And How Does It Affect Relationship Communication?
According to Gary Zukov in Seat of the Soul, speaking of relationship communication,
“The archetype of marriage is no longer functional. It is being replaced with a new archetype that is designed to assist spiritual growth. This is the archetype of spiritual, or sacred, partnership.”
Interestingly, Scott Peck gave us almost exactly the same definition of love way back in 1977 in The Road Less Traveled. “Love,” said Peck, “is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
Until now, however, no one has spelled out exactly how Spiritual Partnership differs from the old models of marriage and love, or exactly how it works in every day life. Exactlyhow do I “nurture my own or another’s spiritual growth?” That is exactly the question I answer in my book, Why Talking is not Enough, and what I will summarize here.
Spiritual Partnership differs from the Old Model of relationships in two major ways:
- 1. Loving Actions replace relationship communication as the primary tool for problem solving and relationship enrichment.
- 2. In Spiritual Partnership, your focus shifts from your partner and from relationship communication to your own spiritual path.
How Spiritual Partnership Replaces Relationship “Communication”
Good relationship communication is great, if you already have it. But “communication” tends to focus on problems, on the weak parts of your relationship. And how often have you talked over a problem and felt worse afterwards?
In Spiritual Partnership, instead of focusing endlessly on relationship communication, we invite you to ask this question:
“If I were to behave in accord with my highest spiritual values right now, what would I do?”
The answer is NOT more and better relationship communication. The answer is, you find a loving action, an action that will both make you a more spiritually behaving person and make an impact on your relationship.
How Loving Actions Work
For example, one Loving Action is to “Act As If.” When you are angry, you can, as a deliberate spiritually-motivated experiment, choose to behave in a loving, rather than an angry way. When Robert was late for dinner without calling for the fourth time in a row, Cheryl was (justifiably, some might say) furious. But when he finally arrived, instead of assaulting him, or trying one of her relationship communication techniques, she greeted him with a kiss and you-must-be-exhausted-what-kept-you-so-late, and she handed him a glass of wine. They had a lovely evening together, and never discussed “the problem.” Her mood changed as they talked, and he felt her love and support. Cheryl voluntarily, as a spiritual act, gave up her claim to being “right” in this situation, and decided that harmony and love was a higher priority for her than trying to change Robert or getting him to admit he was inconsiderate.
We might think of Spiritual Partnership as “applied spirituality.” It is based on the simple idea that if you focus on behaving in a spiritual way yourself, rather than on fixing your relationship or your partner, then you, your partner, and your relationship will be both happier and stronger.
Beyond “Honey, We Need To Talk!”
Perhaps the best news about becoming a Spiritual Partner is that you can do it by yourself! If your partner is not oriented toward personal or spiritual growth, (and remember, he or she may have valid reasons for such an aversion), or if your partner always avoids relationship communication, it doesn’t matter! By voluntarily becoming the Loving Leader in your relationship, you can create astonishing changes that both of you will appreciate, and that will give you a feeling of inner strength and personal power and well-being, which are the ultimate goals of any spiritual practice!
A second piece of good news about Spiritual Partnership is that it does not require extra time. It is simply a new way of approaching what you are already doing. Never again will you have to “talk” about a problem and haul out your old relationship communication skills. Now your relationship communication can all be pleasant!
What Makes Something A “Loving, Or Spiritual Action?”
Each of the eight Loving Actions
- is motivated by a desire for spiritual growth
- is unilateral
- requires discipline, an act of will
- is experimental
In the book, I also take considerable time to define what I mean by “spiritual” (as a way of starting a dialogue on the subject.) To be spiritual, I submit, is to recognize your connection to the universe and to everyone and everything in it, and to strive each moment for the thoughts and actions that will increase and not decrease this connection. Your spiritual journey is your own personal journey
- from isolation to connection
- from your conditioned personality to your authentic self
- from fear to love
- from sleep to consciousness or awareness
- from control to surrender
- from restlessness to inner peace.
Each of the Eight Loving Actions gives you a concrete, easy-to-learn, way to put these values into action in your daily life. As you become a more seasoned Spiritual Partner, by practicing these simple actions, you will be furthering your own spiritual journey at the same time you will be giving your relationship a great gift.
The Eight Loving Actions
The Eight Loving Actions that move you completely beyond the Old Model of relationship communication skills are these:
- Adopt a Spirit of Good Will
- Give Up Problem-Solving
- Act As If
- Practice Restraint
- Balance Giving and Taking
- Act on Your Own
- Practice Acceptance
- Practice Compassion
How Spiritual Partnership Differs From The Old Model
The following statements are another way to see how Spiritual Partnership differs dramatically from the Old Model. These are meant to be read slowly, as a kind of meditation.
In the Old Model, you make progress by talking thing through together, using relationship communication skills.In Spiritual Partnership, you make progress by choosing spiritual actions–by yourself.
In the Old Model, your goal is to solve your problems.In Spiritual Partnership, the goal is to outgrow problems by achieving a new level of consciousness.
In the Old Model, the goal is to improve the relationship, to move from dysfunctional to functional, to thriving.In Spiritual Partnership, the goal is for each partner to grow spiritually.
In the Old Model, you solve problems by encouraging your partner to change.In Spiritual Partnership you encourage yourself to change.
In the Old Model, you rely on your mind. You figure things out, come up with strategies, look for solutions, stay in control; you create a lot of noise in your head.In Spiritual Partnership, you quiet the mind. You rely on inner wisdom from your body. You stop trying to figure things out and change them, and instead you pay attention to what is.
In the Old Model, you focus on the differences between you. You ask, “How can we fix what’s wrong?”In Spiritual Partnership, you look for commonality, oneness, unity. You ask, “How are we both part of the human experience? How are we the same?”
In the Old Model, your continuing search for improvement keeps you in a state of discontent; you believe you can do better.In Spiritual Partnership, the state of discontent is the problem. You begin with acceptance.
In the Old Model change is slow and incremental. Old habits die hard. Progress is gradual. Relationship communication skills require practice.In Spiritual Partnership, an inner shift may create “miraculous” change in one moment. You experience quantum leaps. “I was blind, but now I see.”
In the Old Model, there are limits on how happy two people can be together over many years.In Spiritual Partnership, the joy of connection is unlimited.
In the Old Model, relationships are hard work.In Spiritual Partnership, spiritual growth is hard work; relationships are a pleasure.
In the Old Model, you believe you have to be married to the right person.In Spiritual Partnership, you know that more important than having the right partner is being the right partner.
In the Old Model, if you want more from your partner, you must learn to ask for what you want, using your best relationship communication skills.In Spiritual Partnership, if you want more, give more.
In the Old Model, it is impossible to work on the relationship or make any progress unless both parties are willing to talk.In Spiritual Partnership, one partner on a spiritual journey can create significant changes in a relationship, by choosing unilateral spiritual actions, by offering spiritual leadership, often without saying a word.
In the Old Model, you approach problems by asking, “Who’s right and who’s wrong? Who needs to change?.”In Spiritual Partnership, being right doesn’t matter. You approach problems by asking, “No matter who is right, what can I do make a positive difference?”
The Five Principles of Spiritual Partnership
The five principles of Spiritual Partnership, which are presented in Why Talking is not Enough are:
- Use loving actions instead of communication when you come to an impasse.
- Never try to solve a problem by asking your partner to change.
- No matter who is “right” or “wrong,” exhibit a spirit of good will. Ask, “If I were going to behave in accord with my highest spiritual self, what would I do now?”
- Strive to keep in balance the times you stand up for your partner’s needs, and the times you stand up for yourself.
- Don’t discuss problems; don’t try to solve problems. It is an illusion to think that if you can solve your problems, you will be happy. Most problems don’t have a solution anyway; they are not problems, but facts of life. Instead of trying to solve your problems, do something to create a harmonious atmosphere in your relationship – right now.