People often talk and write about marriage as though it were a surface arrangement full of life problems and interpersonal emotions, but it goes far deeper. It is a mystery that engages the deepest memories, fantasies and feelings. When people marry, their souls, as John Donne said, intermingle, but not always for the good. Being married is to enter into the morass that is another’s web of past and present experience and to allow the other to enter yours. It isn’t so surprising that over time it feels like a dark night, so jungle like is the terrain of the soul. Furthermore, it is primitive stuff, reaching far into childhood and also into the primitive depths of human culture.
In intimate relationships the family saga is played out, as are the archetypal, mythic dramas that are the foundation of all human life. The loved one is a body of persons, some from memory and some from myth, and it isn’t always easy to know the figure you are re struggling with or the one with whom you are in love. Not that love isn’t real. The loved person is genuine and the emotion is genuine, but it is complex, involving the whole field of personal history, character, and fate, much of it irrevocably mysterious.
Lovers sometimes say that each brings half of life to make a whole. It might be more accurate to say that two parts of a story draw each other together. An aggressive person might attract someone who habitually plays victim, so they can play out their unfinished patterns of power (mars issues). A nurturing, maternal person, man or woman, finds a helpless, vulnerable child to care for.
These patterns are many and varied, and usually they’re subtle and largely unconscious. Once in a while a relationship seems a complete and totally myth. When the myths are simple and lived out without much reflection, they can become difficult and even dangerous. The work of a relationship is to bring out the complexity in each person and create a fresh story, in which the common motifs weave together like subtle colours in a fabric.
Love has its own underworld. If you glimpse that deep interiority in the most mundane of situations, you may have a chance of finding your way through love’s maze. If you don’t appreciate the deep soul, you may find yourself spinning in confusion and wondering why you keep repeating the same “mistakes.” You have to become initiated into love’s mysteries rather than its techniques. You have to be swept away by it and yet intelligent about it, taken further into your spiritual destiny, rather than lost in the mirrored sphere of sheer romance.
Love is a dark night. Dark nights are largely about love. Once you give up the bright light of consciousness and undersanding, you may discover that you can be in this world in a darker way, living by love and desire rather than by rationality and control. You don’t give up your intellect, but you allow love it’s natural dominance.
A dark night of love forces you to reassess the place of love in your life. Eventually you may discover that the most ordinary loves among your friends and family and with your partner may lead to a more mysterious kind of love that is essentially religious. Your love expands to include the world and beyond. The Sufis, those passionate mystics of the Islamic tradition, say that our human loves form a ladder to the divine.
Extract from Chapter Six : Lovesickness, Dark Nights of the Soul : A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals, by Thomas Moore