Linda: There is a strong message coming from the larger culture that a couple will be happiest when they share interests and activities. There is some truth to this idea, but merely sharing interests and activities is not enough if you want to reach the highest level of marital well-being. To rise to the highest levels, the intimacy that comes with sharing, as delightful and satisfying as it is, can only take you so far. To go the extra distance, each partner must risk letting go of their cushy comfort to follow their inner impulses that occasionally take them away from the partnership. This is sometimes referred to as heeding the Call of the Wanderer.
The form that the call may take can vary. Here are some examples:
- a strong therapeutic alliance with a counselor
- attending personal growth workshops and studying the self-help literature
- a strong draw to delve into a chosen spiritual practice.
- an overwhelming desire to change jobs or career to find work that is more fulfilling
- a time to deepen relationships with family and friends
- finding interests from many years ago, such as a yearning for world travel
- creative expression
- finding what our body is capable of in an athletic pursuit
- or devoting ourselves to political activities
All of these pursuits demand our time and attention. These calls are not indications that there is anything wrong with the romantic partnership. In fact, it can be the strength and solidity of the relationship that forms the springboard for risking going out into the bigger world for an exciting adventure.
When one of the pair feels the compelling call of the wanderer, and then acts on that call, the system that had been in place where the lovers turned to each other for satisfaction, is now disrupted. Time and energy that has been more exclusively focused inside the partnership is now flowing elsewhere.
For the member of the pair (The Connector) who is oriented toward their bond, intimacy, and sharing activities, the change can feel disconcerting. When the Freedom Fighter in the pair takes a stand for their passionate exploration, the way they take that stand can make a huge difference. Reassuring their partner that they are still valued and loved, and that their pursuits are not a rejection, can buffer the impact of the shift in priorities.
By not only saying the words but also following up with actions that reassure their partner that they have not been left behind is essential. The Freedom Fighter can hold out the grand vision of what is possible in terms of the expansion and flexibility of the partnership. By making changes, the relationship is positioned well for that lofty vision to manifest. It can only occur when both individuals give themselves and each other, the freedom to explore their passionate areas of interest.
Couples who make room for these explorations report greater well-being and satisfaction than those who believe the myth that togetherness is always better. The call of the wander comes from the longing for growth. Some wise part of us knows that to ignore that call is to turn our back on developing into a bigger version of who we can be.
To have an agreement with our partner that we support and encourage each other’s growth and development is a mighty contract. Although it is the road less traveled, it is available to us to make deliberate choices to make room in our relationship for these kinds of explorations. The result can be more aliveness, heightened vitality in the partnership than was available previously, one well worth the inevitable discomfort of the growth and exploration stage.
The belief that intimacy is the highest level attainable is not true; it’s only the myth of togetherness. Actually, the co-creative stage is at the highest level. Many couples do not reach it because they either didn’t know it is available, do not think that it is possible for them, or do not want to go through the disruption and uncertainty that is the charge for admission. Just be sure to know that the highest levels of satisfaction are available to those of us who are willing to do our work to attain them. So, what are we waiting for?
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