Judith Cannon, PhD, LMFT
Healing, Growth, Creativity Enriching
Our Lives, Our Relationships, Our World
I want to share with you some of my thoughts about why devotion is an important component of a vital, dynamic relationship. First let me say, devotion is not a state of blind rapture. Devotion is a decision, not a feeling. Devotion is a choice to wholeheartedly give time, energy and attention.
My beliefs about devotion in a relationship are related to my spiritual beliefs. I believe that, like a wave is a part of the larger ocean, each of us is part of the Universe, a manifestation of the Divine. I am a manifestation of the Divine. My partner is a manifestation of the Divine. By choosing to devote myself to her, I have the opportunity, as Sluyter says, to “have breakfast with the infinite.”
The choice to devote myself to my partner provides an opportunity to awaken. Instead of fantasizing about the person of my dreams, I devote myself to the real person in my life and thereby awaken. My relationship provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness, an opportunity to experience a connection to that which is larger than I am.
Devotion involves setting my intention to see the Divine in the flawed human being before me. I will see what I am looking for. If I look for the infinite I will see the infinite. If I look for the flaws, I will see the flaws. Devotion allows us to see the infinite in our partner at each moment. We are not blind to the flaws, but we can learn to be amused by them rather than irritated with them. Equally valuable, but perhaps even harder is learning to be amused at our own human flaws and mistakes.
Devotion is a sense of awe at the treasure of another human being before me. If I remember we are each manifestations of the universe, I can better appreciate our differences. I can avoid the self-righteousness of believing my way is the right way of thinking, being or doing. Devoting ourselves will open our hearts and fill us with compassion that expands beyond the relationship.
Devotion involves seeking to understand someone while realizing I can never fully understand another person who changes with each breath. Just as I seek to understand the Universe and my place in it, I seek to understand my partner. Devotion means giving up the false belief that I know what my partner will say or do. Devotion involves a willingness to continue to be surprised. Devotion appreciates mystery.
Devotion means I love the whole package. I let go of control and attempts to change your partner. Attempts to change another person don’t work anyway and they do create frustration and resentment. Why not try loving your partner as s/he is?
Devotion does not mean being a doormat or being co-dependent. Devotion asks that I honor my partner and myself by speaking up, saying what I want, saying what upsets me. Research indicates relationships that last are the ones in which five kind, supportive things are said for each one critical thing. Remember to keep a 5-to-1 ratio, or better. Also, remember that I-messages work. Tell your partner what you are experiencing, not what is wrong with her/him.
Devotion in a couple’s relationship also brings up a larger question. What are you as a couple devoted to? Perhaps you have fallen in love, built some stability and are wondering what is next. Perhaps you have been together a long time and have a sense of boredom or emptiness. Times like these provide an opportunity to review your individual and shared lives. What is the larger purpose in your life? What do you want to build together? How do you maintain your sense of being connected to something larger than yourselves?