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Reader's Digest Telephone Marriage Poll
the Fifth, Spiritual, Dimension of Life"
B. Conley, M.Div., LMFT
Digest recently found that 30% of the men polled in its
telephone survey of 1,000 married people wish they could talk to
their wives more openly about spiritual matters. At the same time,
38% of the men polled hide their desire for affection.
bits of information are part of the landscape of current
marriages, painted with a 42% divorce rate, according to managing
editor Katherine Walker.
A hidden desire for affection,
unwillingness to talk about spiritual
matters, and a 42% divorce rate. Could these items be the
three faces of the same reality?
start with the un-provable assumption that we are all connected
with the world around us from birth, and that the infant's
innocent openness illustrates that. Recently in the supermarket,
I encountered a round, open-eyed face examining me
over the shoulder of his mother. At several months of age, he had
not yet learned to be afraid of connecting with me, not realizing
that I was a "stranger."
in contrast to the 4 year old "stranger" I encountered later,
who upon making eye contact with me created the protection
of a finger-screen through which he continued to communicate
with me. He had a bit more need for protection, even
though I was no more dangerous the second instance than the
experienced some hurt, we become acquainted with fear
of repeated hurt, and the need to protect ourselves, a most helpful
time we are adults and marry, we have learned to hide our
desire for connection with others (affection and spirituality) and
protect ourselves by limiting our connection with others (denial
of spirituality). When we are frightened enough, we engage
in "defensive" behavior that serves, often painfully, to sever
our connection with others (divorce and contamination of spirituality).
Then we can be "safe," look for affection from others, until,
when sufficiently frightened, we limit or sever our connection with
the new person. Over and over again, until we change the pattern.
The spiritual dimension,
our connection with others and with the universe
is, in my opinion, so fundamental and powerful that it deserves
to be called the "fifth dimension" of reality. I think of it as the
"life force" that makes life possible, that gives plants growth, that
nourishes organisms' evolution, and that provides the "spark of
life" for human beings. Candace Pert, (the molecular biologist who
discovered the opiate receptor on body cells) spoke of a "spark"
that seems to leave the body upon death, something more
than the cessation of cellular activity. Insofar as we are in harmony
with the spiritual dimension, we participate in the way things
are meant to be, and find our own inner peace, as a result.
But what might all this
have to do with a 42% divorce rate? It might
be that instead of cooperating in concrete ways with the structure
of our human nature and the most intimate connection with
our loved ones, we may be contaminating our relationships with
behavior that is domineering, critical, demeaning, and intrusive.
To the degree we go against the way we are created to be
and become, we will experience pain and suffering, the pain of divorce
(and other failed relationships) being one result.
On the other hand, when
we are in harmony with the spiritual dimension,
we connect with others in a loving way, accepting others
and the entire world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Even when
the way we wish others to be would be a relatively objective "improvement,"
acceptance means our giving others our "permission"
to be the way they are, though we are deeply committed
to being a different way.
practical emotional and cognitive problem this position
raises is: "But what shall I do about things not being the way
they should be? Do I just sit passively by and let things deteriorate
while I am being loving and accepting of the negative behavior
around me? How do I know I am not a wimp, not whipped?
How do I tolerate the evil around me?" Another version of
the same question is "Why does God let evil exist?"
live, one application of these philosophical questions could
be: "How do I get along with my spouse, when he/she doesn't
agree with me?"
© 2001 by Benjamin B. Conley, All Rights Reserved