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A Golden LoveRelationships of Divine Enchantment
By Laura Dawn Bridges Craig Nieuwenhuyse
BALBOA PRESSCopyright © 2012 Laura Dawn Bridges, M.S. and Craig Nieuwenhuyse, Ph.D.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOur Golden Stories
Laura's Notes about Golden Love
He was one of those types of people who enjoyed talking about his personal life to strangers. "Why do relationships always have to be so much work?!!" he blurted out in exasperation. Conversations like this seem to happen to me a lot. I have never been quite sure if it happens because of people's compulsion to share anything that pops into their head to anyone who will listen, or if it is something about me that puts people at ease enough to say whatever is on their mind. Since he was chattering away to someone else as I entered the waiting room of the eye doctor, I decided this outpouring had nothing to do with me but was primarily a case of his compulsion at work here.
He was, however, very sincere in his inquiry about the nature of relationships. I sighed. I strongly believe that relationships don't have to be so much work. In fact, they can be utterly effortless and uplifting. If I had sensed this gentleman was glibly throwing out negative statements just to get me to chime in, I would have shrugged and returned to reading my waiting room magazine. However, this time I turned to him and responded with one of the truths that I know about relationships. I said, "If the individuals in the couple are sincerely working on their own stuff, on their own issues and taking responsibility for their own ego, there would be no need to work hard on the couple relationship."
My sincere but compulsive friend offered a wide-eyed blink. After a few moments of speechlessness, he drew in a deep breath and said, "That is the wisest thing I have ever heard about relationships. Where did you learn that?" It was a serendipitous moment in what had previously been a mundane morning.
We then launched into deeper conversation about qualities that allow a couple to live a life of love and bliss together without the socially expected "hard work." As I talked further about compatibility, trust, the ability to process deeply together, and the importance of shared spirituality, I watched my new friend turn into a giant sponge, soaking up everything and responding with a few gasps and head nodding, and sometimes giving examples of things that were not working so well in his newly formed love relationship. I believe he, like all of us, truly wanted to know how to be happier and to experience more love in his life.
I consider such chance conversations a great gift to me, for every time I have conversations with people about these concepts, I gain clarity about an entire set of qualities, characteristics, and personal practices that support a loving, caring, and blissful relationship. Craig and I have spent countless hours discussing these qualities that we see in our relationship. Our conjoined clarity on this topic has led us to this attempt to describe what we call a golden love relationship. Using our own relationship as a launching point, we then went on to explore the possibility that there are other relationships like ours.
What if it were you in that doctor's office and I had told you it is possible to have a relationship that is effortless, joy-filled, and free of conflict? You might say I was dreaming or that we are too deep in our mutual enabling of each other to recognize that we have a problem. You might want to point out sagely that "Every relationship has problems and all couples argue." After all, it's pretty easy to assume such a conflict-free relationship is impossible if you have never experienced it or known people who are in such a relationship. We are suggesting that this kind of relationship is not only possible but also is a growing phenomenon happening among couples who are enjoying a life of blissful ease and spiritual connectedness. We have communicated with other golden couples and have received their feedback about their experiences of being in this realm of relationship and have boiled it all down to a list of basic characteristics: low conflict, high compatibility, heart-to-heart communication, shared spirituality, and sacred sexuality. We are going to review each of these areas in Part 2 of this book. Throughout the book we will be sharing insights from our own relationship as well as stories from other golden love couples. And so we would like to start by telling you our love story about how we got to be on this golden path of love together.
Craig's Notes about Golden Love
It is a lot of fun living with Laura. We live a life that others tell us they admire and at times envy. We are consistently happy nearly all the time. The truth is we were already happy before we met, but our happiness exponentially grew when we blended our lives together. We speak to each other from our hearts, openly, with no fears of judgment or censorship. We laugh together, we have room to cry, and we share quiet moments in poetic silence. You could say we are blessed. You could say we are lucky. But whatever your opinion, we are happy.
We share deep, spiritual roots that each of us cultivated separately over decades of meditation, yoga, contemplation, and some hard life lessons. We had relationships with good people that did not work earlier in our lives. We also spent years living alone, building a sense of self-worth through spiritual practice and through diving into life itself.
And then we found each other. Now gratitude and love abound. We delight in seeing our partner return even if only from the next room. We both experience that our hearts open up when we are in each other's presence. People sometimes ask me how this happened. I like to answer, "I got lucky...."
"... The right woman for you is the woman you love just the way she is, the woman you don't have the need to change at all. That's the right woman for you. You are lucky if you find the right woman for you and at the same time you are the right man for her."
I will tell you something of my story because I have learned that finding a life partner is always a unique process based on all of the endless elements that make up who you are. It can never be and never is the same for any two couples. Because it is so unique and personal, I want to share something of my own story. This is the best guide I have.
I am writing this with my spiritual life partner, Laura. I usually call her by her spiritual name Lila, a name that means "divine play". In this book I refer to her as Laura. We are together in a sweet relationship that is based on a spiritual connection. We met each other at a meditation center in Sacramento after I had moved there from Seattle years ago. I had always wanted to believe that a relationship like this was possible, but I had my doubts.
I had relationships earlier in my life with good people. I have nothing negative to say about them, and there is no purpose served by recounting how I unintentionally contributed to ending those relationships. But end they did. In those years before I met Laura, I was pretty frustrated. I was living alone. Like so many people recovering from the end of a relationship, I went into exile. I took a new job and moved to Seattle. I figured out that many people in Seattle like to get out into the mountains and forests around the city, but I had not done that, other than to drive up a freeway where it got a bit greener at times.
Somewhere inside myself I remembered that I really liked hiking, mountains, trails, and the whole experience of how the air seemed different when I did those things. I had no one to go with. I did have a few new office acquaintances, one of whom bordered on subliteracy but also was intriguingly drop-dead gorgeous. I summoned up the courage and decided to ask her a nice open ended question.
Craig: "Where could I go if I wanted to try hiking a bit?"
Office Beauty: "You should try Tiger Mountain."
Craig: "Yeah? That's a good idea. Where is it?"
Office Beauty: "I don't know, I've never actually been there, but it's off the freeway somewhere up there past Issaquah ... I think...".
It was not much of a conversation. I later learned she had filed sexual harassment charges against the last guy in the office who had tried to speak with her, so maybe I was lucky this was brief.
That weekend I drove out there. Alone. I found the trailhead and started up Tiger Mountain, all by myself. I was surprised at how nervous I was and also how I started puffing after only a few switchbacks. And yet, deep down there somewhere, I was proud that I was doing this and damned if I was going to stop before I got to the top. Puff-puff, step-step, grab-a-small-tree-for-support, puff-puff some more, look up, stumble, puff-puff, I knew the top had to be up there somewhere.
At last I finally popped out of the dense trees into a small clearing, and to my great delight saw there was no more mountain to climb. There really is not much to see from the top of Tiger Mountain, but there were quite a number of people who had gotten there ahead of me. All kinds of people were there, taking pictures, eating healthy things, and sharing a collective moment outside the daily rush of life. It amazed me how chatty people could be up there at the top of Tiger Mountain. Unfortunately, none of them were potential life partners. Far too many of them were children with ages in the single digits, some of them in plastic sandals, with none of them puffing.
This was hardly even a very small step for mankind, but it was a pretty big stride for me. I had found something I liked, something that made me smile, and I had taken up the call. Over time I would hike up bigger mountains. Even though hiking never brought relationships, I did find very nice people out there in the wilderness areas. I began to realize that I could do something that I really enjoyed, even if I was doing it by myself.
As I look back, hiking on my own was a perfect opportunity to spend some time within my own mind following the myriad rabbit trails of thought that really led nowhere. Little by little I could sense my level of anxiety leveling off as I began to calm down a little bit at a time. I had the experience of enjoying amazingly beautiful lakes, mountains, trees, ice caves, rocks and all the wonders out there all by myself. There was no one else to temper the excitement, or to play the endless games of codependency that I had learned from an early age. If the mountain lion was going to jump out of the tree, then it was just me and him.
I did not realize the importance at the time, but I was gradually becoming more lighthearted. My sense of humor was emerging out of the anxiety that had been holding it captive, and I was beginning to sense that I was OK. Just me, by myself, doing what I like to do, I began to experience what it feels like to know that I was OK.
Hiking led to a different, totally unexpected, but finally wonderful activity. At that time in Seattle, I was carrying a heavy load of monthly expenses, child support, and a host of items I would just as soon not remember. As a result I was constantly looking for a second and third job to augment my daily office job. This led to my taking on an alter ego as a stair-climbing beer vender for the local professional sports teams, the Seattle Mariners, the Seahawks, and the Sonics. In addition to ending any lingering need I still had for aerobic exercise, I discovered the empowerment that comes with doing something completely unlike academics, offices or the world of unstained t-shirts. It was just me up there in the upper deck somewhere, with the lights on the field, the crisp night air, fifty pounds of beer and ice in a bucket at my waist, serving screaming fans, and lots of thirst that needed to be taken care of right away.
There were no life partners charging up and down the concrete aisles. There were, however, some friendly Japanese tourists who wanted to have their picture taken with a real beer vender for some reason, but no life partner. But there was an increasingly deep appreciation building within me that I could do what I enjoyed, and it did not have to fit anyone else's expectations. Not everyone could say that they really enjoyed pounding up and down the long rows of box seats there in Safeco Field, but I did. It was a rough, primitive and physical challenge that merged somehow with the need to connect in a happy place with the beer drinkers waiting for me somewhere down the long rows.
The experience of doing something new that I could not have imagined for myself led me to my favorite fantasy adventure. I became a ski instructor. I had not really skied much for more years than I could count on my fingers and most of my toes. However, there was a nice little mountain up on the Snoqualmie Pass where I was taught how to instruct the busloads of beginners arriving every weekend how to put on their skis and head down the slope without a need for an ambulance at the bottom. I was given a very slick uniform, a badge, a season pass, and a new fraternity of unlikely life partners. This was better than hiking. In the winter wind, in the snow storms, in those incredible sunny days sliding down the slopes, navigating the moguls and even learning a thing or two, I was happy.
Little by little I was beginning to laugh more and was able to appreciate the incredible possibilities and extraordinary good fortune that had come into my life. I did not know it at the time, but I was in the initial stage of preparation for finding my life partner, my future heart of gold lover.
When I first moved to Sacramento, I called the local meditation center and asked for directions. I first heard Laura's voice when she called me back and gave me the information. I remember the thought passing through my mind, "Maybe ..." Here I was in a new city and starting over, and I liked to keep an antenna up when I met a new woman. Who knows? Maybe this time....
I got lost trying to find the center. The address I had did not seem to exist. After circling blocks and blocks I found myself in the parking lot at the Sacramento Zoo. I could have given up there and joined the giraffes, but I was determined to reach my destination. I went inside myself, visualized a bit, and received a feeling that I could find the place if I just followed my inner guides. Five minutes later I was at the door.
The initial connection with Laura was very subtle, nothing overt, just connection with a glance, a pleasant short talk after the program, nothing that was jumping up and ringing bells. But there were subtle signals. The way our eyes first met and lingered when we were singing, the quiet energy between us that felt good. I wanted more of that feeling. It was a few months before we actually connected privately and discovered that the subtle signals were actually speaking of a deeper attraction.
As much as I wanted to find the right person, I knew myself well enough to know that I could get involved with the wrong person too easily. I did not want that, so I took my time. I figured that if something was going to be right, then it would have to survive my reluctance to get too involved too quickly.
For so many years I had been looking around my life and not seeing anyone who felt anything close to right for me. Like anyone else, I had my version of life's difficulties, my own baggage, loneliness, and at times desperation. I could imagine a person who really liked me even with all of my issues and who just was easy to be with. But I was concerned that I did not see this very often in the relationships I saw around me. Too often I saw patterns of codependency, suppressed anger, narcissism, and lots of reasons to be glad that I was not in such a relationship. I had told myself that it may not be possible to find someone like the person I imagined. However, deep down I never gave up, even as the years passed.
Excerpted from A Golden Love by Laura Dawn Bridges Craig Nieuwenhuyse Copyright © 2012 by Laura Dawn Bridges, M.S. and Craig Nieuwenhuyse, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of BALBOA PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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