Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on November 17, 2014

As an astrologer since the 1960s, for many years I made my living doing readings and counseling clients. It is not surprising that I became skilled at those things I was most asked to read a chart about, and at the tip of the top of that list is marriage and relationships, followed close by vocational questions, and then on down the line. By default, relationship problems became something I am familiar with, not to mention that having been married almost 44 years I was bound to learn something.

Since I have been touching on marriage these last couple of blogs, I would be remiss not to acknowledge some of the problems that marriage can bring, because they are certainly there. I mentioned previously the concept that relationship partners can mirror each other perfectly, down to the last detail, and we don't always want to see ourselves in the mirror.

However, one problem with the fact that married partners reflect one another is that these mirrors are not always true. They adapt to our neuroses like those old funhouse mirrors; they bend and warp the images they reflect. It is my confirmed belief that if married partners are having a rough time through mutual criticism, they might consider adopting standard mind-training methods and clean up the mirrors through which they reflect their partner and themselves. If they do this, their arguments should subside, after which exchanges of a critical nature (mutual reflections) would gradually become more useful and less compromising.

It's not that the criticism of one partner for another is not taken in and registered, but that because the criticism is often magnified and distorted (both ways), that the partner receiving the criticism is often moved to ignore it completely. In other words, if there is some truth of a critical nature as to how we see ourselves, if that truth is exaggerated, then it becomes easier to simply dismiss it entirely.

And it is a good question as to whether criticism should always be applied indirectly, often to the point of not even being quite clear enough or whether it should be spoken directly, looking truth in eye. Both ways can hurt. Of course there is a middle way here that must be found. If you have to treat your partner with kid gloves less they blow up, to the point that they never hear you at all and remain in their little cocoon, then that is not going to work out either. On the other hand, if you get in their face overmuch and just threaten or enrage them that too will not work out. This is where the original compassion for each other is important to find again.

The mirroring that takes place between couples, when there is mutual trust, can only improve the relationship. It was what attracted you to one another in the first place. It seems that much of the reception of this reflection depends on the bedside manner in which it is presented. It is hard to receive criticism from someone who you don’t trust, or worse, who does not trust you. What you get is a Catch-22, which results in a vicious cycle of accusations and denials. It goes round and round, ridiculously. It is exhausting.

As it is, our own criticism of our self may be too lax or too severe. When criticism comes from our partner inside a relationship such as marriage, then each partner is essentially or at least initially defenseless. We don't see it coming, because it is coming from the inside where we live, rather than from the outside where we are used to filtering the incoming and can defend ourselves.

And finally, it is the recursive-ness of the mirroring that is destructive, when mirroring becomes a hall of mirror-echoes that are out of control and appear endless. All true reflection is lost. And worst, half of what we say even we don't believe is true. The situation is just out of control.

And then there is the one where our past destroys the future. Our partner can always reach farther into the past to find a case or instance where we committed whatever offense that is being spotlighted and say to us "See, you did that!"; since we are guilty, we are therefore guilty forever into the future. We did something that made them lose trust in us back then, therefore they must protect themselves from us now and on into the future. One partner or both may have reasons not to forgive or trust the other anymore, no matter what. This reasoning is particularly insidious and hard to resolve.

What was and should be a delicate balance, a stable relationship, gets way out of line and needs to be recalibrated, but how is that done? When things flare out of control exponentially, when they go from zero to sixty in seconds, how can they be reined in, short of abandoning the nest and marriage entirely, and just starting over?

And giving up and starting over, which can work at times, is not all it's cracked up to be. I love this bit of poetry from the graphic artist Michelangelo that reads:

"What if a little bird should escape death for many long years, only to suffer an even crueler one."

More often than not we jump from the frying pan into the fire, and the next partner we choose exhibits the same problem, only in a cruder form. Having done many, many readings for couples or one-half of a couple, I have seen this happen again and again. The problem is in the client, and they go right out and choose another relationship that is even worse, which brings home to them the problem in a yet harsher form. They would have been better off working it out with their first partner.

And when both parties are inflamed, it can be very difficult to disarm the situation. We see this same phenomenon when two opposing armies attempt to stand down, to lay aside their weapons at the same time… not an easy thing to do.

It's almost like we need to adopt a surgical procedure, the kind of step-by-step methodical care that we see in a hospital. Perhaps we can be kind and loving when we are relating to a third person, but two partners who have escalated a disagreement beyond reason have trouble doing this.

The bottom line for me, the way I see it, is that marital standoffs and internecine wars between couples require the same exact mind-training methods that we would use elsewhere. Until some remedial training is done, the situation will never change enough to be of much help. Both partners have their hands on each other's button and can drop the F-bomb whenever they wish.

The couple needs to consciously work very hard on themselves, and very hard on not reacting to what they find as offensive in and from their partners. I am reminded of the sport of curling where a player slides a granite stone across the ice toward a target while another player sweeps (or does not sweep) the ice, either slowing the stone down or trying to lengthen the distance the stone travels. My reference here is to the intensity of the efforts by the sweepers to move or not to move the stone. This is the kind of attention we have to pay to avoid further staining a relationship. We have to maintain goodwill.

If only one partner works on their mind training and the other does not, then it is much more difficult to come to a happy medium, but not impossible. It simply means that the one partner was do double-duty, control their own offense plus control how they respond, because there is no reciprocity. Even if we are unmarried, we are all married to this life, and the resulting relationship is not all that different from a marriage.

Most quarrels between couples are inside jobs; what we freely reveal to someone we trust is later used against us in a court of war. And withholding evidence only makes it worse. It is amazing how the bonds of marriage themselves create a perfect storm for dharma work, a tempest in a teapot, like one of those sealed herbariums that are self-sustaining. It is hard to put the fires out. They smolder.

I could go on for pages, but all of this should be familiar to anyone in a close relationship of a certain duration. I will just mention in passing what I call the "cold wars" that can break out, where there is little to no speaking to one another for hours, days, or longer. And then somewhere down the line one or both partners crack a smile and laughter takes over. Things come back to normal. They can you know.

The more I examine my own marriage and the state of that relationship, the more it is clear to me that marriage should be considered as a major dharma practice, and a complete one at that. Unlike other sadhanas that I have practiced, marriage has the virtue of coming after me if I lapse, and giving me very little quarter at that. I can skip my dharma practice, but I can't skip my marriage. It is always right there reflecting me back at myself.

In May of 1967 I had a major breakthrough in how I viewed life. One of the things that I did at that time is to just walk into the offices of famous or noteworthy people and ask to speak with them about life. Many were just too uptight to allow that, but others were open to it. Perhaps my favorite memory of that time is going into the office of the famous economist Kenneth Boulding, who was only too happy to sit down with me. Together we laughed, cried, and shared our lives. We both read our poems to one another.

And he left me with this piece of advice, that we all are going to fail eventually, but we can learn to fail successfully. Even marriages get old, but they too can age successfully.

Your thoughts?