Couples often wonder whether they are “ready” for such a commitment. I look for situations when each person’s “sore spot” is activated. When a couple is able to hold the tension of the activated inferior function and find a way to make their relationship a vehicle for the development of personality, then they are “ready” for marriage in one of the most crucial ways.
There is a secret connection between the most Beautiful and the most Terrible things, just as there is between mountain peaks and abysses, between calm lakes and the rushing streams that feed them, between noble, laughing Life and the dark Death that lies near us all the time. … But one naturally could not let the maiden anywhere near the Dragon … .
The world of Rilke’s tale is one besieged by the Dragon. This is the world of the wasteland, where people are living inauthentic lives. In most fairy tales, a successful hero is the answer to the wasteland. Rilke, however, presents the tale not as a deliverance from the Dragon but rather as a slow descent into the shadowy realm of the Dragon.
Individuation calls us to fight the dragon head-on. The struggles of relationship—whether with another person or within a culture—are opportunities. We can flee and seek a quick-fix, taking what my husband calls “tequila shot” flights to numb the discomfort until the next situation arises. Or we can remain within the oyster shell and endure the uncomfortable rubbing.
Igniting the spark of opposites produced during conflict can provide an opportunity for holding the tensions between the one-sided attitudes. The process requires confronting and embracing the forces of unconscious qualities, along with holding the tension and uniting of opposing forces, in order for the full expression of an individual’s potential to be revealed.
A marriage is not only a dynamic story of two but also a mirror of the innermost soul workings of one, a journey of the disparate parts of one’s self seeking integration, finding their way home. If I have learned anything about marriage it is this: the greatest legacy I can offer my outer marriage is soulful, abiding attention to my inner union.