The following is the Introduction to my new book, The Sacred Marriage: Renewing Your Emotional and Spiritual Bond.
Be drunk with Love, for Love is all that exists. —-Rumi
What is a sacred marriage? It is a deep, loving romantic connection of honour and reverence. It is a mindful appreciation of the brilliance, beauty and perfection of our partner. It is sacred in the sense that there’s a consistent feeling of gratitude for the gift of their friendship. Partners in a sacred marriage do not run away from difficulties—they courageously battle the occasional dark nights of the soul with dignity and grace. Both partners take responsibility for their happiness, both want to grow, and both want to rise up and create a higher vibrational union of mind, heart and soul.
A sacred marriage is not perfect but it can endure the tumultuous ebb and flow of modern life. It can even transform the ordeal of raising kids, job loss, illness and death of loved ones. All good marriages are resilient. On the outside, they appear to bounce back from setbacks and adversity, they can raise a family and be great contributors in their communities. But not all resilient marriages share a sacred bond. There is something altogether different about a sacred connection. It is a Soul connection—and we mammals are looking, seeking, craving this emotional nourishment. Some have it and some don’t and one of the reasons many don’t is because they don’t have the necessary self- awareness skills to be emotionally honest with their feelings.
Most experts say that communication is the glue to all good marriages. But is it? It’s not just any communication. You need to know what to share and how to share it. You need a certain amount of self- awareness. When was the last time you were really present and shared your innermost fears, worries, desires, hopes and dreams with your significant other?
This type of communication couldn’t be further from practical reality for most couples who work outside the home and are raising children. And herein lies the problem. Couples communicate the logistics of every-day life, the who, what, where and why of what needs to be done, but they fail at communicating their innermost thoughts and feelings—their authentic spiritual Self.
One reason is that we are emotionally and spiritually empty. We don’t know who we are. We don’t have the self-awareness and mindfulness skills. Even if we did, as a society we don’t make it a habit of opening up on a regular basis. We do in the beginning when love is fresh, but as routine sets in, we feel we know everything we need to know about our partners, so we lose the ability to practice true intimacy. Besides, there is no time and there’s always so much to do. We are so burdened with the demands of daily life that there comes a time that a part of us just checks out. “Most die at 40,” says best-selling author Og Mandino. “And then they’re buried at 80”.
As I write this, I am at a yoga ashram in the Bahamas—people from around the world come to practise classical yoga here but also to meditate, take courses, and deepen their self-awareness and the art of detachment.
There are many karma-yogis who live here 4-8 months at a time. Some are single and some are divorced. Some left corporate jobs and traditional living. Some battled illness and found their way here. When life doesn’t work, you either give up and keep taking the drugs or you seek. The people here are seekers. They want something more; they want a spiritual way of relating to the world and each other. They are on the self-awareness path. And it shows. When the Swamis smile, they radiate peaceful presence and love.
Modern life chews us up and spits us out and it does the same to our marriages. Relationships suffer under the pressure of two people working and raising children, balancing work and home life and juggling our many responsibilities. There is no time to dig for our authentic Self. We’re too busy doing, accomplishing, reacting to the day’s events. But alas, without the peace that comes from a deep knowing and loving of Self, we cannot connect with the Self of another in a profound and lasting way.
The second reason we don’t communicate the “right stuff” is because most people are not emotionally intelligent. Their emotional muscles are extremely weak. They are emotionally ignorant, numb, or broken. Childhood wounds and the valleys of life can sometimes bruise us so bad, that we shut down and lock up the feeling Self in a tomb hoping that what is out of sight will also be out of mind. For men, feelings represent weakness and to be a real man in our culture, there will be none of that. Some men at my marriage retreats are actually shocked that they even have feelings. They didn’t know.
This systemic shut down of emotion is the primary cause of marriage breakdowns. Emotions are energy in motion. When we stop the emotional river from flowing, we build dams, and create dead pools of water. These pools or ponds are lifeless and stale and they represent our feelings. There is no Spirit, no life force—we are in survival mode. We flatline. We fall asleep to the beauty that is life and start taking our relationships for granted.
WAIT! You may be thinking, “we connected at the heart level when we first met”. We were best friends– intimate and close as two people could ever be. That energy, that feeling is what made us tie the knot—our expectation was that for better or for worse and despite the hailstorms of life, we would always feel this way about each other.” WRONG. Good marriages, like good gardens, need consistent nurturing.
For over ten years, I’ve been leading my Relationship Renewal Retreat, an intense marriage retreat focused on emotional healing, energetic repair and creating resilience. I created it after years of requests from my female clients who had graduated from my women’s intensive and wanted something equally transformational for their relationship. Right about the same time, university researchers were telling us that “talk therapy” or traditional behavioral therapy especially for couples did not work and that an emotions-based approach was the ticket to creating lasting change.
Since creating the pilot in 2006, over 2000 couples have taken my program. And couples keep coming, some sent by therapists, family and friends, others by google. They arrive broken and blocked, hoping for a miracle. The transformation that occurs during the retreat is nothing short of miraculous. I knew I was onto something after just a few retreats. I was discovering first hand and through personal experience what university researchers had discovered in the lab–that emotions-based therapy was the solution for helping couples in crisis.
99% of the couples who complete my weekend retreat tell me my program was “life changing” and “exceeded their expectations”. Approximately 80% of the couples in crisis completely heal. Some of the testimonials I have received are so over-the-top amazing that often people will doubt their validity. It’s only after they complete the program themselves that they confess their doubt and apologize. Some couples who have been going to therapists for years can’t quite understand how we are able to cover so much ground in one weekend.
Being trusted with very personal stories from strangers is one thing but watching them transform their relationship right before my eyes is one of my life’s greatest honours. The couples come from as far away as the Caribbean, Alaska, Northern British Columbia, Florida and the Maritime provinces and everywhere in between. People report feeling different afterwards—awakened, grateful and more loving towards their partner. I remember one gentleman in particular who was so skeptical, he was convinced that I had put some happy pills in the water! When you unblock the emotional river in humans, they can realize their highest Self and engage in magnificent and nurturing relationships.
In this book, I will share with you what I know about emotions, romantic love and bringing the sacred into everyday communication. I will also share what I’ve learned not only from the courageous men and women I’ve been privileged to meet, but also from my 33 year marriage to my best friend, Santo.
Finally, if this book found you because you’re in crisis or at a crossroads in your relationship, I want to say this: When our love runs deep, life can get messy and unpredictable. But that’s okay—what if I told you that relationships are an ordeal and that the “mess” was part of it? What if I told you that your pain is necessary for the growth of your soul?
We humans seek spiritual communion, the kind that can only be found in romantic love. Our unions can touch the center of our joy but also the core of our sorrow. Divorce or separation is sometimes necessary—but often it is an escape from feeling the valley of the heart. If you have the courage to stand in the fire with your partner, to look in the mirror and honour all of your feelings and not run away, not deny, and not medicate, then you have the wondrous possibility of overcoming the past and transforming your present.
May this book bring you hope and direction.