One of the things that women often say they want from men is a spiritual relationship. In an age where “empowerment” is the watch word, you hardly ever hear a word that is at least as important: fulfillment. A spiritual relationship can be defined as one that brings the deepest fulfillment. What I hear from women is that they yearn for men to join them in finding that kind of fulfillment, but, sad to say, I don’t often hear the same thing from men. Which means that there is a gender gap to be closed. The wider the gap, the more dissatisfied the two sexes will be with each other. The more the gap is closed, the more the two sexes will be able to trust and love each other.
This isn’t an axe to be ground, either by me or women as a political bloc. Empowerment was a necessary step, as it still is, because in traditional marriages, the wife gave away too much of herself. There was little choice for her in a society where jobs, money, status, and opportunity were so skewed to the male side. Now society has reached some degree of self-awareness. That’s a good, evolutionary step. Even if equality hasn’t been achieved, at least a woman now has a right to claim her own life as belonging to her.
Yet I meet many women who feel equal enough –that isn’t their problem. Their problem is feeling unfulfilled. The negative side of this feeling is a sense of anxiety about their existence or vague depression. They don’t know what they want from men, or from relationships in general. The positive side is a yearning for a spiritual relationship. After all, arriving at more freedom and equality isn’t an end unto itself. Freedom is a platform for greater fulfillment, meaning that it allows new desires to reach their goal. What are these new desires?
— Relating to men emotionally, with trust that your feelings are valued and won’t be judged.
— Bonding at a deep level, with complete trust that you are accepted.
— Exploring who you really are and who your partner really is — in other words, discovering your soul.
— Letting love and intimacy grow without imposing boundaries or letting fear get in the way.
— Following a higher purpose together.
— Living in accord with Nature, not despoiling the planet.
— Raising a generation of children who can be more fulfilled than this generation.
As you can see, this outline of a spiritual relationship amounts to a kind of grand vision, but it isn’t an agenda. The world’s wisdom traditions mostly talk in the singular, about how one soul can reach heaven or enlightenment or Nirvana. Yet human beings have always been social, and the growth of the individual — leaving aside the small fraction of people suited to be monks and recluses — occurs in a family setting. Looking around today, one sees countless families where inner growth is wanted, yet it’s not an easy subject to talk about. Traditional religion is on the wane, and more importantly, the spiritual side of life in modern society has been divorced from “real life,” meaning the material side.
Which means that in order to close the gap between the two sexes and achieve a spiritual relationship, men have to be aware that they have a part to play, and women have to speak up about their deepest desires. The path begins with honesty and willingness. I realize that men tend to be blamed for being too controlling, emotionally distant, afraid of intimacy, and absorbed in work far more than in relationship. Instead of issuing these blanket complaints, we need to begin where we are. Both sexes are under the same external pressures and subject to stereotyping. The only way to get out of that situation is through a process. Processes take time, yet in the end results are reached. The process of growing spiritually happens one person at a time, which is fortunate, because nobody has to pursue a grand design for transformation. All you need is the right partner, and fulfilling that need begins by saying what you want, what you dream about for yourself, and what kind of fulfillment is lacking. If men and women started talking that way to each other, particularly when young before rigid habits have set in, men would become wise about women, and vice versa. What’s more important?
Published by The San Francisco Chronicle