The Couple Relationship Within and Without



“The original sperm from which we are formed is masculine and feminine, the one which is in the majority wins, but the other side does not die, it remains living but as a minority, just as in politics the Government and the Opposition both exist.” ~Carl Jung, ETH, Page 216.

Unfortunately, whether we are talking about the masculine and feminine attributes of our physical bodies, the psychological relationship between our inner masculine and feminine qualities, or relationships between males and females, Jung’s use of the word ‘Opposition’ in the above quote is only too appropriate.  Once our egos start identifying with one principle in childhood, we tend to set up an antagonistic relationship with the other, and this polarization permeates every aspect of our lives.

Dualistic thinking appears to be a natural and inevitable by-product of ego-formation in the first half of life, but it does not have to end there. Nor should it, if we want to keep growing. As Dr. Jung noted, we’re all formed from both principles, and each of us has our own unique spot somewhere along the continuum between them. Ultimately, our satisfaction and fulfillment in life depends on finding our own place and learning how to be true to it.

“It is only possible to live as we should if we live according to our own nature. But in these days we live by our brains alone and ignore the very definite laws of our body and the instinctive world. We damage ourselves severely when we offend against these…” ~Carl Jung, Modern Psychology, Page 219.

As long as we’re unaware and unaccepting of our true nature and fuller potential, we inevitably damage others too. Regardless of our gender, if, as a child, we learn to fear, mistrust, and dislike our fathers or other adult males, we may grow up to feel the same way about our own masculine sides, other men, or the masculine sides of women. Our attitudes toward our mothers and adult females will likewise effect our attitudes toward our feminine sides, other women, and the feminine sides of men.

We all have different personalities, experiences, biases, complexes and shadows, and no one wants to look at their painful aspects. But we ignore them at our peril, because our disowned selves influence our health and the health of our relationships.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to spot our prejudices and barriers: they are mirrored every day in intimate couple relationships. But unfortunately,

 Nails in Love
Nails in Love

“We have not been educated to look inwards, though most people are able to give their attention to outside things.” ~Carl Jung, ETH, Vol. 3, Page 13.

If we want loving couple relationships, we must redirect our attention from the outer world to the inner.  We must commit ourselves to practices which reveal our soul’s truths, which we must accept, especially the painful ones. If we persevere, over time our wounds begin to heal and our perspective changes. As this happens our outer lives change too.

We will never change completely and our shadow will always be with us, but we can recognize it sooner and make reparations faster. Moreover, accepting and integrating our fuller potential empowers us to break out of our prisons of conformity and blossom into our individuality. Gradually our resistance to, and fear of, others and the unknown lessens. We pretend less, react less habitually, feel less need to conceal our honest feelings or stifle our gifts. Our need to know everything, control anyone, or prove anything diminishes. Defensive postures such as resentment and hypersensitivity soften.

We grow more mindful, less agitated. We can more easily relax into the present moment. We can anticipate what the next may bring with pleasure and enthusiasm. We can make original, authentic choices. When we feel our prejudices, painful emotions and unhealthy habits rising within us like monsters from the deep, we can find new ways to express them without hurting others.

Over time, our thoughts and behaviors spring more often from healed archetypes than wounded stereotypes. Life becomes a delightful gift to be savored; less of a contest to win, obstacle to overcome, or ordeal to be endured. Thus do we create an ongoing, original work of art:  an increasingly more authentic, empowered, and conscious being with balanced energies which flow appropriately between masculine and feminine, here manifesting qualities of the drive for self-preservation, there acting from the drive for species-preservation. In a culture distorted by one-sided worship of the masculine, integrating the feminine brings a refreshing return of feeling and the ability to live with soul.

Northern Italy (Embriachi workshop): Jewellery Casket with Couples of Lovers; late 14th century; bone on wood, intarsia. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 690; acquired in 1835 for the Royal „Kunstkammer“ collection), Bode-Museum Berlin.
Northern Italy (Embriachi workshop): Jewellery Casket with Couples of Lovers; late 14th century; bone on wood, intarsia. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 690; acquired in 1835 for the Royal „Kunstkammer“ collection), Bode-Museum Berlin.

Respecting both masculine and feminine values fashions a new morality of impeccable integrity and personal responsibility based on universal standards of justice and care for all. Our wish to cause as little pain as possible, combined with our growing ability to see and restrain our shadows, helps us listen with patience and tolerance while allowing our partners to speak their truths. Creating the Couple within dramatically increases our hope of healing our relationships and establishing the intimacy and compassion for which every soul longs.

“If our inner journey does not match and lead to an outer journey, we have no true freedom or “salvation.” Richard Rohr Online Daily Meditation, January 16, 2017.

And I would add, if our inner relationship does not lead to a more honest and healthy couple relationship, we can be sure we are neither spiritually mature nor enlightened.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons.  

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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24 Responses

  1. I love this post! Years ago I used to visualise my inner couple: a he-male, strong and attractive and a she-lady, beautiful and gracious. I “saw” the balanced energy pattern between. After reading your post I thought: why did I stop doing that? Let’s start again today. So (it is morning here in the Netherlands) I just did my exercises and I always visualise after doing that as a sort of cooling down. So starting now! Thanks Jeanie 🙂

    1. Thank you Susanne. Your practice of visualizing your inner couple is a lovely idea! Have you ever tried doing active imagination with the images you visualize? Once you see them clearly, you can greet them and engage them in a conversation by asking them a question and being sure to let them respond in their own words without you trying to censor them. I’m sure you’ve done this with dream characters. I should think it might work with visualizations, as they too come from your psyche. If you decide to try this, let me know how it works. Best, Jeanie

      1. Thanks for the terrific idea. I am working on certain goals right now and it is always good to have some (internal) advisors next to external mentors.

  2. Dear Jeanie, Thank you so much for sharing more wonderful insights and wisdom. I love the idea of creating the Couple within, such a simple yet effective approach to balance out our inner archetypal energies and reap the rewards in our outer ‘couple’ lives too. If only young children were taught this, if only there was a children’s picture book which could explain this model of thought in an authentic, affirming way. What a different, more harmonious world, we would be living within!
    Imagine the parallel images to be created by artists, and what inspired learning for parents too! In some way we need to share this knowledge with children, so that they don’t end up having to balance themselves out for the next few decades of their lives. Growing up I feared, mistrusted and disliked my father. Today, as a psychotherapist, I notice that my clients for the past twenty years have been predominately men. These two matters are deeply connected, and the healing remarkable. Blessings, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah, you’re most welcome. I love your idea of teaching this to children in a picture book! Thanks for sharing that. I wonder if there are any artists reading this! 🙂
      It’s most interesting that, given your relationship to your father, the majority of your clients have been men. I would suspect they must sense some deep vulnerability and sensitivity in you to certain men’s issues that elicits their trust and brings them comfort and hope. It’s truly remarkable and commendable that you’ve been able to turn your childhood wounding into such a great strength and gift. I’m trying to tremember a quote I’ve read, perhaps from Jung, that says something about our deepest wounds being the source of our greatest strengths…or perhaps healing….. Anybody have that quote?
      Blessings, Jeanie

      1. Thank you so much Jeanie for your kind-hearted words, much appreciated. In a world overflowing with creative imagination I’m sure there are artists out there who would consider such an pioneering project, to help guide the children of the world, on the way to greater understanding and wholeness. 🙂

  3. Hi, Jeannie. Great post. I would love to post the whole article on FB, but there doesn’t seem to be an icon to do so. Would you mind if I quote a paragraph on my FB page? Miss seeing you–

    1. Hi Diane.
      I’m glad you liked this, and I appreciate your desire to paste it on FB. You should be able to do that if you click on the link for this post that appears in your browser, highlight and copy it, then paste it on your FB page where you share your messages. In case that’s a problem for some reason here’s the link: Of course it would be fine to quote a paragraph too, but it’s just as easy to add the link after your quote. Thank you for sharing it.
      I miss seeing you too. We’ll have to make a point of getting together this summer! Love, J

  4. Thanks Jeanie so much – such a clear and beautiful exposition of those energies and the necessity of moving from fixed attitudes and rather integrating the values they espouse. Doing the hard work in other words, and facing the wounds and giving them airtime …The couple relationship within leads to stronger and healthier relationships in the outer world.
    I love the Jung and Rohr quotes … and Deborah Gregory’s suggestion of artists creating picture books for children …

    1. You’re most welcome, Susan. Yes, it is hard work, but it’s also meaningful and personally satisfying work that pays off in a big way. I love those quotes too, especially the one from Jung that compares the “opposing” forces within the sperm to those in politics. It makes me think and hope that each person who does the work to integrate their inner ‘opposites’ brings us a step closer to healing the polarizations in societies. “As within, so without….”

  5. Beautiful! And particularly apropos to the “government and opposition” that most of us are experiencing. In synchronicity, this morning I posted a quote on FB: “True belonging is hospitable to difference for it knows that genuine identity can only emerge from the real conversation between self and otherness. There can be no true self without the embrace of the other.” ~ John O’Donohue, from “Eternal Echoes”

    1. Thank you, Darla. And thanks for sharing O’Donohue’s wonderful quote. I hadn’t heard it before and love it. “True belonging is hospitable to difference…” “There can be no true self without the embrace of the other.” Beautifully said. He certainly had a way with words, didn’t he? And a depth of understanding that is rare…..

      1. He did, for sure. I feel like part of that is because he was steeped in the Celtic interconnection with our natural world. In ways, he sort of reminds me of Thomas Berry…that the dance of mind & body — and mind to mind! — mirrors earth & spirit and our communion of subjects, not collection of objects. So the dance of masculine & feminine is similar…embracing the other, we become the couple, one, yet remain individual. You always get me thinking and falling down the “rabbit hole”! LOL thanks!

        1. I think you’re right about his Celtic origins having a lot to do with his poetic sensibility and depth. Somehow the Irish survived the Middle and Modern Ages without losing their connection to Nature! Perhaps it had something to do with being so secluded from the European continent on their brave little island. I love your free-flowing rabbit hole thoughts….I was there with you.

  6. Thank you again, Jeanie. You’re on to something essential. I loved the calmness, love, and non-violence at the Women’s Marches throughout the world. The sense of respect and tolerance. Lunar and Solar had joined together that day and the peaceful possibilities you imagine happened everywhere. It was a taste of what can be.
    This line is wonderful: “…our thoughts and behaviors spring more often from healed archetypes than wounded stereotypes.”
    Right after the election, my women’s mythology class decided to study the Sacred Marriage. I’ve sent your two blogs to everyone in the class. We’re working with material from ‘Myth of the Goddess’ and also with many images of the Divine Marriage which have inspired so many artists. In ‘Myth of the Goddess,’ Anne Baring and Jules Cashford have a powerful section called “The Sacred Marriage” (in the chapter Inanna-Ishtar, pg. 211) about the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi. The ancient poetry connects the archetypal marriage with all realms from the erotic to the spiritual. It’s thrilling!

    1. Thank you, Elaine. I’ve been fascinated with this theme of partnership and couple relationships for a long time. As you know, it’s the focus of Healing the Sacred Divide and also of The Soul’s Twins, a manuscript I wrote 18 years ago which I’m hoping to publish in the near future. The time didn’t feel right for that one then, but it does now, at this time in history when world events are highlighting the importance of establishing loving and trusting relationships with one another. I’ll be writing more about this here in the coming months.
      Thank you for reminding me of Myth of the Goddess. You’ve mentioned it to me before. I must read it. It’s so lovely that you have a women’s group to study it with. I miss mine.

  7. Conformity, is that the same a being compliant? I am working on a theory that a young woman’s compliance, that need to please, which is so often criticized, is actually a form of female strength, being quite natural for many and maybe even necessary for the perpetuation of the species. She may grow out of it, of course, especially within the context of a relationship, but I often feel we expect too much of young women too soon.

    1. Hi Cathalonia,
      I don’t see conformity as the same thing as being compliant. To me, conformity suggests resistance and rigidity, whereas compliance suggests acceptance and flexibility. Conforming to old rules that don’t fit just to please important others is a form of slavery that prevents us from developing and being true to our fuller selves. For example, we are raised to conform to the standards of our families and societies and fear disapproval and censure when we don’t.
      Complying to the wishes of others can also be an unconscious habit done out of fear of disapproval. But sacrificing ourselves for others in small ways doesn’t necessarily make us slaves unless we have no choice. The point is to be aware of how we really feel and be honest about it with ourselves and others, then be free and strong enough to choose whether we want to comply or not.
      For example, if my husband asks me to do something that requires me to take time away from what I’d rather do, I’m conforming if I think I have to, and I’m probably going to do it begrudgingly and resentfully. But if I’m fully aware of what I’d rather be doing, but agree to help him out anyway because I love him and realize he would do the same for me if I asked, then that’s being compliant. I do think that is a form of feminine strength born of compassion and care, and I like knowing that my husband, who is a manly man, has a gentle, compliant feminine side that loves to please me and be of help to me.
      Thank you for writing.

      1. Thanks, Jean. That is a brilliant way of putting it and helps me immensely get at what I was sensing, but just hadn’t quite figured out.
        I’m analyzing a marriage wherein the husband and wife were quite a team, she always by his side on great adventures. Then when she had a baby, naturally her instincts were to stay with the child, but the husband expected they would continue on their long, dangerous journeys away from home. At first, she complied,seeing how much it meant to him–though you can imagine the psychic pain it cost her. People have judged him harshly for expecting this of her; and they have judged her harshly for complying: “What a creep!” / “What a wimp!”, along those lines.
        Eventually, when her pain reached a greater point than his satisfaction, when it would have been confomity to continue in her old, outgrown role, she “broke down” in tears and communicated her pain. He got the message; not that he liked it, but he relented.
        I once read that a “breakdown” is perhaps better understood as a “soul uprising”. But it takes time and, like you say, awareness, to know what the soul really wants.

        1. I’m so glad my reply was helpful to you! I love the definition of “breakdown” you shared. I believe that’s exactly what it is! And yes, it’s all about sticking with the work and struggling for awareness throughout one’s life!

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