Taking the Plunge in Relationship

For many people, there is hardly anything more scary than being in a deep, committed relationship with one other person.  They fear loss of themselves or their power in an intimate relationship.  This fear has caused some to stay out of close relationships altogether.

When you were growing up, did you ever visit a swimming hole in a river on a hot summer’s day?  Perhaps there was a rock or a high bank from which you could jump into the water.  Perhaps you had not seen anyone ever jump from that spot and you had not done it yourself yet.  You would first of all slip and feel carefully under the water for shallow areas, branches or rocks.  Then, assured of safety, you might try the jump.

It is not quite the same with relationships.  Sometimes we have to dive in (even headfirst!) without any guarantees of safety.  We may not even know how to swim.  Yet jump we sometimes must.

We’re not saying we have to act impulsively or foolishly.  There must first be a kind of inner “go ahead” letting us know that despite fear or doubt we need to take the plunge anyway.

In 1968, after being in a relationship with Joyce for four years, I was afraid of losing my freedom (and my power) through marriage and commitment.  The voice of my heart, however, kept saying, “This is it!  She’s the one!  Jump!”  Another part of me was terrified!

Joyce was in the middle of her final year at Columbia Nursing School in New York City.  She felt she needed a commitment from me.  I told her I didn’t feel ready to get married.  Wasn’t it OK to just keep things the way they were.  No, it wasn’t for Joyce.  She wasn’t willing to keep sitting on the fence, so she submitted an application to the Indian Health Service to work on a reservation in New Mexico after graduation.  She told me what she had done, not as a threat but as a way of letting me know she needed to move ahead with her life.  Per­haps some part of me interpreted her action as a way to pressure me into commitment.  I don’t think I believed she would go through with it.

Sometime later Joyce informed me that she was accepted by the Indian Health Service.  Still I remained in stubborn denial.  Then she bought her plane ticket.  I started to rouse from my denial sleep.  Could it be that Joyce would really leave me to work on an Indian reservation?  It started to sink in that she not only could, but she was.  And she was not doing this to pres­sure me in any way!

I had a marvelous opportunity to be with myself, to go for long walks, to seriously think and feel about this relationship.  Things I would not have done had Joyce not taken action.  I started to examine whether making a commitment to one person by getting married was in fact losing my freedom, losing my power … losing myself!  The truth gradually dawned on me.  I once again glimpsed the vision of our relationship together.  By the two of us loving one another and joining in the deepest way, the love generated by that joining would be greater … we would be greater … than the mere addition of the two of our energies.  Now I more fully understand this process.  At that time I only glimpsed it.  By joining fully with Joyce, I knew I would be gaining (rather than losing) love, freedom and power.

My risk was to ask Joyce to marry me, knowing this was for life.  It was the biggest decision I’d ever made.  I secretly bought a ring and walked Joyce out to the middle of the George Washington Bridge.  Standing in the gusting wind, with the mighty Hudson River flowing below us, I took my leap of faith into waters unknown to my mind, but known and trusted by my heart.  I asked Joyce to marry me.  Physically jumping into the Hudson would not have been much harder to my then twenty-two year old self.

Joyce accepted. She was willing to take the risk of long-term commitment.  She needed to feel my willingness to take the plunge with her.

It is often the greatest of risks to dive fully into a relation­ship.  Little did I know that my plunge, my leap of faith with Joyce at age twenty-two, would lead us both into such deep fulfillment … not only in our relationship but also in our work in the world stemming from our relationship.

Throughout our years together there have been times when either one of us has wanted to give up on the relationship.  Each of those times has required another leap of faith, another plunge into the muddied waters of fear and resistance.  Each time we have done this we have gained renewed love and commitment.

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