by Jordana del Feld
“Just as long as everybody knows what’s up,” she said, reducing the puzzle of the ages to an eight-word solution.
How do we love and promote group harmony?
How do we grow with intimate bonds?
How how do we develop authentic inter- and intra-personal boundaries?
In his essay, “The Over-Soul,” which describes the human soul as a manifestation of God, Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “persons are supplementary to the primary teaching of the soul.”
Our soul reigns paramount in our understanding of the universe, but alone it is insufficient.
Humans are a tribal species. Our group survival relies on social interconnectivity.
Shintoism understands the living world as a jewelled net, every being a reflective jewel connected with every other being, each one uniquely refracting the brilliance of God, and also reflecting the other jewels.
In order to develop our understanding of life, we need to investigate the multi-hued reflections of God in their infinite forms.
We need to get to know other souls.
While our own characters provide our ultimate challenges, our ultimate mentors, and our ultimate rewards, our experiences with others inform our perception of being.
The more we understand how we resonate with the other jewels, the more growth-oriented is our internal model of the external world.
My Ex-Husband, My Friend
I used to be married. I had a traditional marriage in a traditional society. One husband, one wife, one house.
This was not a culture or a house in which talks about opening the relationship could have happened.
I would not have known how to have such a talk, and my husband was one of the monogamous prairie voles of the world.
So I took the traditional way out: I had affairs, got caught, and my husband divorced me.
That part sucked, but it provided us with the honest emotional environment we needed in which to forge an authentic relationship between equals.
Finally we were able to share something true, and over time, our relationship has just gotten better and better. By now my ex-husband is one of my favourite friends.
Choosing to invest in this relationship is like coming back to the yoga mat, an everyday practice, and like any other everyday practice, it fills my life with long-term substance.
Our happy relationship upsets people back in the Old Country. Friends, family, and strangers condemn it as wrong, weird, and crazy.
They (like I) were raised to believe divorce was the worst trauma that could ever happen, and everyone is supposed to hate each other forever afterward. If that wasn’t true, the universe would collapse.
The human mind fears unfamiliarity more than anything else.
But unfamiliarity is where growth is.
(Or, for short, “Berlin.”)
I moved to Berlin and suddenly my radical divorce was casually accepted by everyone around me with, at most, a shrug.
“Everyone I know says being divorced is the best part of getting married, and that once you get divorced you can start being friends,” one person said.
There was no need to preach my wisdom, because everybody already knew it.
And they were all all a step or ten ahead of me in the Intimacy Evolution Journey!
I knew one monogamous cohabiting engaged English couple. Everybody else I knew was…not that.
But unlike in the Old Country, these idiosyncratic permutations of love, sex, and who-minds-the-children were discussed.
They were not clandestine affairs. Germany is the land where almost everything is accepted as long as it has an official compartment, and nowhere was that truer than in the realm of human relationships.
And while this sucks a lot of drama out of life, it…also sucks a lot of drama out of life!
The Empress and her Clan
I opened the Empress’s front door and walked straight into the chest of her cohabiting boyfriend, as he headed out to graffiti a wall.
Then I met her children: Butterfly Princess and the Dragon, both bilingual, self-possessed, and free-range.
Presently the Empress’s friend, the Sidekick, arrived, with her own bilingual free-range son, Sparkle Dinosaur.
We women gathered in the kitchen, making fruit salad and waffles while the children tootled about, as we would have done in the Old Country.
Except the conversation was completely different.
The Empress was a twitter about her new secondary boyfriend.
She was annoyed that her primary boyfriend was not yet ready to meet her secondary boyfriend, and he didn’t want to hear about what they did together, but on the other hand, she was glad he had come to terms with this new lover.
“I’m frustrated that I can’t provide everything you need,” he had said to her, when she had told him she was going to play video games with her new lover. “But sweetie, you hate video games,” she had pointed out.
He admitted this was true.
Meanwhile, her son, the Dragon, had seen photos of the new lover on Instagram.
“Does Primary know?” Dragon asked. “—Yes.” “—Ok.”
Conversation over. Except: “how do you have this conversation with people who don’t understand?” Dragon asked.
“You try your best,” the Empress answered.
Meanwhile, Sidekick and Sparkle Dinosaur were experiencing some domestic upheaval.
Sidekick was married and she had a boyfriend, and for a while there was a fluid ménage of domestic assemblages. Lately her husband and she had separated, but she seemed at peace with this.
The French may have invented the phrase “c’est la vie,” but the Germans win the game.
“I was crap at that whole monogamous married thing,” said the Empress, who had once been a wife in New Zealand.
I looked at her healthy, content, self-regulating children, and was proud. She was a fantastic mom, and a self-actualized human being living freely and authentically with the people she loved.
“It wasn’t always easy,” she said. “There were some…awkward conversations [with Primary]…in the beginning, when we were first talking about opening up the relationship years ago.”
But eventually they came to a new equilibrium, and it’s working for them.
Dragon had once asked his mom how she would feel about his eventual relationships.
“Love whomever you want, who is a good person and treats you well,” she said. “Communicate openly with them, treat them well, and don’t be an asshole.”
The Gypsy Queen
The Gypsy Queen inherited her title from her grandmother, who had been the Gypsy Queen of her Romanian village.
And like her grandmother, she could seduce anyone she chose into the inner circle of her intimate flame.
She was currently enjoying a relationship with a young man who was the leader of his village in Nigeria.
One day the Gypsy Queen was disgruntled.
Her young man had a wife and children back home in the village. He wanted to divorce them, since he was now here in Germany sleeping with the Gypsy Queen, and didn’t think it was ethical to keep on keeping on.
She, the Gypsy Queen, did not want him to get divorced, but rather to continue honouring his relationship with his wife.
She saw no need for divorce, which she considered an artificial tragedy. Once you have children with someone, why cut them out of your life?
The Nigerian went to his elders and to his church and spent two weeks praying and fasting. He also broke up with the Gypsy Queen.
She was distraught.
Sometimes this happens when one person’s ethical code bumps up against another person’s ethical code.
How far can we bend into a new shape while still being true to ourselves?
We are always evolving, and yet we are also products of our roots.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between discovering a deeper truth, and fooling ourselves that something we know is wrong is right.
When is it “growing” and when is it “lying to ourselves?”
For the Nigerian, being a married father in Nigeria was incompatible with being a lover in Germany and one of these selves had to go.
For the Gypsy Queen, her man severing a significant emotional, legal, and financial bond and abandoning his children; or breaking up with her, were equally invalid options.
Would these two people craft a nuanced resolution to the state of their affair?
“Please come in!” he welcomed me.
I had been prepared to loathe him but he was so charismatic, it was impossible not to like the Poet’s Lover.
The Poet had originally come to me as a client, living on food out of the trash and wearing clothes she found in the street, penniless, and tormented by her dark and violent past.
Between our first and second meetings, she also became a prostitute, because having money for food was wonderful.
So when she told me she had taken up with a man old enough to be her father who encouraged her to continue selling sex, who found this sexy, and who said that if he were a woman he would do it too, I was ready to judge all over this man if ever I were to meet him.
Yet here I was at the Poet’s Moving-In Party and found that this man whom I had considered a monster was just one more dude, living his life.
The Poet had her own room in the apartment. Her Lover and his Wife had their own room. Their Daughter had her own room.
The Wife was a rocket scientist who paid for everybody, the Lover was a househusband who did all the domestic work, the Poet provided sex and poetry, and the Daughter played improv games.
On my way home I tried to find a flaw in this arrangement, because it was not what I had expected, but I could not, because everybody was happy.
I had never seen the Poet looking so content or so healthy.
For the first time since I had met her, she looked at peace.
Supplementary Soul Teachers
What would Emerson think of all these supplementary soul teachers, reflecting one another’s lights in their own unique ways?
What I most noticed about these ménages was that everybody was emotionally invested in their lovers.
Berlin was awash with poly fuckery, but I had also found plenty of people who truly cared about the people with whom they shared their intimate hours.
Everybody has their own love language, their own love koan, and their own love journey.
We can promote group harmony by bravely telling others where we stand, even though that is not easy.
We can encourage our intimate relationships to evolve over time by continually checking in with our primary teacher: our own soul, listening to what our soul has to tell us, and then reporting back to everyone involved.
The best way we can develop supportive boundaries that help us enjoy our relationships is to throw out the map that other people who came before us drew, hack our way through the bush with our own machetes, and draw our own maps.
And to realise that the map is not the terrain, that even maps we draw ourselves are only maps of the present moment, that things change, and that ultimately we have to focus on the actual emotional landscape we are standing in, and not the abstract model of it we may have built in our heads.
There are as many ways of handling the human instinct to pair-bond as there are potential pairs, all these ways come with challenges and joys, and all we can do is find out for ourselves what works for us.
That means stepping outside our emotional comfort zone and taking a risk in order to grow into something bigger than we were before.
Because it is only when we live with a growth-oriented mindset that we can open our eyes to truly see the many faces of God.
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About the Author:
Hypnotherapist and holistic therapist Jordana del Feld, MFA, CMT, loves connecting women with the authentic voices of their souls, freeing them to live their best lives. She is based in Berlin and enjoys working with online clients around the world. You can check her out and connect via her website and Facebook.
featured image via Unsplash