Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: For many years now I have been on a journey of healing that has become more and more of a spiritual path to greater and greater awareness. I am becoming more attuned to what makes me feel whole and right; however, I feel there is one person in my life that keeps pulling me back into the shadows of doubt and negativity.
Unfortunately, this person also happens to be my common-law partner and the father of my children. I am so confused with how I should perceive our relationship. I do not feel an intimate connection to this man, yet I continue to stay because I feel a moral responsibility to do so. We have two young daughters to consider. I try to believe I can achieve my inner peace regardless of him in my space. He feels like we represent a normal family (from the outside). He is very concerned with his self-image, feeling that to separate from what is "normal" would be a terrible interference with the idea of what his life should represent (status quo, nuclear family). What he refuses to see is the dysfunction that exists at home and in our relationship.
The way I see it, I should be experiencing a spiritual and intimate connection with the person I share my life with currently. But this is not the case. I understand the people we attract in our lives are reflections of ourselves. I completely recognize this; however, I feel like I am ready to grow now. He, however, is not ready to understand. Should I continue to search for common ground, and cling to that hope that things can change? Should I continue on my personal journey while staying in a relationship that does not run parallel to this path, for the sake of stability for my girls and my spouse? Or should I allow myself to step into the unknown and allow for my potential to unfold in the face of new life circumstances? Graciously accepting guidance, thank you so very much, Mr. Chopra!
— Cheryl L., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
Your question has two levels you have mingled, and that is the source of your present confusion. Let's separate the two and see if some clarity is achieved.
First level: You live with a man to whom you are not intimately connected and who doesn't want things to change. This is a self-esteem issue. Do you feel lovable and worthy? If so, you wouldn't live with him on a false basis, pretending to be normal when every fiber in your being tells you the reality of your relationship is dysfunctional. However, this doesn't mean you should walk out tomorrow. Your priority should be to look at yourself and find out why you feel unlovable, unworthy, ashamed, victimized or deserving of no better than this kind of mistreatment.
I'm not suggesting that all these terms apply, only that you need to get to the bottom of your motives. We know his motives. He wants to keep you under his thumb. You rationalize your entrapment by using morality and citing your young daughters. In what way is it moral to raise children in an unhappy atmosphere? I think if you look a bit deeper, you will see that what keeps you there is insecurity and fear. These are serious personal issues, but they can be faced, and—in your case—I think you must face them.
Second level: You also want to grow spiritually. Isn't your whole life sending you a spiritual message right now? The message is: "You aren't in the right place emotionally. You are settling for too little. Your awareness is dominated by resistance." Your partner is an adult, albeit a selfish and limited adult. Accept his word—he has no interest in joining you on your journey of personal growth. Maybe he feels threatened by it; maybe he thinks it's ridiculous; maybe he's just bored. But surely you can see he's not going to support you.
Having cleared out that fantasy, you will find that beneath your wishful thinking lies a good deal of sorrow and regret. I'm very sorry for that, but to be frank, the spiritual path is all about confronting resistance and finding strength from within. Otherwise, the whole enterprise easily turns into a frolic in dreamland. I'm glad you feel sustained, at least somewhat, by your spirit, given your difficult circumstances. But your spirit doesn't want you to be trapped like this. It doesn't want you to retreat inside to some kind of mythical peace while all around you is rejection and obstacles. The positive side of the reflections you are being given is that your life can be much better.
Solve level one of this dilemma, and level two will solve itself.
Next question: What can I do if I feel lost?
Every week, Deepak will be answering questions from readers just like you—ask your question now!
Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
How to deal with marital doubts
Make better relationship choices
Try a new way of thinking
Published on April 21, 2010