I had been back from my 2007 trip to Naitauba for about a year when Deb told me she wanted a divorce. While there were many signs, I was totally blindsided. The idea that she might leave never really occurred to me. I was remarkably obtuse.
Years before, shortly after our son Ezzra was born in 1993, I broke up with Deb. Prior to our pregnancy, I had envisioned a bohemian journey to Europe with plans of becoming a wandering poet and writer. In truth, my only talent at 28 was for self-delusion and once I realized what I had given up, I begged her to take me back. She did, but that first wound never truly healed. Deb has a genius for holding onto pain.
And she also has an incredible stubborn streak without which our marriage would have long ago collapsed. She held us together when most women would have long before given up on me. I was such a prick! Deb has always been capable of love and kindness and generosity, and that I had almost extinguished these in her at one point was a demonstration of my own unfitness for relationship as she first found me.
But she took me back and at the time of our reunion, I said that no matter what happened, I would never leave her. During our separation, I’d understood that my true role in life was to be a husband and a father and I would never again leave my family.
However, there are many ways we abandon our loved ones without ever leaving their sides. Prior to finding Adi Da, and the first awakenings of spiritual life as I described in Bread Crumbs to Beloved, I had worked 12-16 hour days for weeks on end for my dot com company. I felt certain my efforts would make us rich. Men like me tell ourselves we are providing for our families while being emotionally and physically absent for whole seasons while we build a future at the expense of the present.
And when we were together for meals or in the moments that fit around the endless demand of my work obsession, I would be intoxicated or distracted by the thoughts of business that tend to linger for the workaholic. I could have my arm around Deb in a restaurant, completely vacant from the relationship while sitting only inches apart.
Adi Da says people are endlessly searching for fulfillment with “money, food and sex.” In the first decade of our marriage, our relationship could be characterized as dominated by these three appetites in various degrees of intensity, often leading to feelings of “abandonment and betrayal,” the two most commonly dramatized abuses we serve up for those we are closest to.
For the first decade, Deb held our marriage together obstinately loving me no matter what unkindness I delivered. For the most part, my ugliest behaviour was unconscious and performed without much intention to harm or awareness of how Deb suffered at my hands. Sure there were signs and subtle demonstrations that I should have noticed. Deb has as many different versions of a smile as Inuit have words for “snow”, but prior to Adi Da and the awakening of my capacity to directly feel her pain, I couldn’t be bothered trying to understand. I was too “self” obsessed.
In 2003 after I’d been cracked open enough to let some light in but before I’d become a devotee of Adi Da Samraj, Deb and I gained some insight into the masculine and feminine polarities of the first three stages of life in relationships as communicated by David Deida. We participated in a personal growth intensive called, Sex, Passion & Enlightenment created and delivered by Satyen & Suzanne Raja. Please explore Deida’s teachings through his books and audio, but the best I can recommend is to sign up for anything done by the Raja’s!
It’s difficult to estimate how significantly Deb and I were impacted by Deida’s teachings which have their origins in Adi Da’s first four stages of life, but the biggest and most compelling shift for us was how it provided Deb the permission to embrace her deeply feminine nature while simultaneously helping to focus my masculine sense of purpose.
Deb’s mother is British and came from the “ball busting” Margaret Thatcher era. Thinking she was doing right by her daughter, she stamped out any sign of femininity in Deb equating it with promiscuity and the path taken by Eve. Rose is a well meaning, but irreconcilable Catholic matriarch.
Once Deb understood that her deeply feminine nature was not a defect and we both found ways of nurturing it, our marriage passed into a new phase, one that magnified our passions at times, but also unleashed “Kali-Ma” Deb. Now, the pain she suppressed for so long would start to find it’s way out into behaviours and expressions of wild emotional storms. While at the time, I’d like to have thought of myself as Shiva to her Kali-Ma, more often I was likely thought by her as the “evil forces” Kali was unleashed to vanquish. I had a lot to pay for.
But before I share how this new phase shaped the next decade of our relationship, let me backtrack a bit and offer some insight to the broader evolution in the first three stages of life as we lived them and as communicated by Deida and the Raja’s. While based on Adi Da’s stages, they are not identical and at this point in our lives we still hadn’t heard of Adi Da so my references to the Stages here relate mostly to Deida’s.
The first stage of life is associated with childhood, and when it’s demonstrated in relationship it shows up as a demand to satisfy our personal wants and needs. When a child is hungry it screams for attention, whereupon it’s needs are satisfied by the others in it’s life. Learning how to satisfy and fulfill one’s own needs is the first stage of development. Very few people mature entirely past this stage and their various relationships show a lot of this tendency to demand others satisfy their needs.
In our early years, I would use my control or power to extract what I wanted. I was older. I focused on financial wealth. Deb felt “she couldn’t deny me” because I made all the money. Deb was generally a stay at home mom and focused on raising our children. When Deb wanted something and I was ignoring her needs, she would throw tantrums and behave badly until I relented and “gave in to her demands”. We’d learned a lot of what we knew from Archie Bunker and “I love Lucy” in our formative years.
The second stage of life is about the adolescent phase of development and is characterized by the ability to make agreements in the world as we come to understand and relate to others as equals. In marriage it represents all the agreements, spoken and silent, that help define our sense of being truthful, fair and honest with one another. It shows up in our roles like breadwinner or homemaker. It’s the, I’ll make dinner, if you’ll do the dishes, type of agreements. It’s the, I’ll go down on you if you’ll give me a blowjob kind of sexual agreement that ensures both parties’ first stage needs are satisfied through second stage negotiation, the “tit for tat” that makes the world go round.
And of course, it shows up most often for the typical married couple in our agreements to be faithful to one another. You haven’t cheated on your partner if you haven’t had illicit sex with another person. The defect in the second stage relationship is how easily one can maintain the letter of the agreement while entirely abandoning its spirit. Before and after our introduction to Satyen’s workshop, I fucked hundreds of women with my thoughts and actions, flirting in the open to gain their attention without “officially” betraying my oath.
I arranged a partner swap while Deb was too intoxicated to argue and convinced myself that because I gave her away to another man while in the same room with another woman I desired that this “hall pass” was openly agreed upon and was therefore an allowable exception to our vows. Second stage, handshake deals, in service of first stage appetites are a primary cause of “irreconcilable differences” between people who once confessed undying love.*
When speaking about this travesty later, Deb confessed that she felt she couldn’t deny me this dalliance because of an earlier betrayal of her own. Karmas can circulate like this forever, like bullets ricocheting off steel walls leaving scars in each other before reflecting back to oneself. Abandonment and betrayal; pain and wounds; anger and retaliation; abandonment and betrayal…
At some point, for the cycle to end, someone has to accept responsibility. This happens in the Third Stage of life when the creative and intelligent response to living in relationship evolves. I finally started to become capable of holding our marriage together around the time I first began to directly experience Deb’s suffering. But the real capacity arose from my insight on Naitauba, that I was using Adidam as an exit strategy from my various life failures, chief of which was my failure to love and truly be married to Deb.
When I first began to directly, empathically, feel Deb’s pain through my growing capacity to truly love her, I had no idea what to do with these sensations. When I said things that reminded her of past injuries, I could feel the pain move through her and it generated feelings of remorse and guilt in me. I was responsible for this pain, but I didn’t know how to heal her. I watched as she drank more and more and spent more and more time away from home working for Peak Potentials Training’s special event management team.
She’d lost all hope for our marriage and while I had begun showing signs of my deep love for her, for her it was too late. By the time she asked for a divorce, she had already had more than one affair and was suffering the pain of wounds I’d produced, the guilt of her betrayals and a burgeoning alcoholism to try to deal with the end of her dreams.
We were living in Langley, BC, not far away from Satyen & Suzanne and the home office for Warrior Sage. They had purchased a license to use my event management software to run their business, and on the day Deb had told me she wanted a divorce, I found myself working at their office. I’m sure my pain was palpable, and while I did my best to focus on their work, I shared my situation in a quiet moment with Suzanne. She questioned me about the circumstances and then asked, “Have you claimed her?“
Her question hit home with incredible clarity. For years, feeling Deb’s pain, knowing I’d put it there, and feeling guilty but helpless to resolve it, I had slowly begun to give up on us as well. While I hadn’t been thinking of divorce, I had effectively spent years, “packing her bags”.
In all kinds of subtle ways in the face of her anger and wounds, particularly as I had begun to actually feel her suffering directly, I had learned to shrink away from her, to hide in the shadows of our failures rather than evoke her wrath and fight for our love. I told her that I would not give her an easy divorce, that I would demonstrate my love for her no matter what the future held and that if, in the end, she forced my signature on divorce papers, I promised her she would do it knowing no one would ever love her as fiercely and as completely as I do.
I then spent the next three years consuming the karmas I’d earned for my years of selfish and careless behaviour. Deb was done and winning back her respect, kindness and trust was the most painful and responsible sacrifice to love I’ve ever offered. For all the wounds she felt she suffered at my hands, she delivered them back with force.
If your goddess is anything like mine and you have karmas to pay, you should know that unlike me, and I think most men who are carelessly hurtful and crudely unkind, feminine women seem to knows exactly where to strike to cause the most pain. She was furious at my statement of “claim” and would test the depths of my resolve by shredding me wherever I thought I was strong.
I learned about her affairs with anguish but without retaliation. I understood that I was no victim. If I had walked a man to her bed and turned down the sheets for her, I could not have been more directly responsible for her trying to hide her pain in the arms of another. Still, I didn’t come to this understanding without significant internal struggle and definitely not without complaint. At times, the pain was so immense and bitter, I felt sure I would have to give up my love for her to protect myself from further suffering. Anything would be better than feeling that pain…anything but giving up my love for her.
I found the strength at the heart to lay down my wounded pride. I say my actions were a sacrifice to love because they were a willing loss of face, the offering up of my separate needs and the release of any justification to be a victim.
Finally, having delivered all the pain and suffering on me she had suppressed in our first decade while she sacrificed for love, about three years after she told me she wanted a divorce, she had exhausted her fury. But more than that, she discovered that she was no longer the victim and she couldn’t escape the recognition that under all the pain, she had always loved me and that having harmed me, as she had been hurt, she felt only sorrow and forgiveness.
I hadn’t run when faced with the wrath of Kali-Ma, and neither did I try to suppress her storm; “It is never Kali who tames Shiva, but Shiva who must calm Kali.”
In the third stage of life in marriage, two people, who are imperfect and at times ugly, love the beauty at the heart of each other and take total responsibility for the wounds they suffer and deliver as part of the play of surrendering separation. To be truly married is to give up separate wants and needs as a sacrifice to the greater union.
Even the roles we play, husband/wife, feminine/masculine, provider/homemaker, strong/weak, victimizer/victim give way and we see that when relationship is lived creatively, roles are merely played at in order to intensify passion and forge union between two “poles” of apparent opposites.
The year Deb’s pain and rage subsided was 2011 and over the next decade, we have continued like all married couples to have disagreements and fights, but now we have them without ever betraying our love for each other in our own hearts. We continue to have first stage needs and second stage agreements; I still don’t like doing the dishes and Deb hates to cook. But now our third stage relationship is filled with laughter and, after almost 30 years together, incredible passion still! We’re a lot like newlyweds.
As I write this, I realized that my motive isn’t ultimately to celebrate our love. Deb is a very private person and when she approves this post in it’s final form, it will be another act of sacrifice. Her mother’s daughter hates to “air our dirty laundry.”**
I’m writing this with the hope that some other lovers at the crossroads might gain some insight to their own actions and the responsibility they need to evolve to remain together and grow in love. Have you been packing your lover’s bags? Have you been betrayed? Does it feel like the safer choice to protect your fragile heart alone rather than risk more pain together?
This is my most hopefully advice for anyone who is struggling to find light in a marriage gone dark. You are 100% responsible for every betrayal, abuse or abandonment you’ve experienced in your relationship. If you feel you’ve been betrayed, discover in yourself the source of that action by your lover. If you’ve been abandoned, see how your own unloving actions have forced your lover to turn away.
I’m not suggesting that there are no cases of irreconcilable harm between lovers. Some people may need lifetimes to make good partners, but chances are, if you were attracted to them in the first place, you’ve got your share of work to do too. What I am suggesting is that the rewards in relationship come with the greatest sacrifices of ego. That evolution in human terms will demand more than you’ll be willing to give if you’ve not evolved past the first two stages of life and are unwilling to compromise on your rights to a separate existence.
In the first blog in this series, I mention that I am convinced that love when truly enjoyed between people is a feeling of perfect “coincidence” with another, where your personal needs melt away in the motive of sacrifice in love and that this experience of love is how God is felt in the world. When I left Naitauba in 2007, I had the feeling that Adi Da had seemed to speak into my ear saying that until I had learned to truly love Deb, I would never be fit for the true spiritual process.
What I understand now is that Beloved had merely redirected me toward the appropriate sādhanā at that time. Adi Da states clearly that His Way is progressively developmental through seven stages of life. I arrived on His island in 2007 nowhere near fully adapted to the first three stages of life and so I was sent back to learn to love. Today, I seem to be enjoying His Grace as the blissful and ecstatic feeling of Him that I suspect are signs of the fourth stage of life.
Deb and I are on our 30th year together in 2021. When she spun herself into my heart that spring day so long ago, I felt certain she was heaven sent. Thirty years later, we’re devoted to each other, and feeling God alive in our relationship every day.
*Writing this passage was more than a little exhausting and I could feel the scars of old wounds remembering pain and guilt associated with this time. Deb had been downstairs while I typed. She came up and looked over at me and noticed I was slumped over a bit. Her face showed she too was feeling unhappy. I mentioned that I was confessing about a tough time in our past and she said, “I was feeling that too.” Her eyes were slightly moist. These days, we feel each other often. We’re often “coincident” with each other and this helps guide our actions. We gave each other a hug, and I decided to put blogging down for the morning.
**After reading this, feeling the wounds from that time, she wanted me to share that feminine and masculine beings seem to have affairs for different reasons. My betrayals were about gaining attention and validation of my “superior” nature. Deb’s affairs were driven by a need to feel loving attention since mine was always elsewhere. And in both cases, when we traded our selves away in second stage moments to fill first stage needs, our emptiness and suffering was only magnified.