Leela looks at the difference between relationship and partnership.
For days now I have been thinking, meditating on and contemplating about a really good word that clearly describes an intimate relationship without the association of possessiveness. ‘My’ wife or ‘my’ husband has so much history of ownership and possession around it and it’s time for something fresh and new. The new ‘in’ word to describe the other person in your latest intimate relationship is ‘partner’.
It sounds a bit more businesslike, but it has an equality about it that feels more mature. Another word I feel easy with is ‘companion’. It’s a little more intimate and yet still has a respectful, non-possessive feel about it. Whatever word we use hopefully carries with it a new understanding of our relationships.
The husband goes to work and provides for the family. The wife takes care of the children, the house and cooks. The hunter and the gatherer. That set-up worked very well for a time, but nowadays the whole concept of marriage, babies, retirement and dying scenario is not exactly everybody’s cup of tea.
There is a huge transition taking place in the world about how we relate, love and live together as man and woman. We are moving out of the possessiveness and into a greater equality which I personally find very healthy.
Look at the pledge of marriage – I promise (already a bit dreamy) to love, honour (what does that actually mean?) and obey, until death us do part. Thank god for divorce, otherwise can you imagine how many unnecessary deaths there would be!
All the marriage contracts and promises do not keep people together as the overwhelming evidence of the growing divorce rates show.
So what is different about being in a ‘partnership’? It reflects that people want a more dignified and respectful and equal approach to their intimate relationships. Our need to secure a relationship ‘for life’ or ‘until death do us part’ is unreal and born out of our many fears of aloneness, lack of security and so on. Far back into history marriage implied that our wife/husband belonged to us. We were each others’ possession. It made us feel safe and secure. But at this time of great change and growing personal awareness these old role models are beginning to come apart.
How about people staying together because they want to! There are many successful and loving relationships that work without people being married. But wait, I can hear all the voices yelling, “What about commitment and having children together? What about making it safe for them?” The truth is that commitment is from the heart and has little to do with a supposedly binding contract that we make in marriage. The divorce rate speaks for itself.
What keeps a healthy relationship alive, creative and growing is love and an ever increasing understanding of the complexity of human nature. Living with someone can, and often is, the greatest challenge we meet in our lives.
In the beginning is the physical and emotional attraction, but when the blush of the honeymoon fades, we often find ourselves living with a complex, moody, neurotic, fearful or angry human being. We also begin to exhibit all our own crazy ego manifestations into the relationship and that is when the trouble starts. There is a great collision of two universes, full of their own conditioning, history and complexities. Both people start to try and make the other person change to fit with what we think is our reality. What happened to that good-looking sexy man/woman with a great sense of humour who gave me so much attention and was so much fun to be with? Now I live with this serious, boring, exhausted/complaining man/woman, who zones out in front of the TV or doesn’t seem interested in adventures or creative pursuits.
Relationships are so often an enduring journey of trying to make the other fulfil our needs and expectations, while the other person is trying to do the same from a completely different standpoint. We are constantly trying to change each other and it simply doesn’t work. The whole negative cycle slowly grows until it all falls apart, leaving pain and separation.
It seems so difficult for us to accept that someone is different to us. That often makes us feel uncomfortable and insecure, and in all of this trying to make each other the way we think they should be, we become a mad bunch of control freaks, discontented and frustrated.
Throughout my childhood I watched my mother complaining and blaming my step-father for almost everything. Her discontent was bottomless. This went on for their entire married life together. There was always a tense and heavy atmosphere as the war between these two worlds went on. I could not comprehend why they continued to live together but later realised it was about security and fear of aloneness.
I was married for twenty two years and when I reflect on why this relationship worked well, it was because we were friends as well as lovers. We laughed a lot and had many similar interests. We also had two wonderful children who brought so much joy and sparkle – and that very much contributed to four lovely people living together. Looking back there are a few ways in which this was not a conventional ‘marriage’.
One of the big problems in marriage or relationships is that if the other person has sex with someone else it is regarded as “the end.” I am talking about an occasional ‘cup of tea’ as Osho calls it. Both Neeraj and I had a few affairs outside our marriage and we never made a big fuss. If we were away from each other on trips here and there, it was fine to have a little adventure with someone else. Our love survived and I should be clear that neither of us was looking for a new long-term partner, and we were both aware that we did not possess each other. The commitment was there because of the love. When I finally did separate from Neeraj, it was not because I did not love him but because the river of life was moving me in another direction which he was not part of. We remained the very best of friends. If we were less afraid and more loving we would understand that from time to time it’s OK that both partners experience sex with someone else. It helps loosen the idea that we possess someone – which we don’t!
Many women now acknowledge that they also enjoy the experience and that it is not only men who “do that.”
The understanding that nobody belongs to us or is our possession is a big shift that is vitally important if we are to have a more mature and loving partnership. This possession thing is big in our collective unconscious. It starts with childhood where parents think that they own their children. It is easy to manipulate and control children because they are so helpless and innocent and parents all too often regard them as their property. Children are entirely separate human beings, growing in their own unique way. They’re not putty in our hands to be moulded according to what we think they should be. There is often a great similarity between how we relate to our children and our partners. It’s scary how often we play the same game as our parents.
“I need some space.”
Have you heard that from your partner, or ever wanted it for yourself? From many of the couple counselling sessions I’ve given, I know that this is often a big deal. If someone simply wants space, some time alone, it turns into he/she doesn’t want to be with me. Not taking time alone can suffocate a relationship very quickly. We really do need to move away from each other sometimes just to be alone, peaceful and quiet. I always encourage this as I know how much I value aloneness. And are we not just two alonenesses sharing some time together anyway? We never know how long our relationships will last, and that is good because then we don’t take each other for granted.
Many relationships suffer because partners don’t want to function outside of their little circle of safety. Many couples stop seeing friends or relating openly with others once they are married. Suddenly all they are interested in is this one person who becomes the main focus of their life 24/7. Not healthy. Keep your life vital and alive outside of your relationship or it could go stale. Neither of you will have anything fresh to bring to each other if all you do is hang around each other all the time.
Partnership or companionship should be based on friendship and a willingness to work out our fears and negative beliefs so that we grow and mature as two separate individuals choosing to be together. And a good sense of humour is an absolutely vital ingredient. Having a succesful relationship takes great creativity, compassion and understanding but most of all the capacity to love – and when it’s over, it’s over. You can love someone and not want to live with them. Then life will present you with a new chapter in your book of life.
Article by Leela
Prem Leela was born in South Africa and took sannyas in 1973; in Pune 1 she worked in the press office, while in Rajneeshpuram she was running the Welding Shop, part of RBG. It was in Pune 2 that Osho asked her to start facilitating the Mystic Rose Meditation by giving her a few suggestions, which she then further developed into its present concept. When she is not abroad conducting workshops, she lives in Australia. mysticrosemeditation.com