Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Formula for a Successful Marriage February 19, 2014

Still Together After All These Years

Still Together After All These Years

Yesterday my friend Pat sent me a link to an article in the New York Times she knew I’d like called The All-or-Nothing Marriage. It asks the question, “Are marriages today better or worse than they used to be?”  Writer Eli J. Finkel writes,

“This vexing question is usually answered in one of two ways. According to the marital decline camp, marriage has weakened: Higher divorce rates reflect a lack of commitment and a decline of moral character that have harmed adults, children and society in general. But according to the marital resilience camp, though marriage has experienced disruptive changes like higher divorce rates, such developments are a sign that the institution has evolved to better respect individual autonomy, particularly for women. The true harm, by these lights, would have been for marriage to remain as confining as it was half a century ago.”

After studying the scholarly literature on marriage, Finkel offers a third view.

“Perhaps the most striking thing I learned is that the answer to whether today’s marriages are better or worse is “both”: The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore.”

The reason for the success of the best marriages comes as no surprise to me: “Those individuals who can invest enough time and energy in their partnership are seeing unprecedented benefits.”  So Finkel’s magic formula for a successful marriage is T (time) + E (energy) = SM (successful marriage.)

Synchronistically, today is my husband’s birthday and I read this article immediately after wrapping his presents and signing his birthday card.  I don’t think he’ll mind if I share what I wrote with you:  “I can’t believe you’re 70, my darling.  Our love feels so much younger than that! Perhaps it’s because we’re just starting to get it right!!”  His response after reading it this morning was, “We are, aren’t we?”

As I wrote to Pat, obviously I didn’t mean ‘younger’ as in, naïve, unformed or immature (we were certainly that, having married at 20 and 21!), but light, youthful, rejuvenating, hopeful, free. As someone who has worked hard at my marriage and myself, I can tell you that both endeavors are paying off in a deeply satisfying way at this stage of my life.

When Fred and I met we could hardly have been more different.  He’s Irish/Italian, I’m Dutch/English. He was an extraverted, socially confident jock; I was an introverted, serious-minded student.  He was an outspoken “bad boy” who always said exactly what he thought;  I was a quiet and reserved “good girl” who kept my feelings and opinions to myself.

A recipe for disaster?  Many people probably thought so, yet here we are in our 70th year on Earth preparing to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary this summer.  So what’s our secret?  Part of it has to do with Finkel’s findings about the importance of Time and Energy to devote to our relationship. Somehow we both found work we love that gives us enough time to share a lifestyle we both enjoy.  Likewise, we both lucked into good health and plenty of energy. Believe me, we know how fortunate we are. As Finkel notes, so many people don’t have these luxuries!

But I’d like to add two more ingredients to Finkel’s equation that have been essential to us.  Despite our differences, the one thing we both share is a deep ‘Commitment’ to each other and our relationship.  Second, in mid-life I devoted my remaining years to a search for self-knowledge via a regular program of Inner Work. So what’s my magic formula for a Successful Marriage?

T & E + C & IW = SM

As Finkel writes,

“The bad news is that insofar as socioeconomic circumstances or individual choices undermine the investment of time and energy in our relationships, our marriages are likely to fall short of our era’s expectations. The good news is that our marriages can flourish today like never before. They just can’t do it on their own.”

This one’s for you, Fred.  Happy Birthday.

Photo Credit:  Amy Smith Photography

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 


The Dance of Partnership June 22, 2012

Just as individuals experience a painful struggle between opposites in their journey to individuation, so does every dynamic, growing relationship between two individuals contain a certain amount of stress and tension.  By its very nature, the essence of “two-ness” is conflict.  Whenever the perfect isolation and solitude of a single soul is disturbed or influenced by the presence of another, there is bound to be tension.  This is a given in every relationship.

While this might seem to be a negative thing, the tension between the opposites is actually our promise for the emergence of the “spiritual” Couple within.  We need to accept the inevitability, indeed the desirability of tension in relationships because without it, creative growth and change cannot occur.  The image of an ideal, stress-free partnership is an unrealistic fantasy;  we should be careful not to become too attached to it.

Given that every relationship has a certain amount of tension, it is only when tension becomes the dominant factor and when conflict does not result in new, creative solutions to our problems but perpetuates injustice and unforgiveness that it becomes detrimental.  The important thing to remember is this:  when we look in the mirror of our relationship and see cracks and flaws, we need not worry unduly, but should simply continue with our inner and outer work.  But if we see serious dysfunction—for example abuse, evil, the tolerance of evil, or self-destructive behavior— the course of the relationship needs to be changed, and undoubtedly will be. 

Whenever one partner recognizes the unhealthiness of the relationship and conducts the necessary inner work to develop her or his archetypal potential, the relationship will either become healthier (if both partners can tolerate the discomfort of change), or else it will end. Change in one partner always results in change in the other.  As Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” If the relationship continues to grow and change, a more mature partnership will eventually be born.  If it ends, the partner who is growing becomes capable of forming a new, healthier partnership with another person who will be healthier than the previous partner.

The soul in its infancy wants to believe that marriage—whether to a human being, God, or both—will solve all its problems;  hence, the “happily ever after” motif of fairy tales and certain religious sects and leaders.  Without such assurances, many, if not most of us, are simply too afraid of suffering to risk leaving the dark, comforting prisons of conformity and unconsciousness.  Perhaps it is better that youth cannot conceive the sacred mystery of marriage.  If it did, we would never enter into it and the family unit as we know it could perish in one generation! 

But the maturing soul intuits that marriage—by which I mean any committed relationship between two individuals, whether sanctioned by society or not—is an initiation into an entirely new set of problems.  In every truly honest and intimate relationship there are times when we feel we are on the edge of a volcano that is ready to explode;  at other times the coldness in our breasts is glacial. 

Fire and ice;  this is the mystery and the miracle of the “marriage between the opposites,” a tension-filled dance which, if consciously borne and faithfully endured, can bring psycho-spiritual maturity.

You can order my new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, at


How Love Emerges January 31, 2012

Creative works which make such powerful impressions that we never forget them hold valuable lessons because they always depict the themes of our soul’s journey. This can be true of something as simple as a folk song or as complex as a symphony.

In the early years of our marriage my husband and I saw the film Blume in Love, starring George Segal and Susan Anspach. As we used to say in the 70’s, it “blew my mind!” There on the screen was a couple I could identify with. Blume was a successful young attorney blithely immersed in his work. Nina was a touchy, serious-minded, idealistic social worker who sought inner peace and wanted to save the world. While these two loved each other very much, both were self-absorbed and neither had a clue about the other’s inner reality. Nina’s discovery of Blume in their bed with his secretary resulted in their divorce and initiated a painful maturing process in which Blume came to see Nina’s significance as an individual in her own right, and Nina empowered her true self while softening and forgiving Blume for being human.

While the plot details were different, this romantic comedy portrayed our theme and the theme of every couple in an intimate partnership. As a shockingly innocent and ignorant product of 1950’s social conditioning, I was finally getting it that marriage is not a happily-ever-after instant fix involving two separate individuals whose roles and feelings will never change, but a container for soul-making. Every committed relationship is, in fact, a crucible in which two souls are melted down, refined and transformed in the evolutionary fires of change.

Blume in Love showed me that both partners will make sacrifices, suffer, be tempted, and make mistakes. And if love is to grow and last, each will need to understand that the other has equal merit and deserves equal rights and respect. This is how we learn to love. The film’s ending in which Blume and the pregnant Nina are reconciled in Venice’s Piazza San Marco taught me another archetypal truth: In a relationship that survives this ordeal, both partners can experience a revitalizing new birth.  If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know this is my soul’s theme!

Coincidentally, during the writing of this post I received an e-mail from my editor who thought I’d be interested in the following quote by Adyashanti (from Emptiness Dancing). It’s a very apt ending for these musings about relationships:

“Most relationships start out as unconscious relationships. When the light of awakeness comes to shine inside of that relationship, the unconsciousness within it is going to be revealed. It’s very important not to spiritualize it when it gets revealed. Some people want to spiritualize their relationship instead of making it conscious. They want to make it into a spiritualized fantasy in which their partner meets all their spiritual ideas about what a relationship could be. They think they know what it’s supposed to be like, what it could be like, where it’s going to go.

“When you ease back from that, you return to something that’s very intimate and innocent, where you are finally willing to tell the truth, not to hide, not to force consciousness into some relationship agenda, but to simply let it emerge. Then you never know what it will be like at any moment —  how consciousness, awakeness, and love are going to want to emerge.”

What books and movies fascinate you? How have they helped love emerge?


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