The Art Of Conscious Loving

10/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Even though we are celebrating our 28th anniversary of living and working together, we are just as passionate about creating conscious relationships as the day we first made a commitment to each other. Every week we find ourselves learning new ways to make life more love-filled and fulfilling. That's one of the magnificent aspects of relationships and life: there's no upper limit on how much love, fun and creativity you can manifest. Our experience is that if you embody several key intentions and practice several key skills, you can keep feeling more alive and in love year after year.

The intentions of conscious loving are radically different from what many people choose as their intentions for relationship. One of our favorite book passages of the year comes from Elizabeth Gilbert's book EAT, PRAY, LOVE. In a particularly insightful section, she describes in painfully-funny detail the ordeals of her love affair with a man named David. At the height of their struggles, he comes up with a solution to their relationship problems. Unfortunately, it's a solution that could serve as a recipe for a lifetime of misery.

He proposes the following solution to their woes:

"What if we just acknowledged that we have a bad relationship, and we stuck it out, anyway? What if we admitted that we make each other nuts, we fight constantly and hardly ever have sex, but we can't live without each other, so we deal with it? And then we could spend our lives together--in misery, but happy to not be apart."

How about that for an innovative set of wedding vows?
Picture them dressed in their wedding finery, standing with the minister in front of the congregation

Do you, Elizabeth and David, acknowledge that you have a bad relationship?

(We Do)
Do you admit that you fight constantly, hardly ever have sex and drive each other nuts?
(We Do)
And do you agree to stick it out anyway and spend your lives together in misery but at least happy that you aren't apart?
(We Do)

How many relationships slip unconsciously into that kind of entanglement? In our view, far too many. We propose a new approach. Conscious loving is founded on a set of principles and practices completely opposite from the ones David and Elizabeth considered.

What would a new set of wedding vows be based on? Emotional transparency, for sure. In working with thousands of couples, we have heard the complaint "You never tell me how you're feeling" many thousands of times. It takes courage, and a great deal of practice, to be able to talk about feelings in a straightforward way. We've seen many arguments stop when one person has the courage to say "I'm scared" or "I'm sad."

In future posts we'll have more to say about a more conscious set of vows to base partnerships on. In the meantime, please let us know if you have suggestions for what a new set of vows might contain.