What Ails Us.....
Note: This is now an edited version, with some clarifying points for those who responded to this post with their thoughts and wisdom. Thank you....keep it coming. Those of you who have heard me speak or worked with me as a guide likely have heard me say that modern marriage is catastrophic to the authentic (wild) masculine and feminine. The world is in desperate need of our most authentic, innate, alive presence on the planet; a presence only possible from the ones of us who instinctively understand and celebrate our deep intimate relationship with self, other and the larger world. Mostly (it's never all or nothing) modern marriage strips this alive, instinctual, vibrant, creative one of us out of being. Therefore, albeit ironically, modern marriage is catastrophic to the survival of our species.
Yes, yes....I know. We are told the exact opposite. Don't buy it. In fact, do everything you can to resist.
But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sacred Marriage - the union of two individuals who have come together to support each others individual paths and to explore and offer up to the world the never-before-seen mytho-poetic story created in the sacred space between them, who might choose to produce and raise creative thriving children who will then turn into aware, awake, unique, compassionate and mature adults (who will then pour their devotion back into their community etc, etc) is necessary for the survival of our species. Absolutely. But modern marriage is not sacred marriage. It is many things, but it is not an invitation into that sort of sacred, alive, vital relationship with self, other and the larger world. I have witnessed sacred marriage in these modern times. It's possible. It's out there being lovingly crafted and in-tended by thousands of men & women, women & women, and men & men. But it takes great intention, as well as fiercely loving community support and witnessing. In a culture which prioritizes (is built around identifying and calling out) each individual's unique offering to the world, marriage is a union that takes place after both individuals have engaged in their own work - separately - arriving at the altar as initiated, mature, wholed and healed adults. No matter the condition of the culture within which the union takes place, marriage is a crucible. Whether it is a crucible which truncates us or calls us further into our own greatness - into the work we are each meant to do in the world - is the primary question.
So, if modern marriage is not sacred marriage, what is it? By and large, modern marriage in Western culture is an invitation into dulled domesticity and consumerism requiring isolation which breeds deep longing - a longing so deep and primal that, often, we can't afford to acknowledge it. So, it becomes a dangerous longing - enemy #1 to the State of modern marriage. And modern marriage is a wily creature. It has wrapped itself with ribbons and fairy tales and happily-ever-after, it has cloaked itself as the thing we do when we're finally mature enough to abandon our childish, impetuous or selfish ways and step into the arena where only virtuous people can go. In a culture that has stripped itself of all ceremony and ritual which initiates the individual into true adulthood (in fact, western culture initiates its members into obedience), particularly for men, marriage has become one of only two possible opportunities to be seen by our elders and our youngers as adults (the other opportunity for men is success with money). Being consciously and ceremonially accepted into adulthood - fully seen by our community - is one of our greatest human needs. Without it we are incomplete. Without it we cannot offer our unique gifts fully because, without it, we cannot even identify them accurately.
But of course, a ceremony involving an ever-increasing amount of consumerism and 'should's officiated by someone who is merely standing-in for the powers that be (who is, in most cases, God himself) does not initiate us into adulthood. Imagine our surprise, disappointment and perhaps anger when, once the church floor is swept and the thank you notes written, we discover we don't actually know what is being asked of us, or if we have what it takes to deliver. Worse, we may even imagine that what is being asked of us requires that we kill certain parts of us off, parts we instinctively know are some of the most important and vital aspects of our human-ness. This is where the danger really begins, because this realization can bring us to a place of deep trauma - where we feel that our literal survival is at stake. And actually, it is.
According to trauma theory, within this situation we have three possible responses: fight, flight or freeze. Different egos have different responses to any given trauma. What might have you spitting, hissing and clawing could send me running for the nearest tree, and vice-a-versa. Beyond the acting out that might happen (usually below the radar at this early stage) most often what happens at the foundation of each individual is that they accept that within this culture, a fundamental part of the process of being 'mature' is disowning all aspects of ourselves that seem not to fit within this thing called marriage & family. We think, "If they don't fit they must be bad because marriage is an institution sanctioned by God, it is good and right!". Any impulse to scream or act out or run for our lives is often talked into a place of shame and silence: 'this is not what a mature man would do' or 'my mother didn't have this problem, I don't think.' Our western culture is very good at blaming the individual for its own inherent pathology and shortcomings. Modern marriage is a prime example of this.
Of course this is a large conversation, with many layers to it. For individuals struggling within marriage often it is a profound moment to simply bring awareness into the house. It is easy to vilify our partner if we feel that what is being asked of us within the marriage is our slow and uncomfortable death. Of course, we'll project that onto our mate; the only other person in the partnership...it must be their fault! In a culture that, from birth, tends to traumatize its members, by the time we walk up the aisle we are filled with generations of stories about who we are, what love looks like and how we go about asking for and receiving it. Most often we are filled with erroneous concepts that can make the very selection process of a mate a recapitulation of false stories rather than a choice based on our solid understanding of who we are and what we require in the world to remain whole and vitally offering our gifts. This is a heavy burden to place on a marriage in this culture (where many of us exist in nearly complete isolation) - that we work through trauma we first experienced in our infancy and/or childhood; primary trauma. But often, whether sacred or not, this is the state of marriage in these modern times within this culture. This is a critical fact to face if we intend to support and witness our couples as they journey through their own healing and wholing within intimate partnership.
It also helps to point out that the impossibility of modern marriage tends to affect the feminine differently than it affects the masculine. This, too, is an important distinction and awareness to invite into the home. Because again, often these difference cause us to estrange ourselves from our partner rather than conspire with our partner to discover new ways of being real - and whole - within marriage.
I am interested in both the macro and micro conversations around modern marriage. I am interested in how our communities can help resurrect sacred marriage and how our individuals can insist on coupling in this radical way - a way that has everything to do with reclaiming a humanity in service of life. Of course this process has everything to do with remembering (or creating anew) a form of coupling that is in service of life.