Below, one of the best essays I’ve read about relationships anywhere. I hope it’s as meaningful and useful to you as it was to me! It’s the first of two guest posts by Newton, MA-based Linda Marks, MSM, a super-smart and innovative psychotherapist, lifework counselor, and author. Her newsletter is one of the first things I read when it shows up in my inbox, and you can subscribe for free at her blog. More info on Linda here, and thanks to Linda for kind permission to reprint! – Hillary
So many of us wish to meet a “soul mate,” another human being with whom we share a deep connection, with whom the level of intimacy seems rich and endless, and where we may feel like we’ve known the other person forever, even when we have just met them. With a soul mate, we can talk about seemingly anything, and the potential for joy, growth and fulfillment through relationship seems profound and exquisite. What we often don’t take into consideration, and may not be aware of, is that when we have a deep connection with another person, not only do our most positive qualities have the opportunity to shine, but also our shadow parts come to the surface as well.
Deep connections, because they are safe and far reaching, allow us to connect with our undeveloped, unhealed and unexamined parts so that we may heal and integrate them as we grow. When we do this critical shadow work, the rewards are soul rendering. However, if we do not realize that with soul connection comes soul work, we may run from this important opportunity for growth, sometimes abandoning ship–our own and the one we share with a soul mate.
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My colleague Jeff Brown, one of the most brilliant articulators of matters of the heart I know, has made a beautiful and very helpful distinction: soul mates and wound mates. A wound mate may be a soul mate who is not ready, willing or able to do the essential soul work needed to grow, both for oneself and in relationship. As a result, Jeff says the wound mate relationship is sourced “in unresolved emotional patterns, issues and holdings.” Instead of recognizing what is being brought to the surface and mining it for gold, “wound mates just flounder in the mud, trigger after trigger, downward spiral after downward spiral.”
From a soul point of view, this kind of relationship really is a waste. To do our soul work, to point the finger inwards rather than outwards, takes great courage and consciousness. Yet, the fruits of such efforts are sweet and rare. If two soul mates do their work, they can bring out the best in one another and be the wind under one another’s wings. If they run from the dark side of the mirror, they can feel as though they are clipping one another’s wings and holding one another down or back. How sad it is when instead of recognizing that shadow work can bring us closer to ourselves and our loved ones, we run away, shut down, or reject the very source of love who at first appeared to be a gift from God. Perhaps even having this frame of soul mates and wound mates can help bring more awareness to the delicate dance of love, intimacy and relationship.