Sexuality in Spiritual Relationships
By Gabriella Kortsch, Ph.D
Did you think that if you start following a more ‘spiritual’ path, your sex life would become tabu? Or that you would need to ‘give it up’ in order to conform to whatever precepts you believe living a spiritual life imply?
I’ve written an entire book about spiritual partnerships – The Tao of Spiritual Partnership - as opposed to conventional relationships, and it is precisely in spiritual partnerships where long-term sexuality is able to not only flourish, but remain passionate – and even to grow in passion.
What are the differences between a spiritual partnership and a conventional relationship? There are many, but I’d like to focus on just a few, in order to cut through the misconception that spirituality tolls the death knoll for sexuality – or at least – dampens it exponentially. I should also clarify that by spirituality I am referring to any type of spiritual life, rather than a religious one. And lest you think this is about tantric sex, it’s not. Here are some of the main differences between a spiritual partnership and a conventional relationship:
- In a spiritual relationship, both partners are awake and aware. They do not, as a rule, forget to remain conscious (of their thoughts, feelings, moods, reactions, and actions), or at least, they continually strive to be so.
- Because of this, both partners are not reactive, i.e., knee-jerk reactions to things that happen, that are said or done, do not generally happen, and if they do, these partners immediately attempt (because they are invested in having such a relationship) to resolve the matter, by trying to understand what happened and how they can change whatever it was in their future behavior.
- It also means all subjects are on the table. Full transparency about everything. In fact, complete transparency is something both want and expect. Even when it’s scary or uncomfortable.
- This in turn means that both partners are invested in their own growth, understanding that each of their own growth will allow the partnership to grow, develop, and mature on all levels.
- Both partners take responsibility for their own well-being and happiness. This doesn’t mean that they don’t support each other in all matters, but that they are aware of the fact that their well-being ultimately depends on themselves and on their inner state, their self-dialogue, and their sense of self-responsibility. This implies that neither expects the other to feel obliged to be responsible for, or morally implicated in their own happiness.
- In turn, this implies that both partners have learned to love themselves, in order to actually want to take on this responsibility for their own well-being.
- This self-love is the foundation on which a spiritual partnership rests. You may have noticed I haven’t yet begun to speak about anything spiritual, and that is because a spiritual partnership is not about being spiritual in a conventional senses, as much as it is about recognizing how self-love changes the way we interact with others.
- It is also this self-love that predicates a certain kind of very specific comportment on both sides. Both partners are consciously invested in ‘growing’ or developing themselves. If this is the case, and one of the partners recognizes, for example that he/she is impatient, jealous, or verbally explosive, he/she will immediately undertake to change this, working on honing his/her character. This is not done in order to please or placate the other. Rather, it is done because the recognition of those bits of the personality that are lacking in some fashion, or that create issues because the partner who manifests the behaviour has not yet worked on them, causes that partner to want to change because he/she loves him/herself. Think of it the way a loving parent attempts to teach a child good, decent, responsible, ethical, and moral behaviour. In this case, you become your own parent and as you see those parts of yourself that need honing, you take on the task.
- Another salient difference between a spiritual partnership and a conventional relationship is that spiritual partners are deeply and profoundly interested and invested in knowing their partner. Knowing someone goes far beyond discovering their likes and dislikes, or having conversations about all those typical things we discuss with those we love, such as vacation plans, getting a new roof for the house, college planning for the eldest child, or which movie to see on the weekend. Truly knowing someone means you delve into the depths of the other – not by having occasional profound conversations – but by being interested in the deeper and most real and true side of the other at all times. How does this manifest itself? It can begin with all of the above points.
- You can imagine that all of the above, assuming a couple has decided to undertake a life involving such a spiritual partnership, brings with it conversations of a very different – and highly transparent – nature, than conversations one might engage in in a conventional relationship. The very transparency – of each partner – with the other, changes so much. Think about it. How truly transparent have your intimate relationships been?
- Particularly this last point, taken together with all the others, is what brings us to the topic of sexuality in spiritual partnerships. Most of us can attest to the fact that sexual desire frequently wanes over the life of a relationship even when love has not. We take it as a part of life. We understand how it happens, and some – although not all – are resigned to it without necessarily breaking a marriage or finding outside excitement despite of this waning.
However, when a spiritual partnership is lived in the manner in which I’ve described it in this article, the couple experiences a much higher degree of sustained passion. Why? It is a passion that goes far beyond the intimacy of the physical body. It is a passion that goes far beyond genital sensuality and sexuality. It is a passion that is born of the desire of the inner core – the eternal spiritual part – of the other that is constantly renewed every day by living in this fashion. It is literally a fire that is stoked by being focused on the eternal being that is your partner, as opposed to merely the physical one who is sitting in the room with you.
Think about it: when you don’t live your relationship this way, you literally never come to know that which lives under the parts that are readily visible and audible. The mystery of the other will never be seen. I very much resonate with this Eckhart Tolle quote: “The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.”
If none of these is you, why would you focus exclusively – or mainly - on those parts of your partner? It is precisely in those other parts where the mystery lies, the excitement, and the passion.