Love and detachment
- Category: Alison Marshall's Column
- Created: Saturday, 06 May 2006 14:04
- Published: Saturday, 06 May 2006 14:04
- Hits: 4900
In any discussion about detachment, one of the big issues is love. I haven't spoken about this before, but I will now. I'll tell you a bit about my struggle with it and how I resolved it. You'll appreciate that it's very personal and so I won't get into too much detail.
When I first married Steve, he was the centre of my world. Sure, I was a Baha'i, but Steve was where it was at for me. I loved him and everything in my world revolved around him. I guess that worked out fine initially—we were pretty soppy together. But gradually things changed as Steve's irrepressible addiction for computers manifested itself and I began to feel the effects of 'widowhood'. I became a computer and Internet widow. Steve still loved me, of course, but his world began to stop revolving around me. This caused friction because he was still the centre of my universe.
There is nothing new in any of this. I believe I wouldn't be overstating the matter to say it's a near universal complaint amongst women. Couples marry and then, gradually, the woman complains that her partner is showing more interest in his work (or some such) than in her. She complains that he isn't as romantic as he used to be, and the truth is that he isn't. Something has changed.
I was already given to depression and so this situation made me worse. I felt desperate, and Steve and I went through some difficult years. I threatened to leave on many occasions, but I knew that Baha'u'llah would not sanction this. There was no antipathy between us, really. Also, I didn't see leaving as a solution to the problem: I imagined that I would be alone and broken hearted, but this was not an answer. Steve, for his part, would continue with his computers, but would do so without me around and feeling as miserable as me. One of my dear friends is a psychotherapist and she says that pretty much all of her female clients complain about the same thing. It is a big cause of divorce. I was in the position that many women find themselves in and there is no doubt that it is tragic.
So, I didn't leave and that is principally because of Baha'i law. I couldn't justify doing so before God. This forced me to keep looking for a solution. One thing became clear to me, Steve was not going to prise himself away from the computers. In other words, the situation was not going to be fixed by my expecting him to change. It was me who had to change. And that's where the detachment began to kick in. By obeying the law, I did not leave and find my 'paradise' with another partner. With that option closed off, something inside me changed. It wasn't easy. I felt as though I was dying, and a part of me was. The part of me that believed in love and its ability to bring us happiness went out the window.
I stopped regarding Steve as the centre of my universe. It was a real wrench. I was socialised to believe that when you married, you were supposed to put your partner at the centre of your world. I went back to the writings and remembered my vow: "Verily, we will all abide by the will of God". Suddenly, I realised that I had only promised Steve that I would abide by the will of God. I had not promised to make him the centre of my universe, nor had he promised this to me. A great weight lifted from my shoulders. Baha'u'llah was not the one who required me to place Steve at the centre of my world. This was something that had come from socialisation and it had become a prison. I had believed that if Steve was not at the centre of my world, then I did not love him. But that couldn't be true because it wasn't something Baha'u'llah included in the vow, so how could it be important for marriage?
To my utter amazement, when I finally let Steve go, so to speak, not knowing where that would leave me and us, Steve was hugely relieved. Not only had I freed me, I had freed him. For the first time, I was able to let him be himself. When he no longer occupied the centre of my world, it no longer mattered to me what he did. He could spend hours on the computer and this no longer affected me because I had reclaimed the whole of me back for myself. My identity was no longer sitting with him. Steve became separate from me for the first time and I then understood Abdu'l-Baha's image of the two seas meeting each other. We became two independent but interconnected whole human beings.
"Live free of love, for its very peace is anguish;
Its beginning is pain, its end is death."
Quoted by Baha'u'llah in Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, p 42