Articles on Dating and Relationships
Spiritual Growth as a Journey
By Dawn Brown
we’re single, we’re tempted, in times of loneliness
and difficulty, to believe that all the pain would go away if only
there was someone
in our life. It’s easier for us to wait for someone else
to answer our
needs than to realize that this is an opportunity to address our
ourselves. Spiritual growth occurs when we become aware of those
needs, try to understand them, and attempt at making some changes
in our approach to life. This process of looking inside our spirit,
investigating the meaning of life’s ups and downs, and understanding
their effect on us, is work we do at the spiritual level. The spiritual
path is simply the journey of living our lives in awareness.
We seem to have it all, and yet we sadly wonder if that’s
all there is. Once we recognize that there is an inner emptiness
or loneliness that a lover cannot fill, then we are ready to begin
have a wonderful friend who has the house, the cars, the trip -
and relationships that don’t seem to go anywhere. He’s
convinced that if he had that special someone, his life would have
more meaning. So he continues to fill it with external toys and
desperate relationships that leave him even emptier. He sees the
inner work that is part of the spiritual path as a waste of time.
He is confident that his fulfillment will come from external sources.
But it is our spiritual growth that makes us whole, and this wholeness
allows us to make room for others in our lives. We’re encouraged
not to shop on an empty stomach because our hunger causes us to
buy everything in sight - so how can we look for a life partner
patiently when we’re so hungry for love that we could accept
The spiritual journey has to be taken alone - no one can walk
along our spiritual path for us. As we grow, we are able to reach
out to others from a position of inner strength. Miraculously,
this strength attracts people and situations to our lives that
enrich us, challenge us, and spur further growth. So while we must
do the work on our own, we’re never truly alone. Along the
way we meet fellow travelers who enter our lives and stay for varying
lengths of time. When the time is right and we’ve learnt
what we can from each other, they move on from our lives.
In his book A Path with Heart, Jack Kornfield emphasizes that
it’s essential for us to realize that the spiritual process
is not about possessing people or things. It is about spiritual
joy and wisdom that “do not come through possession but rather
through our capacity to open, to love more fully, and to move and
be free in life.” His observation captures exactly why spiritual
growth is a process as well as a journey. How many of us keep our
hearts open, love unconditionally, and feel free all the time?
We’re all works in progress, and that means that there will
be times when we may seem to pause, take detours or backtrack.
This is where we need to be gentle with ourselves and find the
non-judgmental inner voice that patiently encourages us to continue
on the journey.
Being able to listen to our inner voice is essential to this process.
Sanaya Roman, author of Spiritual Growth, describes spiritual growth
as a journey of self-discovery, on which you grow through “connecting
with your Higher Self and to a Higher Power - the God/Goddess within
and without, Christ, Allah, Buddha, the All-That-Is.” One
way of contacting your Higher Self is to imagine that you have
an inner wise teacher or guide. As you access and communicate with
your inner power and trust the messages you receive, you will experience
the wisdom of that voice - until more and more it is who you are.
You know you have connected with your Higher Self when your dealings
with yourself and others come from your heart. Like most spiritual
teachers, Sanaya emphasizes that enlightenment is not a place where
you stop growing and are perfect. There will always be higher and
higher levels for us to reach throughout our lives. But first,
getting on the spiritual path will ensure that we develop our inner
connection and have the tools and resources to deal with the challenges
we meet along the way.
Years ago, visiting a friend’s cottage, I got up early in
the morning to meditate by the lake. As I was finishing, another
guest returned from a long canoe ride and said that wished he could
meditate like me. I asked him what his morning had been like -
and as he described the peace he had felt on the water, and his
connection with the trees and wildlife he had seen, it became clear
to him that he had indeed been meditating! As Iyanla Venzant, author
of Daily Devotions for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind, remarked, “We’re
not finding God in the places that we’ve been taught to look
There are many paths one can take on this journey of opening our
hearts, and they all lead to the same destination. I’ve had
conversations with friends who have tried to convince me that their
particular path is the way. Do not be sidetracked by such
talk. Spirituality doesn’t mean that one
size fits all. Don’t be afraid to explore different approaches
until you find one that resonates with your soul. This takes time,
so be patient with yourself. Allow yourself the freedom to question
teachings that seem repressive or oppressive and do not contribute
to your growth as a spiritual being. Find the
path that touches your soul, keep an open mind, do your individual
Try to learn through joy. We can learn through joy or pain, but
many of my earlier lessons were learned through pain. As I travelled
my spiritual path, though, more and more of my lessons became so
easy that they were a pleasure. I’ve also learned humility.
Whenever I’ve taken my progress for granted, the rug has
been pulled from under me so swiftly that the pain was unexpected.
I realized that my arrogance had made me think that I could travel
alone, without acknowledging the presence of my Higher Power that
is always with me.
In one of her lectures Marianne Williamson, author of Return to
Love, described a relationship that brought her to her knees, it
was so devastating. And yet she credits this with helping her go
through what she calls “spiritual surrender.” When
you’re forced to acknowledge that all your own smarts and
best efforts haven’t prevented you from getting to a place
that’s so painful, you know there must be a better way. That
is when we are truly ready to take the next step in our spiritual
The spiritual path is simply the journey of living our lives. “Everyone
is on a spiritual path; most people just don’t know it,” says
Williamson. There is a loving purpose in everything we think and
do, and some situations and people come into our lives to remind
us of this. Certainly relationships provide a major classroom for
us to learn about love. Whether the relationships are with family
members, spouses, partners, friends, or colleagues - they challenge
us to keep our hearts open, to love unconditionally without expectations,
and keep our sense of freedom. Williamson points out that all relationships
are assignments in which “each individual soul is led to
greater awareness and expanded love.”
Williamson is also one of the teachers of the program A Course
In Miracles which maintains that our greatest growth comes from
seeing relationships as a learning milieu as opposed to a battleground
(of anguish, attack, and pain). She compares spiritual progress
to detoxification, a process in which things have to come up in
order to be released, and our unhealed issues are forced to the
surface to be healed. Our relationships actually bring much of
our existential pain to the surface. I once spoke to an employee
about her work performance and got a long story about how her mother
corrected her when she was growing up - so she didn’t like
being told what to do. A friend once told me about taking an instant
dislike to a man because he reminded her of her father. However
after getting to know him, she realized that her perceptions had
to do with her, and not with him. Relationships challenge us to
use compassion, acceptance and forgiveness of ourselves and others.
There is an old saying that the world would be clean if everyone
swept their own doorstep. So it is with spiritual work. We don’t
have to save anyone else or do their spiritual work for them. As
we accept responsibility for our own growth and life issues, this
self-acceptance extends to accepting others. The search for emotional
stability begins within. This is not selfish: reaching out to others
from a position of inner strength, instead of weakness, is the
kindest gift we can give others. Then we don’t need to clutch,
grab or manipulate them to be who we want them to be and to get
our needs met. When our relationship with ourselves is healthy,
we will attract healthy people and healthy situations into our
lives. That’s the challenge of our personal journeys.
Dawn Brown, M.Ed. (Counseling) has over 25
years experience as a psychotherapist, teacher and coach specializing
in relationship and life transitions. Dawn is an international
speaker, and author of two books: "That Perception Thing!" (2002)
and "Been There, Done That…Now What?" (2006).
She is the proud recipient of the 2006 YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction
Award, Learning for Life category. www.perceptionshift.com
Jackson, C. Psychologist – The Search for the Right Partner
people often have a strong core belief (whether they would admit
it or not) that there is only one right person for him or
her and “all the good ones are taken”. Many singles
take an extreme position in the search for a life partner. Some
focus on finding the compatible mate, refusing to see anyone who
not meet their criteria because they would be wasting
their time. Others have withdrawn from the dating
game stating that destiny alone will bring them their mate with
work on their part. Clearly, the singles most successful
in finding a long-term intimate relationship have a belief system
that lies in the middle ground.
The best long-term intimate relationships usually start from a
basis of friendship. Thus, it is important not to wait for destiny
to send you the right person. We are likely romantically
compatible with about 10% of the people we meet. Therefore
we need to meet many people before finding a small number of potential
partners. Thus, dating services, singles clubs and special
interest activities are useful ways to develop friendships out
of which a small number will have the potential for romance. In
the process, we can develop a network of friends who can bring
support and interesting interactions into our lives.
People used to find friends and partners in their workplace. Recently,
the potential for conflicts of interest and harassment charges
has chilled the atmosphere at work. Thus, many people have
a personal policy of not dating their coworkers. However, maintaining
contact with people whom you liked at former workplaces can lead
to deepening friendships and potential partnerships with people
no longer subject to the restrictions inherent in being coworkers
or in the work hierarchy.
A creative way of expanding your friendship network is to organize
a dinner party in a restaurant, to which you invite two of your
single friends, and ask them to invite two friends they know but
whom you do not know. They ask their friends to also invite
two friends that your friends don’t know. At the dinner,
everyone knows two people and meets for the first time four new
people. The dinner party has seven people, a manageable number
for socializing. Balancing genders helps men and women meet
each other. Because you start with two people you like, and
ask them to invite people they like, the chances are that the group
will be pleasant and interesting to all.
Developing the friendship first allows you to really get to know
the other person’s strengths and weaknesses. There
are no perfect people, and most people are quite open initially
about what their limitations are, if we listen carefully. Unfortunately,
most of us ignore those warning signals only to realize later that
the person may have faults with which we would have difficulty
living. As we assess whether a friendship can become romantic,
we need to ask ourselves “is this a problem that I can live
with or not?” Different people will have different
responses to the range of human limitations that we all have. For
example, a friend of mine cannot live with a man whom she determines
is excessively financially frugal. However, another woman
might be reassured that her partner would never overspend and that
he would always have a lot of savings.
We need to become aware of the warning signs for relationships
that are bad for us. If we feel nervous, anxious and confused,
the relationship is probably unhealthy for us. A healthy
romantic relationship is calming, soothing and stabilizing. Of
course, there is excitement in being infatuated with someone. However,
there is a difference between excitement and panic! Healthy
romantic attachment is fulfilling and does not deplete us. Healthy
love makes us feel safe enough to be open, vulnerable and self-disclosing,
not protective and defensive. When we are in a good relationship,
we trust the other and enjoy time spent with the other person and
time spent alone. Balance is the key to a healthy romantic
relationship. If you are feeling off-centre and off-balance,
the difficulty may lie in the choice of partner. Honestly
ask yourself whether the imbalance is self-generated (fear of intimacy)
or a warning sign about the other person. Healthy love gets
easier to sustain over time, while an unhealthy relationship requires
increasing effort to sustain it over time. While all relationships
require time, effort, energy and planning, there should be joy
in doing these things, not fear. We cannot love anyone we
Some relationships are actually emotionally abusive. Jealousy,
possessiveness and over-controlling behaviour are signals that
a relationship is becoming abusive. If your partner is isolating
you from friends and family and demanding an ongoing account of
your whereabouts and activities, he or she is too controlling and
domineering. Threats of violence, denigrating putdowns and
name-calling are all abusive behaviour. Driving recklessly
or too fast and ignoring pleas to slow down are abusive. Pursuing
a person to continue the argument after the other has said he/she
wants a time out or sleep, is abusive. Spending all the money,
using up all the resources such as food, gas in the car, and so
on, is domineering and can be abusive. These behaviours are often
part of a pattern of insecure attachment to the other, and warrants
Violence directed toward the partner, dominant physical restraint
and death threats are all considered to be serious warning signs
about life-threatening violence. While leaving such a partner is
scary and dangerous, it is important to have somewhere safe to
go. Fortunately, very few relationships end up in such serious
There is no substitute for getting to know the other person well
and taking time in developing the relationship slowly. Facing
the reality of whom the other person really is, and who we really
are in the context of that relationship is very important. Ask
yourself if your partner brings out the best in you, or are you
becoming someone you don’t want to be. Given all the
fine single people in the world, you can find someone who contributes
to your personal growth, as you do to his or hers.
Dr. Jackson is the founding psychologist of Gilmour Psychological
Services in Ottawa, and sees adults in individual and couples counselling,
and does psychological assessments. See the GPS website at www.ottawa-psychologists.com
By Luke De Sadeleer - We Don't Survive in Isolation
Our society tends to focus on
couples and can sometimes neglect the needs of the single person.
I want to reinforce the fact that human beings need
to be involved in
close relationships with others, although at times it may
certainly feel that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
But the many rewards of being in a healthy relationship
justify the efforts we may need to make in order to get us to a
better starting point on the road to happier relationships.
I will admit that I did not always have this opinion. During
my early years as a practicing psychotherapist, when I used to
conduct singles’ workshops, I actually promoted independence. One
of the statements I made back then went: “Anyone who
has not developed sufficient strength to live alone under-contributes
to any relationship.” My interpretation was that we
had to learn to be happy alone, so that we would not be so desperate
in a relationship.
Fortunately, it did not take me long to realize that the requirement
for living a fulfilling single life is more importantly about developing
our capacity for self-love, self-confidence and self-worth. The
truth is that if you want love in your life, you have to be able
to give it to yourself first. This inner strength will contribute
to your ability to care for others as well as yourself, and will
enable you to develop and nurture caring relationships.
We should not isolate ourselves but seek out caring
is a fact that people who have richer relationships enjoy better
Much research has been done on attachment and loss. These
studies demonstrate that dependence on others is not a sign of
immaturity or dysfunction – it is a natural part of the human
condition in crisis times. And how wonderful it is when you
need someone to support you – they are by your side.
The key to emotional and physical health is interdependence. We
start our lives as infants, totally dependent on others. As we
mature, we become independent, developing our capacity for self-love
and self-reliance. Eventually we discover that we all depend
mutually on each other for our well-being – and when we can
contribute to a relationship from a place of love and confidence
in ourselves we become interdependent.
Unfortunately, there are still too many people
in our North American culture who see independence as the solution
to their social problems. Statements such as: “I don’t
need anybody; I do just fine on my own” obstruct our view
Research shows that this lifestyle may be the cause of a shorter
lifespan. As Dean Ornish points out in his book Love
and Survival: “Dozens of studies demonstrate that
solitary people have a vastly increased rate of premature death
from all causes; they are three to five times likelier to die early
than people with ties to a caring spouse, family or community.”
I strongly suggest that as you acquire
the ability to love yourself and care for others, you make an
effort not to isolate yourself. Instead, seek out other caring
involved in your community. Get to know your neighbors.
Join a social club or any organization that brings people together.
Perhaps now you can understand why I believe that we need relationships. Being
emotionally connected to other caring people not only extends your
life span and contributes to your well-being; it brings joy to
Luke De Sadeleer, M.Ed, is a psychotherapist
with a private practice in Ottawa. He's the author of the
best-seller Vitamin C for Couples:
Seven "C"s for a Healthy Relationship. Readers are invited
to send their questions or comments by e-mail to email@example.com or
mail to:The Couples Coach, 1889 Baseline
Rd., Suite 301, Ottawa, ON, K2C 0C7. You can visit his
website at www.thecouplescoach.com
Madeline Dietrich – To Bed or Not to Bed: The Big
whether and when to become sexually intimate with a new partner is
a significant crossroads in a relationship. Examine these few scenarios:
You’ve been out on a couple of dates with someone you’ve
recently met. It’s not love at first sight, but you think
he/she’s kind of sexy and has some endearing ways. You’re
interested, and it feels as though there could be possibilities.
- You’ve fallen madly in love (or in lust). The decision
is easy: you want her/him!
- Lately, you’ve been seeing more someone who has been
a casual friend before, and the connection is beginning to take
on a different tone. You’re wondering if there might
be some real relationship potential and whether you should
take a more sexual direction.
- You’ve been single for a while and you’re enjoying
your freedom – but you’d like a little sexual
companionship, without too much commitment.
- You’ve just come out of a significant relationship, and
you’re feeling lonely and at a loose end. You think
a new affair could be just the ticket.
There are probably many more situations you can think of. But
every time you need to make a decision about getting physically
intimate it can be easy or challenging – depending on some
First is where you’re at in your life right now regarding
relationships. Before you get intimate with someone, try to be
as clear about this as you can. Be honest with yourself. What are
your hopes and expectations for this relationship? Are you
really invested in it, or do you just want to add a little excitement
to your life or perhaps need an outlet to distract you from the
weightier issues of your life? Are you just testing the waters,
or are you ready to commit?
Then consider the situation from the other person’s perspective.
Why does he/she want to have sex with you? What are her/his hopes
and expectations? Remember to evaluate the other person in terms
of who he/she really is (as far as you can determine at this early
stage of the relationship), rather than in terms of who you would
like him or her to be. Try to be objective; often a good friend
can help with giving their perspective.
If you’re clear about your needs and wishes for your life
right now, and if you have a good idea about the other person’s
expectations and hopes, you’ll be a lot closer to making
a good decision.
Are you ready for sexual intimacy?
- What do you want from a relationship right now?
- Does this person seem to answer some of your needs/wishes?
- What are their expectations of the relationship?
- Do you have a sense of their sensual style? Does it suit
- How are you doing with communicating your basic needs
and wants to each other?
Let’s take another look at those scenarios above. In the
first one, it’s obvious that you need more time to get to
know each other. With the second, because you’re madly in
love, you’re also much more vulnerable. If the other person
is equally in love with you, that’s great as sex could add
a wonderful dimension to your relationship. But if he or she seems
to have reservations, you would probably want to wait before going
to bed with this person.
What about the other scenarios? Check them over and try to guess
what your advice to those couples would be: should they get sexually
involved, should they hold off? Then try to dispassionately examine
your own personal situation. Objectively speaking, should you or
Here are some other factors you might want to consider:
What does sex mean to you? For some, the quality of the
sexual experience is really important. For others, sex is less
of an issue - not because you’re undiscriminating, but
because other aspects of the relationship matter more to you:
the closeness you feel after sex, for example.
- Are you going to have good sex with this person? The fact
that there’s a strong sexual attraction between you
necessarily mean the sex will be great. If you’re wondering
how to determine ahead of time if it’s going to work
out sexually. some people say it’s all in the kiss. If
the kiss doesn’t do it for you, that doesn’t
bode well for the rest of the experience. Observe how you
dance together – it’s
been said that dancing is like making love standing up, with
your clothes on! Watch how the other person eats, too – that’s
probably as good an indicator of sensual style as anything.
Think about it, would you prefer to be wolfed down, or savoured?
- Being able to communicate is really essential. How
do you negotiate your time together? Do you want to visit
your friends at their cottage, but your partner prefers to
snuggle in bed with you all weekend long? Do you want to take
in a movie,
while he/she would rather go to a restaurant? (Which movie?
Which restaurant?) How much time do you each want to spend
How comfortable are you saying “no,” and how
does he/she deal with that? These are some of the communication
fundamentals to consider before trying to navigate the sexual
Remember too that sex doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing
affair. A foot massage, taking a hot tub together, or any
other sensual activity can be just as rewarding as full intercourse,
yet less stress-inducing than having sex too soon. But if you decide
not to have full intercourse for now, it’s important to important
to stick to it -- since engaging in sensual activities can often
tempt one to ignore that decision! It helps to clearly communicate
to your partner that "play" is in fact all you want --
no matter how passionate it may get.
A final thought: try to be responsible. That doesn’t
just mean doing your best to make sure the other person isn’t
a psychopath, and always practising safe sex. It also means being
as honest and decent with the other person as you can, while still
looking after your own needs. The old adage “do
unto others” applies here. Proceed gently.
Madeline Dietrich is a holistic psychotherapist.
She has an MA in psychology and is a clinical member of the Ontario
Society of Psychotherapists. She has 15 years experience working with
individuals, couples, and groups on a variety of issues including
relationship and sexuality. Her work is guided by her belief that
sexual well-being is an essential component of healthy self-development. Her
web address is www.madelinedietrich.com
Peggy J. Kleinplatz, Ph.D.
and sex therapist and educator.
Dr. Kleinplatz is a clinical psychologist, board certified sex
therapist (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and
Therapists as well as Board of Examiners in Sex Therapy and Counseling
of Ontario) and certified sex educator.
Since 1983, she has been teaching Human Sexuality at the
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, where
she was awarded the Prix d'Excellence in 2000. She also
teaches Sex Therapy at the affiliated Saint Paul University's
Institute of Pastoral Studies.
Dr. Kleinplatz deals with sexual issues in individual, couples
and group therapy. Her work focuses on eroticism and transformation.
She has also contributed in this field by publishing a book that
is intended to combat the increasing medicalization of human sexuality by
providing cutting-edge, therapy paradigms for clinicians of every
New Directions in Sex Therapy: Innovations and Alternatives
by Peggy J., Ph.D. Kleinplatz
Released: 01 March, 2001
Dr.Peggy Kleinplatz can be contacted
at (613) 563-0846
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