As more traditional forms of marriage falter, new, more workable ways of relating inevitably take their place, and we move into a more fluid approach to long-term relationship.
Let's look at the idea of a "Conscious Relationship" - marriage as a means to help support one another's psychological and spiritual growth, as well as one another's self-actualization, expression and individuality. Is this possible to do, while maintaining intimacy, trust, a family, the constant necessity of compromise? Absolutely.
In a more traditional sense, marriage is either a destination unto itself, which requires no more effort or concern, or there is a constant effort to balance one's needs against those of another. This can leave us all feeling like we're not the same person anymore, having suppressed our genuine nature in favor of the family to the point where we feel unrecognizable.
Facilitating open, honest, heart-centered communication, acknowledging and honoring both partners' early childhood triggers and reasons for emotional over-reactivity, and a willingness to delve deeply into the true source of anger and pain can work wonders in achieving a healthy, alive, interesting and fulfilling partnership.
We are so bereft of the importance of ritual in our culture, I find the "Talking Stick" to be a powerful and effective tool for helping re-center within ourselves, and for giving us a strong voice to connect with our loved ones out of our own Truth.
And yes, I usually get a huge eye roll from someone when I first mention this. And no, it's not there to bop your partner on the head with. I actually once had a man grab it from his wife and toss it out the car window, when she brought it out and wanted to address Deeper Issues during a heated L.A. traffic jam. Timing, need I say, is crucial.
How is it used?
This is something I learned during a Native American Navajo ceremony held around a roaring fire inside an authentic ancient teepee, where it was passed around the fire one to another, all night long. Whomever has the stick, has the floor, until he decides it's time to pass it along. I've used it in counseling and in my own family ever since.
What's most important about this is to create a profound sense of Ceremony. When doing this as a family, light a few candles, turn the lights off, and allow each member to speak from their heart ... including, and most particularly, the children. This allows a deeper sharing, and also teaches them to get in touch with what they're actually feeling under the anger, and learn to express it clearly.
As a couple exercise, again, create a ceremony. Make sure all the devices are off and out of sight, the children are asleep, the house is quiet, and light a candle on the floor between you.
Remember, while the person with the Talking Stick is speaking, they have your attention utterly and completely. Open your heart, and listen with it .. listen to what they're saying even behind the words. After they've finished, repeat back to them what you heard, validate that it's important to you that you hear and understand how they're feeling before you move on.
So where can we get one?
Well, you can certainly buy one online, (what can't you buy online), but I find it particularly meaningful when the family works on creating one together. It's best to have a separate one devoted to the couple, and one to the family. Using crystals, tiny photos, feathers, notes, leather strips, use anything that appeals to you and evokes a feeling of connection ..to the earth, to each other, to the Divine.