3 Stages of Romantic Relationships

Posted on March 13, 2012

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Q: What is the deal with polarized relationships? Does being polarized mean adopting traditional gender roles?

A: Gender roles are based on culture, and cultural norms vary greatly over time and space.

But the poles of sexuality – the feminine and the masculine – are abstract and all pervasive; they are the most elemental forces which make up all of duality.

The yogic or Hindu tradition calls the embodiment of these poles Shiva and Shakti. They are two lovers, completely interlinked and yet opposites.

Shiva (the pure masculine principle) is the manifestation of pure consciousness.

Shakti (the pure feminine principle) is the raw energy of the world.

They say that Shakti without Shiva (force without consciousness) is pure chaos. And Shiva without Shakti is as impotent as a corpse, with no power to act of even exist in the physical world.

The beauty of understanding and embodying the transpersonal poles of the divine masculine and feminine in a relationship is transformational and transcendent. A consciously polarized relationship can bring profound spiritual experience and awakening.

Q: What is a consciously polarized relationship?

A: There are three stages or potential stages of polarization for romantic or sexual relationships:

1. Unconscious polarization – the blind lovers

Whether the relationship is between a man and a woman or two people of the same sex, one identifies predominantly acts out the masculine essence and one acts out the feminine in an unconscious polarization. There is little to no switching of roles, and each tends to follow cultural norms for their gender identity.

Statements that characterize this stage include: “You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.” and “Women are from Venus, men are from Mars.” The other sex (or polarized member of the same sex), is a complete mystery, and yet you need them. Many (but not all!) of the couples who adhere to traditional gender roles are living out this stage of romantic relationships. The man may bring home the bacon and favour logic, and the woman may bring nurturing support, favour feelings, and live out emotions for both of them.

This relationship is characterized by sexual passion, but also often by conflict, misunderstanding, limited intimacy, and alienation over time.

2. Conscious depolarization – the equal partners

Our society encourages and values the development of this second stage, where the couple seeks mutual understanding, intimacy, and respect. Men develop their inner feminine and related qualities and women develop their inner masculine. Both strive to be strong, independent, and free from needing one another. They become friends, partners, teammates, or colleagues. This stage is characterized by deep trust and friendship, but ultimately loses the sexual passion of the unconscious polarization. Couples struggle to keep the romance alive, have sex less often, and many have the nagging feeling that something is missing.

3. Conscious polarization – the divine lovers

This stage is a natural next step: voluntary re-polarization. Couples in this stage know and respect each other as equals, but choose to embody the qualities of the pole of their preference because it is more fun and more fulfilling. They are no longer victims of their sex (stage 1) or avoiders of their sex (stage 2), but rather embrace the fullness of themselves as sexual beings.

This stage opens the door to tantra, which I like to describe as the choice to transcend the material by diving right in, spelunking with the light of consciousness, divine intention, and consecration. Most spiritual paths work instead to transcend the material by rising above it, but it isn’t necessary anymore to promote austerity as the only legitimate spiritual path. By meeting the raw elements of life (Shiva and Shakti) in each other, we can loosen the clutch of the ego and live our truth more quickly and directly – though this is not suitable for everyone.

But regardless of spiritual intentions or inclinations, the third stage of romantic relationships benefits from both the trust, respect, understanding and intimacy of the second stage as well as the dynamic passion of the first stage.

Q: David Deida wrote about this, didn’t he? (I pulled the book “Finding God Through Sex” off the shelf – bold emphasis is mine):

“As a woman, you may find yourself growing through three stages in relationship to the masculine force of direction and penetrative consciousness. First, you feel this force as something outside of you, something which is more powerful than you. You look to an other as your savior, whether he is a husband, therapist, teacher, or close friend. You may find yourself depending on his guidance, support, and knowledge, afraid to lose it, worried that he might leave you for another woman he finds more attractive. You may find yourself playing the helpless victim to his ways, either grateful for his wisdom or tolerating his abuse—or both.

Eventually, you may grow into the second stage, where you “come into your own.” That is, you discover and cultivate your own masculine directionality. You may start a new career or pursue higher education. You learn to make your own decisions, independently of a man or other outside influence. You refuse to be a victim—but you may also miss the pleasure of opening to a man’s loving presence. You become more whole and autonomous as a person, but as a side effect of guarding yourself, you may also feel less fulfilled emotionally and sexually.

The third stage begins when you know that you don’t depend on a man, that you can make your own decisions and guide your own life, and yet you are tired of keeping up your guard; you want to relax in your feminine body and emotions. You want to stop protecting your heart. You want to swoon in the bliss of utter surrender, spiritually, emotionally, and sexually.

At this stage, you want to maintain the freedoms and capacities you’ve developed, but you also long to be entered and opened by massive masculine love. You want to be ravished, swept off your feet, by a trustable man, sexually and emotionally, as a consort, an equal, a partner—not as a victim. Eventually, as you grow, you may realize that you can be ravished by masculine force, bloomed physically and emotionally by a tangible invasion of love, whether or not you have a lover.”

Q: Is it the woman’s consciousness that guides the transition for couples between stages?

A: Each person must effectively grow through the stages on their own, before the couple can stabilize together in the third stage where both are masters of their polarization. Each becomes comfortable playing both the masculine and the feminine, for themselves and for each other. This ability to dance both parts characterizes the dynamism and wholeness of a stage 3 relationship – though usually each person prefers and feels fulfilled more often by either the masculine or the feminine.

Q: You know, I’m thinking of my own relationship, and I’m not sure what stage we’re in. I can think of arguments for all three.

A: You will experience yourself at each of the three stages at different times. We are complicated beings, and will be more advanced in some areas that others.

Deida also writes (“for her”):

“Because you don’t necessarily grow in one piece, you might feel confused or divided inside. A less spiritually developed part of you may crave security in relationship while a more evolved part of you may yearn for the bliss of surrender in unbounded heart-openness.”

But know this: Stage 2 is a prerequisite for stage 3.

Only those who have awakened both their inner masculine and inner feminine can experience the state of divine lovers with any consistency.

Q: Can you get to stage 3 and stay there for good?

A: Yes. Though in many circumstances, you will choose not to polarize. Stage 3 brings the empowerment of this choice. Sometimes you will want to be like a colleague, both with your partner and very likely at work where polarization may not be helpful. Once you have completely reclaimed autonomy over your polarization, you cannot lose it again.

Q: Great, I’ll work on that 😉

A: You already are.

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