BY MEAGAN FRANCIS | Originally posted here in Yoga Journal
When Julie Woodward married her husband, Drew they were both more or less agnostic. But when a close friend’s health was debilitated by multiple sclerosis, Woodward found herself drawn to the spiritual life. “I began to realize that there’s a lot more going on than what’s on the surface,” says the 46-year-old business owner in Williamston, Michigan. She began practicing yoga, meditating, changing her diet, and using visualization and natural remedies for healing and wellness. “I came to believe that we’re all one, and that God exists around us at all times,” she says. When her friend died 15 years ago, Woodward found herself yearning for someone with whom she could share her spiritual journey: “I remember thinking I couldn’t be alone with all the thoughts and questions I was having,” she says.
But Woodward’s husband wasn’t open to hearing about her experiences. “He blew me off,” she says. “Eventually, I learned to be quiet about it.” And as she became more tuned in to her beliefs, Woodward became aware of long-standing tensions. “He’d come home at night and turn the TV on and life off,” she says. “More and more the gap widened, until it got to the point where I didn’t ever want the TV on, and that’s all he wanted.”
When she began hosting occasional spiritual retreats in her home, her husband started avoiding her. When, two years ago, Woodward decided to open a business dedicated to healing arts and spirituality, she thought the separation between her “stuff” and her home would please her husband, but instead he grew more upset and seemed to feel threatened by the changes. About six months later, the couple separated, and though they have no immediate plans to divorce, Woodward says she’s not sure they’ll be able to work through their differences: “Every day I experience something that validates everything I believe, and I don’t want to be with somebody I can’t share that joy with,” she says.
Variations on this theme are common in the yoga community, where people often find themselves changing in ways that they may never have signed up for—and that their partner isn’t interested in or feels threatened by. While we’re all well schooled in accepting differences of opinion to make a relationship work, it seems a lot easier to work through a disagreement about what color to paint a bedroom than to come to terms with divergent spiritual beliefs. You might wonder: Can a relationship weather differences that seem so, well, fundamental?
Accept Yourself First
Spiritual teachers say the answer is yes—if you fully embrace the practice of acceptance. “The fundamental issue is acceptance of oneself,” says Richard Miller, a yoga teacher, licensed clinical psychologist, and marriage and family therapist who’s been in practice since 1971. He suggests asking: Do I really accept my partner? Do I really accept myself as I am? “The degree that you have not fully welcomed all that you are is the same degree to which you won’t be able to welcome your partner,” he says.
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