Creating a strong vessel is essential to protecting, cultivating, and magnifying your love. In a safe space you can settle into the wholeness of who you are. Over the years you will develop routines, boundaries, effective communication tools, ways of sharing power, ways of being together. But love is not static; it is alive and moves in your being. It asks to be expressed ever more fully. Your marriage routines may be comfortable, but there will be uncomfortable places within yourself that your routines conveniently circumnavigate.

If your love is truly alive, if your practice of sadhana is sincere, if you indeed allow the guru’s grace to flourish within your being, these uncomfortable places will be revealed. Either you or your partner will at some point awaken to a need, or aspiration, buried karma or a wound—something that will require change in your lives and thus require your vessel to grow to accommodate and express this new dimension.

It might be the desire to have children. It might be the need to work or to change the kind of work you do. It might be discovering a new spiritual path, bringing some deep need into focus, needing to leave your community, or starting to see new friends. “I need more support.” “I need more freedom.” “I feel suffocated.” “I feel unmet.” “A part of myself has been lost or has died, and I need to reclaim it.” are some of the expressions of this need for growth. It might be revealed by your delving more deeply into a pattern where the two of you keep conflicting.

Regardless of the specifics, the task is to expand your vessel without breaking it apart. The challenge is made complicated because it is often one of you that feels the need to grow while the other does not. How do you open up new territory and still retain a safe, intimate space? How does one partner change without losing the essence of the bond you share? Are you being rash or foolish? How is the partner who does not feel ready to grow assured feel that they are not being abandoned or betrayed? How can you change out of comfortable and established patterns, move beyond criticism of one another, and recognize what change is essential for your vital entity to grow? The solution can be a simple process of communication and accommodation, but more likely it can feel like a profound reworking of your very DNA, of every fiber of your being.

As wrenching and bewildering as this process may be, it is also one of the powerful gifts that the path of marriage will bring you, because it reveals dimensions of your being that you would otherwise never know. You will be asked to discover and draw upon inner resources that you otherwise would never be called upon to access. There is no formula or roadmap: you must explore it for yourselves and discover what truths lie within you. But the love that brought you together is essential: its power will help see you through this journey. Even when you are in the depths of loss, utterly bewildered at the challenges you face, and in your darkest moments, if you can find even a few molecules of love, of respect for the power that originally brought the two of you together, that tiny spark may supply you with just enough endurance, patience, hope, inspiration, grace, to find common ground again. You may discover that what you fear is not your partner’s changing, but a wounded and fearful place inside you that needs to be understood, embraced, and loved. It may be samskara’s that are ripe for release. It is your task to not escape the pain, but to stand with it, penetrate it and discover what gifts of growth it brings to you. It needs to be understood that expanding the vessel is intrinsic to every marriage. Love will demand it of you many times. It is a sacred process. Ultimately, the intrinsic wisdom of your love will guide and hold you as you re-vision and compose your vessel anew. In doing so, you hew closer to the truth of who you are and become stronger together. You become more whole. You will discover that the love you have cultivated heretofore was not only deeply nurturing and fulfilling and delicious, it also serves as a lifeline that sees you through this process.

Next essay: When You Feel Attraction to Another Person

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