In Sweet Company

“My husband — because of who he is — helped me see myself, helped me know myself.  … You don’t stay married for thirty-nine years because of sex or even because of love, but because your partner is a real friend to you, because they respect and regard you.” — Olympia Dukakis, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

Piece of Advice # 8: Be a great listener. Nothing validates a person more — especially when they are feeling vulnerable — than when we put aside our own thoughts, agendas and solutions and be there just for them with our whole heart. As some wise and, no doubt, longtime married person once said, “You don’t have to be perfect in a relationship; you just have to be present.” Often, once a person feels as if what they have to say is “heard,” they relax and make the space within themselves for the answers they are seeking to arise.

Being a good listener is not about being passive. Sometimes you smile, you nod, you offer a few words of consolation. or encouragement Nor do you let the other talk themselves into something you know could be truly detrimental to them. There are times when a listener must say, “I understand your frustration, your sadness, and I think you’re off track here.”

Piece of Advice #9. None of this is easy. It takes time and practice, trial and error, to really get the hang of being “in relationship.” We are so used to the view from inside our own head, so convinced others MUST or don’t see things as we do, so afraid to go out on a limb and risk our hearts, so brainwashed by the media and movie stars and what our parents did or didn’t do, it’s hard to discern what an authentically good relationship really is! We peel back all these layers, then the layers of our own mastery like we peel back the layers of an onion. But it’s worth the time and trouble — and the occasional tears!

Piece of Advice #10: A good marriage benefits not just the two people involved, but all those who cross your path. Especially the children. It gives people hope. Sometimes others consciously follow our example; sometimes they pick up on how we live our lives by osmosis. Either way, the better we are, the better everyone around us becomes.

Last, but by no means least, Piece of Advice 11: A spiritual relationship is a vehicle for God’s love to manifest not only in our own hearts but in the world. It’s a conscious covenant between both parties and God, a triangulation in the highest sense of the word, where both parties in the relationship understand and commit to striving to see God in the other — Her presence and also Her handiwork. They understand God uses the other to teach them what they need to know, and that God can work miracles in another who has faltered. This love , when it manifests in your life, is deeper than the hearts and flowers.

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