strong enough to support a woman is satisfied through her difficult financial state.  She needs him.  He will see himself as her ‘saviour.’ But this is not the only need a man has in life.  Would she be the right candidate to satisfy his other needs as they arise and come to surface?  For how long can they follow each other closely in the labyrinth of human’s needs?

There are other grave consequences resulting from this need-fulfilling approach. The woman, because of her dependency, would give in and make concessions in cases where she should not, in other words in situations where the man is --in one word--abusing her.  The fear of losing the man (in fact losing her financial security) and falling back into her relatively unfavourable conditions, prevents her from confronting the man’s unjust attitude and insisting on her more justifiable opinion what ever it is. That is exactly why in general, women’s financial security is the prime prerequisite to put an end to women’s abuse.  Women put up with a lot of unjust treatments and abuses out of economic insecurity.

It must now be clear what we mean by saying that we should not depend on anybody except ourselves for fulfillment of our needs. As mentioned above, this does not imply that we fulfil our needs without the participation and help of another party; we are all socially dependent on each other for fulfillment of our needs.  It is the matter of who we are depending on and the price we pay for our dependency.  In other words, it is the form and conditions of dependency that determines whether it is in the long run to our advantage or disadvantage.  When the woman of our above example, tries to solve her problem by looking for a better job, for example, instead of depending on her fiancé’s money, she still appears to be ‘dependent’ on another authority, but this is altogether another form of dependency with different consequences and outcomes.  Here she really depends on herself, and not on that authority, since she can replace it with another one, any time she decides, if she is not satisfied.  It is clear that the latter form of dependency brings her independency, self-confidence, self-esteem, while the former can make a parasite or a slave out of her.

However, there is one definite need that it is “legitimate’ to depend on a specific person for its fulfillment, and that is the sexual need and its highest form, marriage.  Other than that, we should only depend on our own ‘selves’  to satisfy our needs.  Whenever we depend on somebody else to gratify our need for material well-being, for any kind of security, for taking away our fears of loneliness or the feeling of abandonment, etc., we should realize that we are in fact forming a parasitic relationship or at most a symbiotic one.  In both cases, neither side can flourish and survive without the other.  Worse is that one’s impoverishment and aridity leads to the same state in the other.  And since they are both consciously or unconsciously aware of this fact, they naturally push their ‘claws’ more deeply into the other’s body and soul.  Both would feel imprisoned. Neither feels free. Neither is free.  It is true that in case of the parasitic type of relationship, the dependent side may not experience the relationship in this way, but  in reality, that person is as refrained and in fact even more imprisoned than the other side, because the dependency has taken away all her/his self-confidence and can no longer believe that is totally capable of thriving without the other person.

So if needs should not make the basis of a marital relationship, what should? As mentioned before, out of endless number of human needs and desires, there is only one that a specific person is actually needed for its fulfillment, and that is the highest form of sexual need, marriage.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ in going out and ‘say yes’ to the first person that comes along and asks our hand.  Statistically the chance of success in this kind of marriages might not necessarily be less than that of the couples who have known each other for a long time.  In my country we have an interesting saying in this context: “marriage is like watermelon; you cannot know how it will turn out to be without cutting it.” There is a whole procedure for picking up a good watermelon i.e. a red juicy sweet one. One should examine the size, the texture of the outer rind, the sound it produces when tapped, etc.  Still there can always be a watermelon that passes all the above tests successfully and appears to be one of those delicious appetizing ones, but once cut, turns out to be like a ‘cucumber’, white and tasteless.

In this country, the traditional system of wooing, is still very prevalent and still many marriages are arranged by the parents without actually paying much attention to their children’s’ opinion. The parents of the future bridegroom choose their future bride on their own with or without their son’s consent, woo her from the girl’s  parents and here too, what the girl thinks has little importance.  I used to consider this approach as the most cruel and barbarous act the parents do to their children.  How dare they are to decide for and determine their children’s destiny!  Gradually I came to understand its very profound wisdom.  What is marriage?  It is a contract between two people who decide to live the rest of their life together under one roof.  Who are these people? Each is in reality a collection of habits.  I do not add opinions, views, outlooks, philosophy, etc, because these factors do not play a direct role in our everyday life.  They determine our behaviour, but once the behaviour--programming of habits--is complete, then it plays only a secondary, subordinate role. Very seldom a man and a woman fight over their ‘ideologies.’  The prime cause of their disagreements and conflicts nearly always concerns their attitudes to the problems of everyday life; their mannerism, habits, previous conditionings etc.  I always tell my clients that you seldom, if ever, fight over the general subjects such as humanity or different schools of philosophy with your spouse. You get mad if he/she is untidy, belches loudly after meal1, does not give you a hand in doing the housework, never takes his dirty glass to the kitchen, never empties his filthy ashtray… In one sentence you fight over your habits shaped as the result of your upbringing, both familial and social.  In reality we are all some sort of robot programmed and conditioned during our childhood and adolescence, operating accordingly for the rest of our life.  The basis of our behaviour is reactive and the type of reactions we show are all acquired during our childhood years.  From this we can thus conclude that the nearer the two families are in their mannerism and attitudes toward life, the closer is the programming of the robots brought up in these families.  The closer the overall attitudes and mannerism of two people, the better they can get along with each other.  This is what parents can detect and perceive, and so decide whether a specific person can be a good candidate as their child’s future spouse or not. This is the wisdom hidden in the traditional system of wooing or pre-arranged marriages.  This is something the youths are unable to understand due to their age which is the age of idealism, aspiration; the age of wishing to change the whole world.  They see that they think differently from their parents, have contradictory ideas about everything, and all this is absolutely natural.  The point they do not realize is the fact that our thoughts and ideas may have nothing to do with our deeds.  During the first few years after the Islamic revolution in this country when there was still some democracy and freedom of thought in the society, those “communist” men who used to shout about “women’s double oppression” and the necessity of women’s emancipation and equality in the articles they wrote, the speeches they gave and so on, treated their spouses just as any other traditionalist chauvinistic man did.  In actual everyday life they were what they had learnt at their parent’s home.  Their beautiful thoughts and ideals about women had nothing to do with their actual deeds.  Similarly there can be men not believing in women’s equality and so on, but due to having a soft, humanist father, in love with his wife, treat their spouses better than any of those ardent advocates of women’s equality.

To illustrate this point even further, let us take the example of a girl brought up in a fairly wealthy family who falls in love with a man from a lower social class.  No doubt, the girl’s parents would utterly object to their marriage.  They know their daughter and how “spoiled” she is; they know she can not bear the hardship she is bound to face, and are sure that sooner or later, in fact as soon as they fall out of love, she will regret.  It is not only the financial state of the man they are taking into consideration, but the whole different background, including morality, mentality, values, mannerism, etc. According to an Iranian proverb: “What an elderly sees in a crude brick, a youth can not see in the mirror.” That is why in the past parents insisted on interfamilial marriages in places where it was not religiously forbidden; it guaranteed its relative success due to cultural closeness of the two families and hence their mannerism and attitudes to life. To make it short, parents know through experience that passion which is confused with love, is not enough for establishing a happy marriage, and there are many more important and vital elements at work here that young people can not possibly understand and take into consideration simply due to their lack of experience and maturity, on one hand, and their idealistic age-dependent approach, on the other hand. Parents have passed the stage when “love made them blind, dumb and deaf.”

Furthermore, the ultimate aspiration of any parents, is their child’s happiness. Parents can make many mistakes and cause many traumas, but all wish the best for their children; that we can not doubt.  Even in the most apparently cruel cases, when a father “sells” his daughter, let us put away our somehow sentimental reaction and look at the case from a more realistic angle--leaving out the exception of greedy, inhuman fathers--.  There can be no doubt that the poor man must be in a very desperate situation, and if somebody arrives with some money, it implies he can afford filling the girl’s empty stomach, to say the least, something the father is not able to do.  In his desolate, hopeless world, he is doing a favour to his daughter, from now on at least she would not be hungry.  Remember that a hungry stomach can not think of higher needs.  Another meaningful proverb in this context is: “A hungry stomach does not even think of love,” or “you haven’t suffered from hunger, to think of love.” Therefore the poor man’s prime concern is to save his child from starvation, he can not possibly think of any thing else in that condition.

The final picture of the life of the girl in our previous example is not hard to foresee.  She will marry the guy, despite her parents’ objection, and pays the high price of ruining her life.  With the first blow of unfavourable wind of conflicts, the fire of love is distinguished.  Love is energy.  At the beginning the amount of this energy is high enough to compensate for all the deprivations and all the advantages and material comforts that she had lost because of marrying a man from a lower economic class. The conflicts are not just limited to their financial situation, which is in a way the easiest one to solve. She, too, can start to work and earn money.  It is a whole set of different habits, attitudes and mannerism that gradually come to play a role and cause conflict. No doubt that this applies to the man, too.  If he had married a girl of his own soci-cultural rank, he would have had a better chance of making the marriage work.

Nowadays, in contrast to my previous approach to this subject, I suggest to all marrying young people to at least listen carefully to their parents’ opinions in this respect and reflect on what they say.  I remind them that the closer the programming of our robots, the greater is the chance of our getting together more peacefully.

Unfortunately there are no statistics comparing the rate of divorce in so-called arranged marriages and those where the couple married on their own decision.  I sincerely believe that this rate is higher in the latter. In addition, we should also not forget that a fraction of this rate among the former group may be due to simple opposition of the couple to their parents’ one sided decision for them and not necessarily because they did not find each other suitable.

I know I am sounding very reactionary.  Please do not take me wrong. I am not suggesting that young people should not choose their future spouse without their parents’ concession.  Many young people, especially in the West, leave home and start their own life perhaps long before they are ready and prepared to get marry.  My main point in this discussion is that the most important factor determining the success or failure of any marriage is the cultural background of the two families.  Our robot programmes are written in the computers of our family’s structure and constitution.  It is true that we can not be sure how the watermelon will turn out to be without cutting it, but when the outside signs indicate that it should be a good one, then the chance of it actually turning out to be a good, red, tasty watermelon will in any case be higher than when the outside signs are not what they should be.

Now leaving the families’ background aside and going back to our original discussion about independency, I mentioned that the main reason for failure of most marriages -- even when other important factors such as the cultural background mentioned above are all what they should be -- is that it is based on need-fulfillment.  Both sides expect the other side to make up for all his/her previous failures and unfulfilled needs, all the painful feelings of abandonment, frustrations and disappointments piled up in past.  Surly this needs a superhuman power that no ordinary person possess, for the simple fact that our partner, too, is more or less in the same situation.  Naturally marriage becomes more an overwhelming and breathtaking burden rather than an enjoyable experience of sharing lives, or living one life in two souls.

The third important factor responsible for the success or failure of any marriage is the degree of the woman’s femininity -- how much she is in contact with her true nature-- and similarly the degree of man’s masculinity -- how much he is in contact with his true nature. The higher this degree, the more they would complement each other and realize their need for each other in order to be feel their true self.  On the other hand the less they are in contact with their true self, the more similar they will be in nature, the higher is the probability that any other forms of relationship other than complementation -- the only justified form in marital relationship -- takes place between them.  That is why the feeling we experience during love-making should extend to all other aspects of our existence. In the era of lost identities, this is the only time we resume our true identity again.  It is the only time that we feel our wholeness, and that is why it is a very ecstatic feeling; we become one with the entire universe.

Thus the “sexual” relationship -- sex in the sense of masculinity and femininity that has both a physical and a spiritual aspect -- can act as a tool, or an instrument for us to recover our true self.  The only time that a man and a woman feel their sexuality and unify and identify with it, is when they are face to face with each other, why? Because it is only by comparison that uniqueness is felt.  What I like to emphasize here, is that the kind of feeling and experience I have in mind, is a very deep insight, something that is felt in the heart, in every cell of the body. It is the feeling of wholeness, totality and unity arising from the mere presence of another being. 

Contrary to what is usually believed, in the act of love-making we do not unify with each other. We are not “half” to become a whole, we are not ‘untotal’ to become total. Unlike principles or poles can never unify with each other. What actually happens is that we unify with our own “self” and through it with the whole existence, with universe.  This is achieved through the mutual interdependent interrelation of our two complete selves -- the Yin and Yang1 --. In this way we feel our wholeness.  We experience our totality.  Just as we can not see our face without a reflecting surface, we need a mirror for all our inner experiences, too. During love-making we find this mirror. We see ourselves in the feelings that our facing person is experiencing.  Since he too is experiencing this feeling of wholeness and totality, we both act as our each other’s mirrors. Therefore it is a shared experience. That is why love in essence is sharing existence. 

This is also why old friendships are so meaningful and so much valued by the majority of people, especially as we grow old.  The older the friendship, the stronger the mirror, since the older the friendship -- the longer the two sides have been present in each other’s existences.  They see in the other all the life they have left behind. Old friends can act as an index of change for each other.

Now let us go through our definition of woman and man once more.  A woman is a person who when faced with a man the latter feels his masculinity, and the man is that person who makes a woman aware of her femininity.  And we just mentioned that the only legitimate need that a couple can base their relation upon it, is the sexual need in both its physical and spiritual sense.

Now note that the definition of man and woman applies to the ideal case, and not today’s confused muddled up, self (Nature)-alienated men and women.1 We revive each other’s femininity and masculinity to the extent that we feel it ourselves. The only time we get near to the ideal case, which is also mostly limited to its physical aspect, is during love--making.  Surely this does not mean that our femininity or masculinity is entirely limited to this act, and it is not possible to feel it at other times. Love gives us this unique opportunity to make contact with our inner being; and the more we discover our “self” (nature) and the more we harmonize ourselves with it, the more we become our true “self”, and consequently the more we can affect our opposite sex to feel her/his sexuality.  From this point of view, sexuality is no longer just a physical concept, but comes to mean the true self or nature.

And what is the true self like? It is that feeling of wholeness, completeness, totality, freedom and independence felt when we are one with ourself.  What stops us from feeling this way? A large number of factors including our general alienation from Mother Nature, and all the religio-socio-cultural prejudices and expectations, to our personal psycho-mental attitudes shaped in our families. All these factors have a share in our alienation from our true self.  And this is equally true for both sexes, since although many of these factors apply mostly to women, but let us not forget that men are brought up by women.  No doubt that bewildered women cannot raise clear- minded men who in turn cannot make women to feel their femininity, who thus cannot incite the feeling of masculinity in men.  See how the vicious circle is formed and regenerate itself.

How can we break this vicious circle? By establishing “correct” relationships with our opposite sex.  And what is a correct relationship?  It is a relationship just based on our willingness to share our life with another person, without expecting him/her to fulfil our needs and make us happy.  Willingness to share our life with another person; surely this has always been the criterion for marriage which proves that truth is eternal.  But how many of us utters the vow of marriage without expecting the other side to make us happy?  How many of us have already given up this illusion and delusion that nobody can make us happy?  How many of us have attained the awareness that happiness is an inner feeling almost independent of our outer conditions? 

The willingness to share our life with another being can act as a guideline for establishing a loving marital relationship.  For those of us already in a relationship, mainly based on need--fulfillment and co-dependency, it is harder to transform its basis, but if we succeed, it will act as an index and an evidence for the great change and transformation we must have gone through in order to attain this goal. On one hand it is harder, but on the other hand it is an exceptional opportunity for growth and maturation; since the mirror reflecting us suffers exactly from similar immaturities, childlike behaviours, emotional instabilities and in one word similar personality defects.  Remember that this similarity is a similarity in essence and not in form.  Most often, we find our companion, as having just those characteristics we have always resented in life.  And this is not at all surprising.  Do not forget that unlike principles attract each other as much as like ones repel each other.  This is the law of nature and the only way that balance and harmony can be established.  If two very serious stern people come to live with each other as husband and wife, they would intensify this characteristic in each other to an unhealthy degree, for both and particularly for their child.  There is lots of wisdom hidden in the proverb: “Water looks for brooks as ships look for water.”

If we consider needs as a sort of “hole” or emptiness in our life, and expect the other person to fill these holes (emptiness) for us, then they should have some “extras” of these things that we lack, in order to be able to fill our holes for us.  For example, if I am in need of money the other person should have more than his/her own personal need in order to fill my hole. Therefore, the “extras” in the other person should be of the opposite nature to what we lack, and vice versa. There is a real wisdom in coming in close contact with people possessing qualities that we either lack or resent.  This is the way of Nature to teach us to overcome our personality defects and resume our wholeness, since true joy and ecstasy of life is only felt when we feel our wholeness, totality, and completeness.  So the more we become complete--which happens through filling our ‘holes’-- the more we feel happy.

To illustrate this point, let us take a very common example.  Often in life, we come across the case of the impatient persons, marrying a person who is ‘extra’ patient; or angry people espousing extra cool people and so on.  The hole in the impatient person, is lack of patience.  Only a person with extra patience can thus compensate for the impatience the other is suffering from.  The same applies to the angry-cool couples. The basis of attraction is as a rule, dissimilarities or divergence in personalities, which on the surface is like the aforementioned example of poor-wealthy couple, but the mechanism at work here is much more complicated.

First of all, let us always remember that creation of balance and harmony in the midst of chaos and entropy, is the real wisdom of Nature. When people with opposite qualities get together, a state of balance is immediately created at a higher level than their individual life.  A fact that they usually and unfortunately not only do not realize, but see it quite negatively, as a misfortune which will soon turn to a disaster due to our robot or action-reaction behaviour.  They do not realize that this is actually the shortest way to attain what they lack and thus get closer to totality and wholeness of personality.

In order to illustrate the mechanism at work here, let us take the case of impatient-patient couple.  The impatient side actually does not know what patience is.  This quality is foreign to this type of personality.  This is the ‘hole’ in his/her personality that needs to be filled. The point to remember is that in order to notice a shortcoming in ourselves, we must be faced with its opposite.  That is why the other person can not just be ‘normal’, but should be our other extreme.

In general, what is the best and easiest way to learn anything? Through practice with the help of a teacher or guide; in other words, through role-modeling.  And that is the hidden reason for ‘unconsciously’ choosing a person with opposite qualities.  He/she can act as our role model. The end result would be that both sides learn to resolve their extremes in any quality and experience balance in life.

So we should know that as long as we do not feel our completeness, we go for people who have qualities that we either lack or have resented all our lives.  The root of this resentment is partly projection, and partly envy which according to the great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkgaard is “hidden appreciation and fascination.”1

There is no doubt that, deep down it is our search for completeness that makes us go for such personalities.  In this way we create a role model for ourselves!  And we should also know that as long as we refuse to learn what we need to learn, the situation would persist in our life.  We can divorce that person for this very reason--having qualities we cannot bear--but sooner or later we will find ourselves in a similar situation — i.e. with a person having exactly the same characteristics, whether as our new mate or as another very close and important person in our life.  The mechanism at work is beautiful.  As mentioned before, balance and harmony is the beauty of Nature and Creation.  Our impatient fellow will make anybody in close contact with her/him patient.  He/she instigates an equal opposite reaction in the other person, resulting in effervescence of patience in the other person, i.e. she/he creates a reaction that has always hated, could not bear, resented, escaped from. Truly we are escaping from ourselves, a vain attempt, even though the majority of us do it until the last moment of our life.  Kierkgaard, in his work mentioned above, calls despair as the Disease onto Death, but I think our eternal flight from ourselves is actually the real core and cause of this disease onto death.  To me despair is itself the consequence of this self-escape.

The truth is that we cannot escape from ourselves! And the person who would relinquish our tendency to escape from ourselves, i.e. would help us to accept ourselves unconditionally, is the person with whom we can share our existence.  And he/she can accept us unconditionally, only if we in turn give him/her the security and freedom to be whoever he/she is.

There is one more vital category that needs to be discussed before finishing this chapter, and that is the feeling of love.  There are theoreticians, such as Dr. Scott Peck,1 who believe that feeling is not a necessary component of love, and to them, true love actually starts when we fall out of love.  He defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”  “The act of loving is an act of self-evolution.”1 The problem with this kind of approach is that it is too logical (“love is an act of will -- namely, both intention and action”) and somehow unwomanly.  Women are by nature more feeling-oriented.  Based on his personal observation, Dr. Peck passes the verdict that “ the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterizes the experience of falling in love always passes.”  Although such an event is a norm today, but can not necessarily be regarded as a rule too. In addition, romance is really one of the most beautiful aspects of human life, and there is nothing wrong in trying to find a way to feel it throughout our life.  So instead of postulating the death of the feeling of love, let us try to see if it is possible to find a way to remain in the state of “ecstatic lovingness.”  For this purpose, let us first analyze our attitude and approach when we are in love and under the influence of a universal mechanism2  and then see what we can do to make that attitude and approach last.

The most prominent characteristic of this period --the honey moon of the relationship -- is that we see and find our beloved absolutely flawless and perfect.  In other words, we see only the beautiful, positive aspects and are blind to the dark side of his\her personality.  We concentrate on his/her strengths and neglect his/her weaknesses.  As it is the period that both sides accept and appreciate each other unconditionally, without any negative evaluation and judgement, they naturally show their best self.  This is another factor that keeps the weaknesses of the personality covert.  So we have the honeymoon of the relationship. 

The process of falling out of love starts as soon as we shift our point of concentration and begin to see the weaknesses or the negative dark side of the personality of our beloved. We become judgemental.  We are not that unconditional medium that we used to be. We are still blind, but this time to the bright side of our once beloved personality.   And this is the real tragedy. The shift is mainly the outcome of that prevalent need-satisfying approach and the resultant disappointment and frustration that works like a termite secretly eating the beams of the house of love. And never forget the fact that relationship is a mirroring process; the cases of disappointments in one always have an equal counterpart in the other.  In other words, the number of needs unfulfilled in one, is exactly the same as the number of unfulfilled needs in the other.  Unfortunately, each side is so self-righteous and self-centred that together with the shift in our point of concentration gradually leaves us no hope.  Remember that feeling is the main source of energy of love, and logic is not able to totally replace the lost feeling.

Now by adopting the non-parasitic approach to relationship, not expecting our partner to play all-or-nothing-role for us, not asking or anticipating our partner to fill all our “holes”, helps a great deal to postpone and perhaps destroys the chance of falling out of love.  The other equally important, fruitful factor is to keep our point of concentration on the bright side of our beloved personality.  Here is where logic can help us, by constantly reminding us that any personality -- including our own -- is a series of strong and weak characteristics.  It is the living interaction of these points that gives rise to different personalities.  Our beloved is no exception, even when we are blind to see the weaknesses, they are nonetheless there. (In every love relation, there is a stage -- the honey moon period -- that we see our beloved flawless and perfect, which is actually not true.  It seems that way because of our point of concentration.  It is a beautiful illusion that makes love possible.)  So we can choose to maintain this approach.  It helps us to remain non-judgemental, as an unconditional medium, with the result that our partner will react in the same way.  Remember that we are only to play the role of man and woman for each other, and not the role of a critic, reformer of personality, parent, child and many thousands other roles that we consciously or unconsciously play and expect to play for each other with the inevitable result of totally forgetting the role we should play. 

To summarize a loving marital relationship can evolve only between two independent people who have learnt this bitter truth that nobody can make us happy (except ourselves).  It should just be based on a willingness1 to share one’s life with another person, without expecting the other to fulfil one’s personal needs.  The basis for this willingness should be the arousal of the feeling of our true self (femininity or masculinity), so the more one incites this feeling in us, the more we should be willing to choose him/her as our life long partner and companion.  The more we complement one another, the more we can feel that feeling of wholeness and totality which is the basis of peace, balance, harmony and happiness in life.

 

 Divorce[15]

The fact is that couples always complement each other. According to a Persian proverb, “God is not a carpenter, but he knows very well how to match a door and a lumber.” Why?

One of the most important laws of Nature is balance and equilibrium. It goes without saying that any form of extreme disrupts the beautiful order of the universe and that is why it can not be tolerated for long. The simplest way to balance an exaggeration or extreme is always through its opposite. In this way the two extremes will even out each other and thus balance is achieved.

Anytime that due to some reasons, a definite trait or characteristic appears in an exaggerated form in us, the result would be that the growth and development of its opposite pole will be suppressed and consequently it will be difficult to balance that exaggeration as it is. In this case what will be the easiest and quickest way to balance it? From outside and through another close person with the opposite pattern. But the balance achieved in this way i.e. from outside is only a short-term solution with its own negative outcomes; the worst effect is that it leads to dependency. So what can be the real or the long-term solution? (1) To recognize the imbalance and (2) try to grow its opposite pole in ourselves. But the opposite pole as mentioned before has been totally suppressed which means that the person under question would have no idea about it. It is like an unknown domain and in order to familiarize ourselves with this domain, we need a teacher. For example, a nervous person does not even know what it means to be otherwise and how to be otherwise, in other words he/she does not know how to act differently i.e. be cool (if we take these two characteristics as opposites). Two nervous people can never get along with each other in a close relationship for long. If they do, they would probably kill each other within the very first week or month. The same is true for extremely cool individuals. Now a nervous and a cool person next to each other not only produce balance and equilibrium, but they can mutually act as a teacher to learn what they do not know. Psychological characteristics can not be learnt by reading about them, we need a live model for this purpose.

Why are some people nervous and some cool? In other words, how do our main characteristics develop in the first place? The shortest answer is that they are formed as a reaction to our childhood life. They are some sort of defense mechanisms that help us to survive in those conditions. The result is that we will be programmed like a robot and will act accordingly until the end of our life. A very common example, now that divorce is so prevalent among the westerners, is the personality trend shaped as the result of the feeling of abandonment, itself a product of the divorce (of the parents). The child would come to think that the parent who has gone has abandoned her/him, is extremely hurt, and from then on will unconsciously or consciously avoid close relationships due to her/his severe fear of intimacy. The deep mistrust and pessimism (the first level of defense mechanism)[16] developed in this way would in many cases also give rise to a critical (or sarcastic) attitude (the second level of defense mechanism), since that would help such a person to keep her/his mistrust and never ‘lose oneself totally in the relationship’ that in turn helps her/him to escape commitment. Surly all this is to avoid the pain experienced when his/her parents separated. The personality that can attract such a person would be one who first of all shares her/his fear of intimacy and thus commitment (due to the same or different form of the horror of abandonment) and secondly should be somehow naive, trustful, optimistic and perfectionist (i.e. the opposite pole of the other person). A person devoid of the fear of abandonment and thus of commitment would scare away our original person and incidentally they usually do not come across each other in life because they live on two different existential levels.

Now the complementary poles of pessimist-optimist, trustful-mistrustful are quite clear, the only one that perhaps needs more clarification, is critical-perfectionist. In one simple word, a perfectionist is one who is sensitive toward one’s imperfections and in order to attain his/her goal, will always need to be in search of his/her ‘faults’ or ‘imperfections,’ a wish that is very well fulfilled by a critical personality who is very good in finding ‘faults’ in others.

To summarize, the reason for attracting our complementary personality is first to establish balance in our environment and secondly to have a model to learn about those characteristics suppressed in us. Although very seldom, if ever we look at our conflicts with the outside world, our mate, in this way, but as can be seen by the above example, it can be the most efficient and perhaps the most convenient means to learn to be a whole person. By that we mean a person who has achieved balance within oneself, one who possesses the whole axis or spectrum of a characteristic, or one who has unified its opposite poles in oneself. The ideal state of humanhood is reached when the whole axis of God-Satan is discovered, developed and unified in one person.

Such a person is no longer a simple reaction of and to the world, but can create her/his own world.

By adopting such an attitude toward outside, naturally all antagonisms with the outside world will immediately resolve. In other words, once we accept our vocation to be as a discovery of the god-satan axis in ourselves, ending up in creating our own personal world, then the outside world would appear as our only opportunity to attain this goal. Marriage is the most complete form of this opportunity. In a way it is the only chance for us to heal ourselves and become a true human being rather than a robot programmed according to our childhood life-traumas. How can we use this opportunity?

Once faced with a conflict, say a quality which we have hated such as pessimism, the first step is to discover the basis of our ‘reactive’ attitude toward it, which is in fact a reflection of our personal defense mechanisms (dramas) mainly formed as the result of our childhood life-traumas. We can tell ourselves that this (pessimism) is a reaction instigated by something in us. The cause of such a reaction from outside may be (1) we are acting too optimistically, too naively, too easy going (in majority of the cases); (2) we are projecting, i.e. attributing unconsciously to the other person as a defense against an unpleasant feeling in ourselves (which would naturally end in suppression of this unpleasant feeling and thought and growth of its opposite); (3) we are denying the presence of such a quality in ourselves so much that in order to escape seeing it, we put such an extreme case of it next to ourselves so that by comparison we would always seem to be devoid of it.

There is a wide difference in treating an outside person as our persecutor, or as a mirror of our offended self, i.e. as an opportunity to discover our ‘unconscious’ fears and insecurities, self-contempt and disrespect. Taking the example of living with a critical person, the reason for being offended when criticized is the fear and insecurity felt which has in turn originated from similar situations during one’s childhood, when one has actually been defenseless, for at such a small age one is devoid of the required knowledge and experience to confront such states and therefore one always ‘loses’. The corresponding desperate feeling would then be engraved in the subconscious like an open wound that will be revealed only when one is faced with a similar situation. Meanwhile one has grown up and is no longer that defenseless insecure, fearful child. Not only that, but by now one is ‘armed’ and equipped with the required means for confrontation and hence the time is ripe to heal an apparently forgotten, but in reality a bleeding wound. How do we learn about its presence? In our example through the pain and offence felt when faced with a critical mate.

By seeing the situation from this angle, the person in question will change from a persecutor to a friend. One can even feel somehow grateful to that person, since it is him who has provided the opportunity for a healing process to take place through revealing our sensitivity to something that we really do not need to be that much sensitive to. As a result of this change in attitude, the direction of our attention will be shifted from outside to inside. As a result, instead of a tense, nervous state, which usually arises in these situations, a healthy space is created in which both sides can heal their wounds.

On the other hand, when we treat the other person as our persecutor and get hurt, the resulting resentment leads to the formation of the vicious circle of guilt feeling, an extremely destructive phenomenon, a truly double-edged sword which once began will be repeatedly regenerated. Let us look at this circle in more detail.

It begins when one is hurt, but chooses to keep quite. The suppressed resentment will then change into anger. Anger when suppressed will lead to revengeful thoughts, intrigues and evil wishes. This happens more or less subconsciously. Once we catch ourselves thinking such awful ill-bred thoughts we would start to feel guilty. Guilt looks for punishment. Punishment may be carried out in two ways: (1) through a wide range of self- imposed punishments ranging from the so called “accidental” burns, bruises and so on to catching the most serious diseases; (2) through another person. It usually happens that this other person is the very person who is the cause of the original resentment. By unconsciously “putting our foot on that person’s tail” as a Persian proverb says, we turn him/her to our persecutor once more. Let us take a very common example. Suppose a mother punishes her child for some mischief he/she has done (which has somehow hurt her) and feels guilty afterward. What is the best way to relieve the pain resulting from her guilt? To prove that her child ‘deserved’ that punishment; that he/she is a little devil who can not be restrained other than being physically punished. So she unconsciously will make him/her a little devil by depriving him/her from a fair request, for example when the child asks for permission to go outside to play, she will irrationally refuse by giving some unjustified excuses. Naturally the child will be furious and will start a big fuss. This is exactly the opportunity the mother needed to justify herself for the last punishment she imposed on him/her. She will ‘loose control’ and punishes the child once more and the whole cycle will regenerate once more. Now this time since the guilt has increased, the whole process needs to be repeated much faster. This is the main reason for why such guilt-based relationships never improve unless the cycle is broken. The way to break it is as follows:

(1) the original resentment felt should be justified.

(2) similarly the feeling of anger  should be justified by accepting our human-ness, our shortcomings, our capacity for tolerance. Many of us expect too much from ourselves, we like to be perfect. We should accept that we too, can be tired and fed up and physically and mentally exhausted, on the verge of explosion. A  hurt and angry feeling can not be denied, it does not help to say that we shouldn’t have been hurt and angry, because we were. The fact that we should or should not can not help us here and now.  Instead what we should do is to find a way to discharge the anger in a healthy way, before it enters the next step which would be thinking revengeful ill-bred thoughts. Let us not forget that feelings are energies, each with a definite half life. If we go with our feeling instead of suppressing it, it will end on its own accord.

 

 

 

 

 

Resentment (suppressed)

 

 


turning him into a persecutor                             anger (suppressed)

 

 


revengeful thoughts

 

 


unconsciously provoking him                               guilt feeling

 

 


through the person responsible                             punishment

for the original pain

self-imposed

 

The vicious circle of guilt feeling

 

Once anger is felt, we can go to another room, close the door, hit a pillow, take some deep breaths, let it complete its life cycle. We suppress our anger because we fear its consequences, but if we let it be in the above way, it will disappear, leaving us the opportunity to think logically.

On the other hand, when it is consciously or unconsciously suppressed it will prevent any sensible reflection, leading to revengeful thoughts and intrigues which in turn lead to the guilt feeling suffered afterwards.

Now going back to our main subject, unsuccessful marriages in which a woman is faced with an abusive husband, first of all the situation implies that such a woman has no self-love and self-respect and that is the main reason that she is in such a destructive relationship. Secondly, she is most probably harboring some sort of self-contempt and guilt feeling, which would naturally necessitate the presence of a persecutor in her life. So unconsciously she would behave in such a way that will incite the other to offend (punish) her. Once the latter (the husband) plays this role for her, he too, will naturally feel guilty and so will automatically fall into the above vicious circle. Now there are two people who need to be punished and this is why the relationship will deteriorate constantly making life miserable for both. And that is why divorce is not a long-term solution for either side. Instead, both sides should first try to seize the opportunity to heal themselves. The fact that the man does play the role of the persecutor is itself an evidence for the presence of some sort of psychological fear and insecurity. Breaking the above cycle by first acknowledging the resentment and anger on the feeling level and secondly finding a healthy way to discharge it is only half the work needed for cure. Anyone, who finds oneself in such a state, should at the same time stop the self-hate and contempt. The main cause of the latter lies in one’s infancy when one should learn to love and accept oneself through the unconditional love and acceptance of one’s parents. If for any reasons we do not receive this unconditional love and acceptance, we will be incapable of showing a healthy self-love and acceptance towards ourselves. As the result, we will not find ourselves worthy of love and respect. Consequently we would unconsciously go for people who would be able to play the role of the persecutor for us, and prove to us that we are not lovable. With such background, if divorce does take place, the maltreatment in the previous marriage with the bitter feeling of being unlovable is bound to make the next marriage a more disastrous experience.

If life is to be a grievous experience, it does not make much difference with whom it is going to be shared. X or Y will essentially have only different physical appearances.

Without going through such a process of self-healing, divorce, would be an escape and not a cure. It should always be the last resort, only after we make certain that the problem does not arise from us. In other words, only after we have made sure that if we are faced, for example with an aggressive, abusive husband, he is not a reflection of a part of us that for some reasons longs to be mistreated.

When we love ourselves, are not ashamed of ourselves, feel ourselves worthy of a happy life and finally are devoid of any guilt feeling, not only we will never marry a destructive person, but would not generally even come across such a person. These two personalities live on different existential levels, and there is a very small chance for them to even meet each other.[17]

Now let us once more go through the mechanism of staying in love. It goes without saying that every person is a collection of lovable and unlovable or positive and negative, bright or dark sides. It seems that before marriage we are blind to the negative or unlovable components, while after that we are blind to the positive, lovable components of our mate’s personality. The result of this shift in our point of concentration is the main cause of the future conflicts. This is one of the important side effects of basing our relationships on need-fulfillment, as mentioned before. When we concentrate on the beauties of the other person, we will be all loving; the reaction to love will be love. On the other hand, when we concentrate on the negative points of the other person, we will be all resentful and denying; the reaction to resentment and deny is naturally the same. An important wide-spread illusion that needs to be considered here, is the fact that we forget that our personalities arise as the interaction of our weak and strong points. Couples try to obliterate ‘the weak or unlovable sides’ of their mates without thinking that even if this were conceivable, it is quite possible that the resulting person would no longer appear attractive at all. But that is beside the point, particularly since such attempts usually fail any way. The main reason is that when we try ‘to correct’ our mate, we are playing the role of parents, and this would make our mate to act like a child, i.e. he would obstinately resist any correction.

So the mechanism for staying in love, would be to keep our point of concentration on the lovable side of our beloved as before. This does not imply that in this way we would assume a passive role and would not help our mate to grow. It does not mean that we should keep quite about the weak points we see in him/her. On the contrary, this is the only way to make our mates to hear us, since we are coming from our adult self and not the parent. When we talk about his/her weak points from this position, i.e. from our adult-self, it would incite the adult in him/her and not his/her child. On the other hand, since we are not denying or resentful, due to our point of concentration, we make a space which not only would make self-defending unnecessary, but helps the person to see our point.

We should realize that our point of concentration is a choice. Without love, life is meaningless. It is our main motivation for living. The vital role it plays should help us to strive for this most meaningful struggle, to stay in love. Keeping our point of concentration on the lovable side of our beloved as before is the first important step. The second step is that in respect to the other unlovable side, we should treat them as a reaction to our own action,  feeling, thought or attitude. Once we unfold the cause of such reaction and change it, it would automatically (in the majority of cases) lead to a different reaction. In other words, we should give up this pointless attempt to change a reaction. A reaction can change only by altering the corresponding action. In this way, some of the unlovable points of our lover will inevitably change.

In cases when it is not the matter of some bothering unlovable points of our mate, but a particular despairing situation that we see our mate as the cause, we should ask ourselves why we should be faced with such morose condition? What lessons we would have liked to learn that could not be learnt otherwise. For example, if faced with infidelity, we should ask ourselves did it happen because we have been excessively naive, guileless, or indifferent or insensitive toward the other person? It is very rare for infidelity to occur suddenly, there is always a history of indifference, coldness and insensitivity in the relation before it takes place. Many alarms were given, but were not heard and heeded. We should know that the more we procrastinate what we need to learn, the more painful the situation will become. The most important point to make here is that opposite mental and emotional states produce the similar effects. They are the head and tail of the same coin.  For example, excessive mistrust and guilefulness or excessive naivete, intense sensitivity or inquisitiveness  and indifference or apathy usually lead to the same end. To see what we have to learn from a situation is especially helpful in those cases that do not seem to be a simple direct reaction to some sort of quality in us. For example, one may find oneself married to an addict without knowing. Here the case is much more complicated, and the only way that we can prevent an antagonism to arise is to strive to find out what we wanted to learn from such a situation that could not be learnt otherwise. The more complicated the situation faced with, the greater is the number of our dilemmas solved, questions answered, lessons learnt; the more we pay, the more we buy (gain).

Suppressed resentment is one of the most destructive factors in love relations. We just explained how it can lead to the vicious circle of guilt feeling with its unpleasant, shattering consequences. Therefore, it is necessary to express resentment as soon as possible. The reason we usually do not express our resentment is the fear of consequences. This happens when we consider the other person as the cause and start to blame him/her. When do we usually get hurt? When the other person does not respect our evaluations (i.e. those things that are important and valuable for us), our sensitivities, our likes and dislikes. We forget that first of all the other person might not even be aware of what is important for us, we are sensitive too, etc. Secondly, we forget that we can expect to receive only those things that we ourselves give, we can only harvest that which we have cultivated. In other words, we can expect others to respect our sensitivities only when we do the same and only when we have already informed them about what we are sensitive to. Many times it is only after we are hurt that we discover our sensitivities. When we ourselves are not aware of our own likes and dislikes, how do we expect others to know about them? Therefore, although emotionally we acknowledge the right to be hurt, once we have allowed ourselves to feel the emotion fully, which would result in getting over it much more quickly, we should accept our own role and responsibility in the situation. Once we learn to see the world as a reaction to our own state of being (i.e. our deeds, words, thoughts, emotions and intentions), expressing resentments will not lead to an unpleasant fearful experience. It becomes an unpleasant fearful experience only when we blame the other person as the cause of the situation. In other words, once we see ourselves as the cause and not the effect, the source and not the victim, once we accept the responsibility of what we experience, then we are not going to blame the other person. Saying “I get terribly upset with dishonesty” produces completely different effects from saying, “I hate you when you are dishonest.” The first statement will lead to a discourse while the second to a dispute as it would definitely impel the person in question to start defending himself.

Expressing resentments in the way described above not only will prevent the formation of the vicious circle of guilt feeling it will make the relationship more intimate. It will prevent us from getting farther and farther away from each other emotionally. There is a considerable amount of discourse and exchange of ideas when a relationship starts. It is this very state that produces intimacy and kindle the flame of love. Lack of discourse, on the other hand, produce distance and cools down emotions and bury them under an increasing amount of dust.

Resentment, bitterness and grudge if accumulate or intensify would transform to hate. In reality, all our feelings and emotions are a form of either love or fear. The opposite of love is not hate, but fear. Hate is a form of fear, since it help us to stay away from that which inspires awe in us. According to a Persian proverb, “whatever you are afraid of, will definitely befall on you.” This is because the overwhelming majority of our fears are illusory in nature. It is because we are not aware of the power we actually possess as human beings. This is a point revealed in all major religions of the world. In the Holy Book of Koran it is said that Man is God’s Caliph (successor) on Earth; and on the power of faith Jesus says that Man has the ability to shift mountains, to resurrect the dead. We are led to what frightens us (or what we hate) because for us this is the only way to see, discover and experience our human power.[18] As much as we harbour negative feelings, we deprive ourselves from experiencing their positive complementary forms. As much as we are filled with dislike, antipathy and fear, we diminish our power of affection, empathy and love. It is always our fears (of abandonment, of loneliness, betrayal and so on and so forth) that prevent us from loving. Therefore, the more we overcome our fears, the more we are capable of loving. And the more we love the more love we receive.

The next factor that helps in staying in love is the act of keeping the memory of the romantic days and moments of the relationship alive. Romance is the most exciting, stimulating and blissful state of being. Its lack is what both sides miss, but perhaps it is even more important for women as it directly affects their affections and sexual desire.[19] This memory especially helps when we feel angry and melancholic and resentful. To remember those ecstatic moments of the relationship, to remember the times that we were filled with love for this very same person that now for some relatively ‘frivolous incident’ we dislike, can sometimes help to dissolve the anger and resentment immediately. Compared to the splendour of love, everything is frivolous.

Another important factor is not to confine our life and our world to our lover. This is a point that especially women should heed and especially full-time housewives. In other words, it is important to keep a personal life and to insist on that. As mentioned before, the only role that a husband and a wife should play is to instigate femininity and masculinity in each other, to complement one another, to be aware of the fact that without each other they experience only half of the Truth. They can still have lots of different points of views, different ways of enjoyments, different foci of interest. Sharing life should not exclude these points of difference. Sacrifice will have no other fruit other than unfulfilled expectations and therefore bitterness and frustration. While enjoyment and fulfillment will bring a joyful state of being that in turn will bring life and energy to the relationship. Remember the other person is not there to fulfill our personal everyday needs. The worse thing that lovers can do to each other is to stop each other enjoying whatever that gives them enjoyment just because it does not seem enjoyable to them. Love should extend and strengthen our wings to soar higher and higher and not to cut and burn our feathers.

In short, love is a conscious, elaborate act that in order to stay alive it needs constant attention, care, awareness, diligence and heedfulness. Let us not forget that at least with our present conception and perception of Truth, bliss can not be experienced without agony, joy without grief… Therefore, let us not allow ourselves to forget this Truth ever. Let us not allow ourselves to neglect the fact that love is like a very delicate and fragile seedling and in the same way that we should always make sure that a plant is receiving sufficient light, water, warmth and good soil, we should tenderly observe the needs and requirements of this most magnificent and splendid phenomenon called love.

 

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