"In soulcentric romance, rather than attempting to make the other fit their preexisting fantasies, the lovers revel in endlessly exploring the mysterious nature of the Other in the here and now. The only relationship the lovers presume is the one they have earned through their unfolding conversation. They anticipate no potential relationship result (e.g., monogamy, polygamy, cohabitation, marriage, children, economic or professional advancement) as being preferable to any other. Any such intent would interfere with the deepening experience of true contact. Neither tries to unilaterally make the relationship more comfortable for himself or herself, because doing so would interfere with their being present to the magic of true conversation.
Soulful romance is held like a fragile flame in the unflinching gaze and steady embrace of the lover as he is revealed to himself and to his beloved in each moment of the dance. As in the unfolding of any sacred mystery, there is no telling what might happen next but there is a faith that whatever it is it will unfold with authenticity and integrity, and whatever happens will deepen the journey of both parties.
James Hollis suggests that both the value and process of soulful romance rest in what he calls radical conversation, in which one intends, continuously, to discover more and ever more about oneself and the other. Through such an exchange between two mysteries, one draws nearer to the central mystery of life. Hollis lists three components to such a soul-to-soul encounter:
1) The partners must assume responsibility for their own psychological well-being.
2) They must commit to sharing the world of their own experience without reproaching the Other for past wounds or future expectations. Similarly, they are to endeavor to hear, without feeling defensive, the experience of the Other.
3) They must commit to sustaining such a dialogue over time. . . . Only radical conversation, the full sharing of what it is like to be me while hearing what it is really like to be you, can fulfill the promise of an intimate relationship. One can only engage in radical conversation if one has taken responsibility for oneself, has some self-awareness, and has the tensile strength to withstand a genuine encounter with the truly Other.
Loving the otherness of the partner is a transcendent event, for one enters the true mystery of relationship in which one is taken to the third place--not you plus me, but we who are more than ourselves with each other.
Radical conversation has emotional, imaginal, sexual, and spiritual dimensions as well as verbal ones. And the conversation is approached not only with skill and intent but also with innocence and wonder. Neither the other nor the self is a fixed thing. The bottom is never reached. One hopes to be forever surprised.
But of course it's not all delight and ease. Far from it. We are constantly discovering how we project our shadow--both its light and dark aspects--onto the other. The dance of soulful romance always includes owning back those projections and transferences. Our relationship will expose all the places we are emotionally blocked, blinded, wounded, caged, protected, or otherwise limited.
Invariably, upon first bumping--or crashing!--into those constricted places, we'll feel fear, anger, hurt, shame, or guilt. Eventually, we learn to recognize these emotions as opportunities to learn about ourselves and sometimes the other. Rather than avoiding these emotions, we dive into them, thereby discovering the holes in our personalities, the places that need attention if we are going to move toward wholeness.
These holes are the wounds we refused to feel earlier and that we avoided by means of our Loyal Soldier's survival strategies. In our romantic relationships, we keep running into these holes because they are the relationship's growing edge. We have the choice either to write off our partner or ourselves or to examine our holes. Healing another layer of our sacred wounds reclaims the promise of our lives.
The candidate for soul initiation learns that soulful romance keeps her in direct communication with the unknown, that it uncovers her sacred wound, that it reveals her shadow, and that it opens the door to ecstasy and union with the beloved of the soul. She learns that sexual love is a spiritual experience as well as a carnal one. She learns to look into her lover's eyes and see not just her friend and sexual partner but also a reflection of her own animus (i.e., the inner man who serves as her guide to soul) and also, perhaps, a reflection of the divine lover."
- Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche