[You can ask your own question here.]
I’ve always had a longing to have a strong man in my life. Even the powerful, independent women I admire and seek to emulate, for the most part have had the benefit of strong men either as friends, colleagues, or partners. My problem is the one man I did love, who was powerful and good, is gone forever, but he stays in my heart and makes it difficult for me to love someone else in the same way. I think I am attached to the idea of being a “one-man woman,” but at the same time, I long to have a relationship now. Help!
Most people who accomplish in this world receive help along the way. Even those who live celibate or solitary lives are often guided, inspired, supported, and assisted by others with capacities that are perhaps different, but nonetheless equal to their own.
The soul has no gender. We are all equally male and female. Sometimes we incarnate as men, sometimes as women. Over the course of many incarnations we have to develop perfect yin/yang balance within ourselves. As we advance spiritually our ability to express equally both masculine and feminine energy increases. Usually then we are drawn to a partner who is similarly balanced, until the need for another person to balance our energy is transcended altogether.
For a strong woman like you to want the company or assistance of a strong man is only natural. As you see in the example of those women you admire, there is no contradiction between personal strength and the ability to form deep relationships with others.
You were fortunate to have for a time such a connection. Naturally it is a profound disappointment that it did not last a lifetime.
Now comes the question of life-long loyalty. How to resolve within yourself the continuing attachment to this man, the romantic notion of being a “one-man woman” with the fact that you have many years yet to live and you want to make the most of them spiritually, and in every other way.
“Loyalty is the first law of God,” Paramhansa Yogananda says. In order to progress spiritually, or accomplish anything in life, we have to commit ourselves and persevere in our commitment. Nothing great is ever accomplished without will power.
It is essential, though, to be loyal to the right thing -- to principles, to truth itself, not merely to the form those principles may take.
A spiritual organization, for example, over time may become loyal to the organization itself, not to the high principles upon which the organization was founded. True principles are eternal. Forms come and go. Misplaced loyalty too easily becomes fanaticism or narrow-minded stupidity.
Some spiritual traditions, for example, assert that divorce is a sin, an offence against God. Self-evidently, fickleness is no virtue, but nor is it always a victory merely to stay together when the price is the sacrifice of spiritual potential. Some life-long couples are deeply inspiring in the quality of their love for one another. Others look merely worn out.
I’m amused when I recall a woman widowed after 60 years of a quasi-victorious marriage. A spiritual person tried to comfort her by saying, “You’ll see him again.” Her frank reply was, “I think 60 years was long enough.”
One incarnation is a rather arbitrary span of time. We change physical bodies from life to life, but the expansion of our consciousness is a continuous, uninterrupted process. Death changes nothing except the context in which we seek divine realization.
The form of the man you loved, and the form in which you loved each other, is gone forever. Never again will you be together in exactly that way. The essence of what you love in each other, the true basis of your friendship, is untouched by the change in form.
In Autobiography of a Yogi, chapter 43, “The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar,” Yogananda explains that in the astral world we meet all those we have been close to, not only in the incarnation just finished but also in many different lifetimes. There is, however, no jealousy, no thought that if I love one I cannot also love others. Physical form imposes limitation. Love itself has no boundaries.
Yes, sometimes, an experience is given to us and we know that it will never be repeated. That does happen. “I’ve had the love of my life and there won’t be another.” Even though there may be some loneliness in that realization, there is also a calm, uplifting certainty that what God has given and what He has withheld are spiritually right for you.
In Autobiography of a Yogi this subject is also addressed. Yogananda’s mother died when he and several of his siblings were still quite young. His father never married again, but took on the task of being both father and mother to his eight children. Years later, Yogananda tried to engage a female servant to take care of his father. Adamantly, his father refused. “Service to me ended when your mother died,” he said.
In his case, this was a sincere expression of his inner reality. Always a deeply spiritual man, after his wife’s passing, Yogananda’s father lived an exemplary life of simplicity, austerity, and devotion to God.
I don’t think what you are describing is quite like that. To me it seems more of a wish that it were true -- romantic rather than a mature expression of your soul nature. Why would loving one person deeply make it inappropriate to love someone else in the same or even in a greater way?
This reminds me of a touching experience I had with a friend. His wife was pregnant with their second child and he came to me deeply concerned. “How can I be a good father to the baby that is coming? I love my first-born so much, I can’t imagine loving anyone else as much as I love her.”
All I could say was “Love is infinite. Don’t worry. It will be okay.” Soon after the child was born, with tears in his eyes he told me, “You were right.”
What you have learned about love is meant to be shared, expanded, and built upon. To hoard it, to focus only on the memory of things past, is a betrayal of the love you had, not loyalty to it.
Yes, karma plays a role. It may or may not be your destiny to have another relationship like that in this incarnation. There is no reason to think, though, that it is more noble not to have it.
Be completely sincere and open with God. Tell Him of your longings, and also of your confusion on this point. Pour it all into the lap of Divine Mother. Then follow the advice Yogananda gives for how to pray in Whispers from Eternity: “Be thoroughly convinced that He has heard you. And then -- go about your duties, seeking not to know whether God will grant your demand.” Talk to Him whenever your heart feels restless.
If it is spiritually beneficial to you, God will send you a partner. If none comes, know that God is helping you to grow in other ways. The way to meet karma -- to learn what it has to teach you so you can go on to the next lesson -- is to accept it calmly with joy.
I will pray for you.
[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]