The biggest problem we face in a marriage is stopping short.

When my husband, Scott, and I met, we immediately had a common connection through our love for the Pathwork Guide. And indeed, in our marriage, it is the tools of this spiritual path that keep us walking straight together. For as the Pathwork Guide points out, the key thing that is missing in most marriages is honesty. And this spiritual path, more than anything else, is about learning to be honest—with ourselves and with others.

It’s not just that learning to be honest in a marriage is a good idea. For that’s the case with all of life. But in a marriage, honesty is the necessary ingredient for keeping the union alive. In fact, the Pathwork Guide calls relationships a “path within a path.”

Meaning, a spiritual path is about bringing all our dark bits—our faults and our flaws, our shortcomings and our misunderstandings—into the light. For this is the only way to transform them back to their original free-flowing state. And relationships, by their very nature, are going to bring all our darkness to the surface.

See the connection?

Get curious

The biggest problem we face in a marriage is stopping short. What so often happens is that we know a superficial amount of stuff about our partner and we think that’s all there is. When this happens—when we no longer search for more depth, more intimacy, more understanding—the spark dies out.

There is actually a name for this spark. It is eros. And it’s part of the three-legged stool of relationship. The other two parts are love and sex. And while eros is responsible for launching us into a relationship, it never has to end. More to the point, if we want to keep our marriage alive, eros must not end. For each of the three—eros, love and sex—plays an important part in a successful marriage.

“Eros has carried us to the edge of the beginning by boosting us in the tail with some much-needed oomph. But after this point, our willingness to continue to plumb the depths of the other or to reveal riskier aspects of our inner landscape is what determines if eros will become a bridge to love. And that’s basically up to us. How badly do we want to learn to love? This, and only this, is what’s needed to keep the eros alive within our love.

“This is how we find the other and allow ourselves continually to be found. There is no end. Every soul is limitless and eternal. A whole lifetime could never suffice to know another soul. Never will there come a point when we know all there is to know. Never will there come a time when we are known entirely. Our souls are alive, and nothing that lives remains unchanging. We can always reveal even deeper layers, which already exist.

“We’re constantly changing, renewing and moving. As such, marriage can be a marvelous journey of discovery and adventure, as it is supposed to be. We can forever find new vistas, instead of falling flat as soon as the first momentum of eros fades. We need to use its thrust to push us over our walls, and then soldier on further under our own steam. That’s how we can bring eros into true love in marriage.”

The Pull, Chapter 6: The Forces of Love, Eros and Sex

The fountain of love

Human beings are complex. Not only are our bodies amazing, living machines, our psyches are a vast pool made up of various moving parts. The part we are most familiar with is our ego. This is the part of ourselves that we have direct control over. Our ego decides and takes action. It moves inward or outward. It’s the control center, if you will, of our entire being.

That said, the ego is rather limited in what it can and cannot do. And one thing the ego cannot do is love. For this, the ego must surrender into the part of us the Pathwork Guide calls our Higher Self. We must learn to let go. Of course, it’s not safe for the ego to let go if we still have a lot of dark Lower Self bits cluttering the way. But for now, let’s just focus on why the ego should care about learning to let go so we can love.

It’s because, in a word, loving brings renewal. Each time we see some rigid block in ourselves—something we’ve been blind to before—we have the chance to restore ourselves to our peaceful, free-flowing condition. We have a chance to find more love. It is this kind of self-transformation that opens the tap and allows the healing, replenishing force of divine love to flow through us. The ego simply does not come equipped with such a faucet.

“Another state that replenishes us is mutual love. When we let go through intense, healthy self-forgetting, we dip into the vast sea of beauty and universal power. This happens when we accept and merge with another “sphere,” or person. By melting into another being, we make ourselves compatible with the universal life force, and have an experience that fills every level of our being: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Therefore, a loving sexual connection is the most complete spiritual experience we can have.

“By partaking of our Real Self, we are nourished by this creative substance in all its splendor. By letting go, the ego becomes temporarily immersed, resulting in a temporary release of its duties. But it reemerges stronger and better than before! The ego actually becomes wiser and more flexible, and filled up with pleasure. Once it has dipped into this heavenly ocean, the ego will be forever changed.

“The ego not only is incredibly enriched, but its capacity to surrender and remain submerged in bliss—to be in love and in truth—expands proportionately. This intense melding of the ego with another is the most effective way for us to forget and transcend ourselves.”

After the Ego, Chapter 4: How Unconscious Negativity Stops the Ego from Surrendering

The thing that stops this from happening is our withholding of ourselves from our partner. When we allow our fear of exposing our vulnerabilities and our inner hurt places to hold us back, then we are, in effect, giving up on honesty. In doing so, we are killing the very thing that wants to surface and enliven our relationship. And then we turn around and blame the other for our misery.

Friends, if we find ourselves stuck in a once promising but now dead marriage, it is our own unwillingness to reveal ourselves and search the depths of the other that is the cause.

Honestly connecting within

Since Scott and I were married in 2019, we have had many opportunities to hold the light for each other. It was difficult in the beginning because this was new for both of us. But we can both attest that over time, it becomes easier and easier to do.

For once we get a taste of the freedom that lives on the other side of our dark places, we learn to welcome our struggles for the growth they allow. And it’s only by continually growing that we can create more and more beauty in our lives and in our marriages.

As we each work to clear away our inner obstacles, we free up more and more of our inner light. Along with this light comes the inner guidance that helps us walk through life with ease and grace. So it is by listening within and hearing the voice of our Higher Self that we learn to live in peace and harmony.

Over our time together, Scott and I have come to realize something interesting. Before marriage, we were two individuals walking side by side. Then, when we stepped into marriage, something new was created: the union itself. And now we both have the task of keeping this new entity alive.

Although we are still two individuals, we now also work as a team. And often, when one of us receives a particular message from within that pertains to us as a couple, the other doesn’t receive the same message. This is by design.

There are essentially four things this does:

1. It motivates us to pay attention to the messages we receive. Because if we understand that we may be the only one receiving this message, our inner listening really matters.

2. It encourages us to sort out the difference between what’s inspiration and what’s ego. Is this fresh, creative guidance, or a recycled thought from my ego mind? Remember, the ego also does not have creativity in its toolkit.

3. It pushes us to share our messages clearly with our partner. Often, we need to check things out with them in order to figure out what’s what. If our partner doesn’t feel the same inner resonance as we do, that’s helpful information for guiding our journey together.

4. It guides us in learning to trust ourselves and our partner. The more we get it right, the more alive our relationship will be. The more we get it wrong, the more we will learn and grow. Either way, it’s good.

Don’t be afraid to grow. And don’t be afraid of being fully alive. For it is by walking through our fear that we find the magic for keeping our marriage alive.

– Jill Loree

All essays in Get a Better Boat are available as podcasts.