Beliefnet
Excerpted from "Soul Mates" with permission of HarperCollins.

In marriage we need ways to keep the soul in mind. The details of daily life can so take over that we neglect the mysterious genius that holds it all together. Marriage requires many different kinds of reflection and mindfulness, ways of communicating not only to our partner but also to the daimon that gives marriage its character and dynamics. A famous saying of the sixth century B.C.E. Greek philosopher Heraclitus, "One's daimon is one's character," applies to marriage as well as to individuals. The daimonic charge or genius in a marriage reveals something of its unique character.

One simple way to glimpse the genius is to tell each other one's dream. For this purpose it isn't necessary to interpret the dream as a whole, but merely to notice the various situations one's spouse finds herself in night after night. Without any overt analysis at a symbolic or mythic level, we might still come to appreciate the less predictable aspects of our partner's soul life. One way to understand the complexity and puzzle of a dream is to see it as a revelation of the soul that is far wider in scope than ordinary life. Simple talk about dreams might introduce partners to the idiosyncratic imagery and themes of each other's souls. Talk about dreams also moves conversation away from rational interpretations and solutions toward a more poetic style of reflection, an important move since the soul is motivate more by poetics than by reason.

We may honor a marriage's soul by discovering what it wants. Some marriages characteristically ask for distance, others for closeness; some for children, some for the life of a couple. Some apparently want to be brief, some lifelong. Some want frequent changes, some get into a mold and want to stay there. Some accent emotions of bliss, some pain. .we can find out these preferences only by bringing to our own marriage a spirit of openness and inquiry that will cut through preconceptions and society's models. Only through many small acts of trial and error will we learn the flavors of our own, unique marriage.

Another way to care for the soul in marriage, a way that seems to have been understood better in ancient times than today, is though praise and celebration. This can be done in obvious ways-anniversary dinners and gifts-or through less common ways.

We could find occasions to write letters to our mates, even though we live with them every day. The letter could be a simple, heartfelt expression of feeling; or it could take the form of a poem. Poetry doesn't have to be professional or even `good' in order to do the job of celebrating the marriage. It also offers an element of formality and thoughtfulness that is not at all removed from feeling. Yet another way is to take opportunities when they present themselves to praise and celebrate our partners, either expressing our feeling directly to them or to others. It's easy to overlook such opportunities and end up speaking only about the problems.

It is not surprising that in the New Testament the first miracle of Jesus is set at a wedding, in Cana. There Jesus transmutes water into wine, the flat necessity of life into the spirited, Dionysian, active substance of spirit. All marriages take place at Cana, for in all marriages the necessary raw material of life (water) is changed into a sparkling, tingling, inspiriting element of the soul (wine).

It is entirely appropriate that at weddings and at renewals of vows couples celebrate the union of their lives and the qualities of their souls with traditional prayers, poetry, wine, and ritual actions. Marriage is holy not only because it is a precious and revered way of forming human lives, but also because it is a form of religion in itself, a special way in which spirituality pours into life.

There's no need, of course, to think about myth, theology, and alchemy in order to live the miracle of marriage. One need only enter into it fully and tend its soul, of whatever kind and in whatever direction it leads, even into darkness. Marriage is by nature miraculous and magical. We do not understand it and cannot know where it is headed. To care for its soul, it is more important to honor its mystery than to try to outwit its intentions for what we, with our small minds, may think is a better outcome. .For all of us, of whatever religion or nonreligion, a marriage is a sacrament.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus