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Ep. 4: Why Your Partner Can't Complete You

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Listen to this episode on Spotify here, or Apple Podcasts here.

The key points in this "speaking":

  • Romantic love is the religion of the secular west. We used to seek the One (the ground of all reality), and now we seek "the one," the finite individual who can fill our infinite hunger.

  • Before the advent of self-awareness, we sensed our oneness (without being aware of it). Now there is an uncrossable gap between the experiencing self and the interpretive self (or story-self, ego-self).

  • In this uncrossable gap, a desire opens up: for food, time, sex, love, success, anything to complete the fractured identity.

  • The fantasy of the "other half" comes from Plato's symposium, in which Aristophanes recounts the myth of Zeus splitting a soul in two and placing one in each body, so we must find the person that carries the other half of our soul. But in fact, our two souls live side by side in one body, and completion cannot be found in another.

  • However, real love can see past the story-self into the true, non-dual nature of reality. This is why romantic love can be so exciting, and even transcendent.

  • Love is not only not blind, but is the essence of clarity and an enhanced form of rationality.

  • Can you approach each person and interaction from completion rather than lack?


I heard the idea of "romantic love as the religion of the secular West" from another quotation, but it appears that religious studies scholar Sarah K. Balstrup was the one who developed this idea into a full study of its historical origins and religious transfiguration. Read more here.

"A temporal gap remains between experience and interpretation. Your self is an interpretive story extracted from presence and stretched over time. Each quality you claim belongs also to a past or future iteration of you, never to the moment alone, which cannot accommodate such fixed descriptions as kind, impatient, or intelligent. Only in this temporal elongation can your story sustain a narrative arc: coherence at the cost of reality.

Because the "I" requires construction, interpretation, there is always a slight but uncrossable gap between the happening and the sense that something happened to me. So the self slips tight behind the flow of experience, flashing at the borders of being but barred from full belonging. You remain absent from your life. In this uncrossable absence, a hunger the size of eternity."

Reader Insights:

Austin Dumas wrote: "I just listened to your podcast about partners not completing you. And towards the end I got this intuitive imagery. I imagine a person on a boat lost in sea. And they’re looking for land, for completion. To not feel lost in this vast loneliness of the sea. And the more they bring “presence to their suffering” the more they bridge that gap and get closer to land.

I even conjured up a little poem:

I stand alone

on this wavering boat.

My story is my own;

a tale about being lost

in the expanse of the sea.

I feel a vast loneliness inside;

a wish for the gap

in between my boat and land

to come together.

And my body hungers for the space

in between me and you

to collapse.

To be complete.

For the story to end."

Thank you for these beautiful words, Austin!

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