Our world is becoming more tribal and diversity intolerant. Divorce rates are fixed at fifty percent and the number one reason couples spilt is due to people walking away from conflict. Negotiation and compromise are the cornerstones of enduring connection, communication conflict resolution. Many years ago, when Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves and numerous insightful books about the human condition from a Jungian perspective, was asked by her three twenty-something daughters about the qualities of a good partner in a lifelong relationship…she offered them following advice:
- Choose as if you are blind. Close your eyes and see what you can feel of that person, their kindness, loyalty, insight and devotion. Are they concerned about you and care for themselves as an independent being? It is more important to “see” with our eyes closed when it comes to the object of our love.
- Choose someone who has the ability to learn. People who are unable to learn have rigid boundaries and become intolerant. Choose someone who is curious about the world, is evolving and wants to learn.
- Choose someone is willing to be both strong and sensitive, like a tree. A tree’s strength lies in its flexibility in the wind and will not break when blasted by gale force winds. Choose a person who sees everything around them even though they may not have words yet to describe their experience.
- Choose someone who when you hurt them, they feel pain and are willing to show it. And vice versa, when they hurt you, they see your pain and feel sorry.
- Choose someone who has an inner life: woodworking, art, writing, meditation for example. They explore and engage in activities they love. Choose someone who is on their own journey and sees you as a partner and fellow traveler on that journey. Choose a partner who is capable of merging and separating with a bond that can stretch over distance and time without breaking.
- Choose someone who has similar passions as your own. This helps you enjoy one another and both of you can draw on these memories during hard times.
- Choose someone who has similar values about children, childbearing, family members, gender roles in partnership, kinds of relationship, money, and religion. Addressing these issues prior to commitment helps reduce future relationship friction.
- Choose someone who is passionate, willing to listen and gives equal time.
- Choose someone who can laugh at themselves and knows how to stop an argument mid-sentence.
- Choose someone who can overlook another’s faults, but also knows what they can live with or not. This is important because what seems cute, charming and/or quirky in the initial phase (the honeymoon stage) of your relationship will drive you insane in the long run. (the work stage) Here is a list of intolerable and unacceptable habits in a life partner: Alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling, criminal activity, anything that takes them away from their soul life, unable to tell the truth or give to another, unable to face you after they made a mistake or covers it up in a dramatic or large way instead.
- Choose someone who is your friend, not just a lover. Choose someone who willing to embrace you in the same enthusiastic way they treat a platonic friend. Can they sit and listen to the minute details how another thinks and follow through what is asked of them? Choose a partner who is able and willing to do the same with you.
- This is the most important quality. Choose someone who makes your life bigger rather then smaller. This will tell you all you need to know.
The honeymoon stage of a relationship can end in a day and can last up to two years. The work stage of a life partner continues until the end of our life or the relationship. Whenever we commit to someone in an enduring relationship, our soul picks the partner. Lovers are attracted to beauty, wonderful personalities, and qualities we lack, but our soul is attracted to someone who will mirror our deepest illusions to us for our spiritual growth. I believe these twelve qualities are timeless tips that should be taught in high school. Conflict resolution, communication skills, compromise, and compassion would also part of my four C’s relationship curriculum. Of course, exploration of human shadow would also be included.
Shadow is undifferentiated emotional energy that has not taken form, like our reflection in the sun. Primarily emotional in nature, unconscious motivations are autonomous, difficult to identify or control. Committed relationships will always activate each partner’s shadow, which is why life partners have work to do. Many fear their shadow because it is unknown. Our shadow must be experienced because intellectual knowledge is not truly knowing. Denying shadow merely multiplies it. We must see our illusions and embrace our unexplored emotions because they are teachers. When we invite them in, we gain stability, expand our consciousness, and lose self-righteousness. Then we become more flexible, less defended, and balanced. This is how equanimity blossoms and how sages stand without judgment of others. Once we accept and address our shadow then we can accept our life partner’s shadow.
Principles, character, and values are not negotiable qualities in a good life partner. Physical chemistry is necessary as well as each partner’s ability to own their illusions. Addiction is an illusion to master. The addiction’s lie is the belief that we need something external to our self to complete us or provide an exciting life. Compulsive and/or obsessive behaviors expose the negative side of our desire nature and reveal what we are not. The desire to be turned on, delighted or feel high is a natural feeling. Turning on in an inside job personally, not a drug or something within somebody else’s power. We need an internal container our negative emotions, otherwise we will project them onto others, which unfortunately seems to be a popular trend these days.
Allurement draws us to our destiny by attracting people and projects that reflect our true nature. The challenge is to become conscious of what allures and nurtures our soul and the attractions we misuse. Alluring attractions not only magnetize and manifest dreams but also our nightmares. This is how we can learn to discern love from illusion. If we fail to master our shadow, we will search out people, lovers and external substitutes to sooth whatever ails us. Happiness and equanimity are inside jobs. Lovers can motivate us to heal our wounds and illusions, but we must do the inner work ourselves. Selecting a partner who explores their shadow, knows they have one and is self-responsible is a tried-and-true recipe for a good life partner. This is why and how we are all one on this planet of illusion.