Foreword "Love Between Equals"

Love Between Equals by Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.
Foreword by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Imagine the wisdom of a long-term contemplative practitioner woven together with the insights and compassion of a psychoanalytically trained and deeply experienced couples therapist, and tie these together with the broad knowledge of a caring and curious educator, and you’ll get a sense of the tapestry that is the colorful collage of Love Between Equals. Our artist of this wonderful arras revealing how we love, Polly Young-Eisendrath, comes to her keen awareness from both this powerful professional background, and her own painful personal past, losing a love of her life with early onset dementia and then coming to find love again. These experiences are tempered with the wide perspective on how our mind develops and comes to connect with others as we bear witness to the selfing of one another in intimate connections. The result is raw, practical, and clear visions of the power of being present for another and the emergence of love in the connection.

Anyone who works with couples, is in a couple, or who wishes to understand how couples function well will find this book filled with a treasure trove of concepts and practical tools for bringing more love into daily life. One of these concepts is about projection, a process in which we place onto our view of others images from our own past or desires of unfulfilled longings that shape what we perceive happening in the moment. Inevitable disillusionment follows with these common projections—giving rise to intense disappointment that is often misinterpreted as a failure of the couple or a mismatch of the two individuals. Instead, this disillusionment can evolve into more intimacy and understanding if we learn the lessons of how projection works and how to dissolve its hold on how we experience life in in these important, close connections with a partner.

Love-between-equals is about the non-negotiable need for trust, a state of openness and caring that relies on the powerfully articulated “three c’s” of commitment, constraint, and containment. We do not become our partner, but honor and accept our differences with a commitment to them, a constraint in how we come to communicate with clarity and calm, and a containment of the extremes of our emotions and impulses. We can view such a container of connection as built from the foundation of something called integration, the cultivation of differences while also creating connections. Integration gives rise to harmony; its blockage leads to chaos or rigidity. The three c’s enable a relationship of intimacy not only to accept differences, but also to thrive because of them. The linkage of a sexual closeness that is built upon this individual differentiation embodies the sensual and the erotic into an integrated state of union—more like a fruit salad than a smoothie. We do not become the other, but we become a we in the emotional union, a joining that enables us to lose our excessively differentiated sense of a separate self and become part of something larger, a part of love-between-equals.

In these many ways, this powerful book is a spiritual guide, a map enabling us to find more meaning and connection in our life. This meaning is filled with trust and vulnerability, giving rise to a sense of purpose as we bear witness to the true emergence of an “other” in their authentic fullness; the connection is that of a way of being beyond a separate self alone, joining as an intimate, integrated whole. The spiritual, the sexual, the social—its all there in Love Between Equals. Take in this tapestry of clarity and wisdom, and enjoy the beauty!

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Mindsight Institute
Author, Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence