Loving Completely — How to Show Up More Fully in Your Relationships

Originally published at: https://integrallife.com/loving-completely-how-to-show-up-more-fully-in-your-relationships/

Wouldn’t you like to know — quickly, easily and succinctly — what the very best of science tells us about how to have amazing, life-changing relationships, intimacy and sex? Loving Completely is your guide.

I’m 13 minutes into Witt’s video on loving completely and, no doubt, he offers good advice. And while it’s understood that the five star questions need to be thought out with care and undivided attention, who is going to do it and live up to them? We have self help books up to our eye balls and women are the ones most likely to read them but the question arises, are they proactive in the advice given in these books? If so, to what degree and for Christ sake, where are they?
As much as I hate to admit it, but I’ve been an involuntary celibate for 12 years. Why? Because it’s impossible to find women who are genuinely interested in cultivating a healthy relationship. Even the highly educated are as emotionally illiterate and even stupid as the common man on the street when it comes to gaining a greater understanding of love. You would think that reading the many personal profiles from women at midlife, they would have gained greater maturity from life and especially from their previous amorous relationships. Unfortunately, what they have to say is utterly demoralizing to read. It’s rare to find a woman who can say she’s emotionally matured from her past by making its presence felt in her profile. It seems as if it’s asking too much of women- and even men- to take their emotional lives seriously by picking up a book like Witt’s. Or how about the many videos on youtube from eminent psychologist Dr. Esther Perel, who is truly exceptional in revealing the deep seated problems that arises in relationships. Or how about Alain De Bottom’s brilliant talk at the Sidney Opera house on Romanticism where he reveals the many ways in which the narratives of love that we were born into are actually harmful. I listened to Alain’s talk 4 times because all that he said resonated with my own experience and he confirmed that we can’t go on like this because it’s making us dumb and stupid and what’s worse is that far too many people are still under the spell of romantic love spoon fed into us by the novel and film industry. People die, kill, and get depressed for love. How can that possibly be love? But the masses think of it as normal. Unlike them, I woke up from this spell and I never thought it would be a lonely place since women don’t understand me. In addition, it seems that most people are not interested in learning to love better despite continued suffering from ignorance and lack of self awareness. That I would find a woman who has at least a modicum of interest in what Witt has to say, would be tantamount to winning the lottery.

By actually believing this, you put yourself in a very passive role. You can’t do anything about it because you think the problem is completely external. So you are basically a helpless victim that is fully dependent on other people to „fix“ this issue. Now, if you continue to believe this story that you have telling yourself for probably a long time, very likely nothing will change.

So instead, you could change your statement as follows:

So far it has been impossible for me to find women who are genuinely interested in cultivating a healthy relationship (with me).

With this small change you put yourself back in an active role which is the first step in the right direction…

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I too have found difficulty in cultivating a healthy relationship, actually any relationship at all for probably 5 years or more now. I became so interested in spirit that I have allowed relationship and life situation go down the tubes. Now I am being reintroduced into relationship, thanks to Ken pointing out the importance of 1st 2nd 3rd perspectives. I’m approaching relationship as a spiritual practice, not just with a partner but with friends family etc, and am finding the road to be exciting. Love relationships though are very tricky for me because there is some shadow elements within me regarding my sexual orientation. It is very subtle but I find it is like a splinter that doesn’t come out, when I am with women. I feel unfulfilled in another type of way with men. It sort of leads to this confusing duality, where I don’t know where I belong, and it forces me into a stalemate with relationships. I am taking an active role now however in addressing the shadow multidimensionally, both with women and men.
This shadow element within me has caused so much trouble. And I think is holding me back from enjoying my life. I don’t really know how to move forward but I think that Keiths Book will be helpful in learning what a healthy relationship looks like and where it should strive to go.
Gnosisman, start with baby steps, but move forward. Sometimes we have to start from the bottom, and learn as if we are children. Have the humility, curiosity, and compassion as you move, and rest your soul along the way, a little more, and a little more. You will grow in this way, and you will find broader vistas of peace and fulfillment.

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Hi Enso,

I don’t know how old you are or to what degree you’ve had your share of discontented relationships but having positive thoughts is quite unrealistic considering where I live -which I ought to have mentioned in my comment. It’s a small sleepy town of 14,000 -60 miles from Pittsburgh. The population is mostly Republican and the poverty rate is 42%. What little there is of culture is a coffee shop where you will find foreign students, retired teachers in the humanities, and the working class regulars like me who have no other place to go on the weekends.
I work in a university, but no one in the humanities knows of Integral studies -much less Ken Wilber. Compared to what he knows about consciousness and self realization, our PhD professors utterly pale in comparison.
I often have dinner with them, but our conversations don’t amount to much because they prefer instead to talk about all manner of trivialities which can be utterly boring. Sadly, I get far more out of listening to Susan Cook Greuter, Ken Wilber, Jeff Salzman, or Corey deVoss.

If there is one mistake I made is moving from Philadelphia to this small town and at my age, it would be very difficult to go back. More importantly, and if you decide to see Alain’s talk on Romanticism, it will illustrate the severity of the problem on just how difficult it is to find women who are free from their conditioning by believing in things that were not true. As Alain said at the 9 minute mark,

Romanticism has been a catastrophe for our capacity to have good long-term relationships. And if we want to have a chance of succeeding at love, we will have to be disloyal to many of the romantic emotions that got us into relationships in the first place. Romanticism has spelt trouble for our capacity to endure and thrive in long-term relationships.

Alain has a lot more to say and in light of what he is saying, I believe Dr. Witt underestimates the problem in loving completely. Mainly because, with few exceptions, the collective consciousnesses of the masses are still under the spell of romantic love. Hence the high divorce rate is not caused so much by one or the other, but their respective, misguided, and impoverished ideas of what they believe love is suppose to be; all they had for teachers were Hollywood movies. I don’t believe you can love completely if two individuals are still deeply and culturally programmed by the narratives of romanticism which Alain rails against in his talk -and rightly so. I’m suprised that, over the years, it seems that no one in integral has mentioned this very important fact i.e. that narratives can arrest our development -for decades- and it did to me -much to my chagrin.

I’ve made a game out of this. I love to watch shows and movies and then spot the unhealthy behaviors, lines, and underlying beliefs at play which create an interesting story. I think one of the best indicators of a truly good story (and good writing) is once the unhealthy beliefs are exposed there’s still an interesting story to tell. This is very rare, as so many writers rely on dysfunctional relationships to drive the story.

I really enjoyed One Mississippi, which shows characters with unhealthy beliefs and conditioning that limits their perspective and behaviors, but which also shows those characters growing out of those limitations.

Have you heard of polyamory? Some (but definitely not all) of those folks no longer prescribe to traditional romantic notions of love, and have grown to be able to maintain multiple healthy intimate relationships. There are a lot of folks who can’t manage a single healthy relationship yet (often using polyamory as a crutch), too, but they are usually pretty easy to differentiate after a little bit of conversation about relationships. I see it as a way of identifying and acknowledging that healthy relationship is when autonomous persons come together in interrelationship that benefits all parties, whereas traditional notions of romantic love usually involve dominance/submission roles rather then equally shared power.

I think this approach is an awesome way to grow and build healthier relationship skills, without needing an intimate relationship to practice on. As I’ve learned and become more aware of my unhealthy relationship patterns (mostly from my childhood programming), I’ve been able to reform some of my family relationships and help my family members grow past their original childhood programming. I’ve felt more satisfied with and grateful for these relationships as well.

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It’s not really about positive thinking. Rather, this will be a natural outcome of „neutral thinking“.

For me that’s the key sentence of your post. While reading the first two paragraphs I had the feeling that you are not really satisfied with your current life situation. Particularly with your social life. If that’s actually true, it would probably be the best to make this your first priority as I think that this is generally much more important than an intimate relationship.

It seems to me that you are pretty sure that there is only one alternative option, how it would look like and that it will be (too) difficult. But I’m pretty sure that are actually more (good) options of which you are currently not aware of.

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How old are you Enso? 15, 16? You find fault in what I’m saying but no credit for what I said as being true.
I’m 62 years old. I’ve had my share of disappointments in life and the worst one is the lie I was told about romantic love. Let me know when you find yourself in deep existential despair caused by the shocking realization that what you thought was true about love, religion, and politics are all f**king illusions to keep us dumb, stupid, obedient, and complacent. Until then, you are still under control of our cultural conditioning and you don’t know the degree in which it controls you. We don’t live in a vacuum. The society in which we live has adverse effects to our emotional and psychological well being and far more than you realize. Hence trying to be sane in an often insane world is not as rosy as you paint it with positive affirmations.
In Dr Witt’s book he says

“satisfying modern relationships are complicated and demanding in ways that are regularly difficult to understand and dealt with”

No s*it, Dr. Witt. Tell me something I don’t know, like the degree in which narratives, be they amorous, religious, or political already have us deeply brainwashed. Like automatons, we are programmed by them hence behave accordingly so how can you possibly teach anyone about “loving completely” if they are completely unaware of the degree in which their social programming has royally screwed them over? For Christ sake, Alain’s is telling us about this! Where is Dr. Witt on it? Where’s Integral on it? There is nothing in his book that says anything about the dangers of illusions or as Hannah Arendt said, image-making; her quote below applies to religion and amorous love as well. As far as I know, no one in Integral life has said anything at depth about the dangers narratives can have in the human mind and that the collective mind of humanity is ALREADY infected by these narratives. But here comes Dr. Witt who puts the onus solely on his readers for the misery they are in and says nothing about the f**ked up world we are living in -as if it had nothing to do with human suffering!
You would think that, being integrally aware, Dr. Witt should know better. His book ends up being just another self help book that talks ad-nauseam ABOUT loving completely and nothing about the political and social economic forces that continually dehumanize any efforts we make towards that which he is advocating. Needless to say, I will not be buying his book. Erich Fromm he’s not.


Oh now I see… you want people to sing along your song of suffering/complaining instead of actually helping you. That’s my cue to leave this thread. Take care :slight_smile:

I think some of your takeaways here are a bit unfair, and you are expecting something from Keith that is well beyond the scope of this particular book.

We’ve actually talked a great deal about this over the last year or so, particularly how some aspects of “love” seem to be universally true through all eras of human history, and how other aspects are very much influenced by various pressures in our contemporary culture and society.

Simply not true. Again, this topic has come up many times in my monthly discussions with Keith. But that is outside the scope of this book. In fact, I would suggest that the incel community, which you self-identified with in your first comment, has their own deeply-entrenched and highly-dangerous narratives – some of which I seemed to recognize in your subsequent comments. And this book, in my view, is a remedy for much of the toxicity that exists in the incel community.

Again, we have discussed many of the political and economic forces that influence our relationships and love affairs over the months. But this is beyond the scope of his book — which, by the way, certainly does not just “talk ad-nauseam ABOUT loving completely”. I think that is a mischaracterization of the book. If anything, it is based on actual practice — practices that you can do with your partner, or that you can do on your own. It doesn’t talk ABOUT loving completely, it talks AS loving completely. YMMV, of course, but I think you should give the book a fair reading before writing Keith’s work off completely.

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Hi Corey,

Thank you for your concerns. As much as I’d like to reply at length, it’s best not to because it’s a complicating topic. And you are right, I was expecting too much from Keith.

Aside from the above and regarding incels, I’d like to clarify that I don’t hate women. Mainly because I believe the real issue is not women per se, rather, it’s their deeply entrenched cultural conditioning which Alain De Bottom has addressed quite well. His talk was salvific to me because he addressed what I discovered from experience. Namely, that the myth of romantic love -spoon fed into us since childhood by the novel and film industry - has adverse effects in adulthood. We unwittingly internalize this myth which acts like a virus in the mind and it’s rare for anyone to free themselves from it. However, and from my own experience, the pain of unrequited love broke the myth I was under i.e. post traumatic growth. I’m grateful for it, but it’s often a lonely and depressing place to be because the women I’ve encountered over the years -even men- are unaware of their conditioning hence behave accordingly. So if my previous comments came across frustrated and angry, I plead guilty. But I feel this way -not because of women (or Dr. Witt)- but because of the harsh realities of the way things are in all relationships, not just the amorous and I felt that Keith’s book did not address it, but as you correctly said, it wasn’t meant to.

gnosisman, I am ultimately going to respond to the self-descriptor you used in your third post here, “deep existential despair,” and also to a few things you said in the Academy category under the topic “Questions for Wilber.” In that post, you asked “where do you go to grow up?” and “how can integral psychotherapy help with this?” You used the phrase “existential depression,” (which you’ve researched in some of your reading), and spoke of feeling alienated, demoralized, and with no meaning in your life.

I of course am not Wilber, so if I am intruding into your psychic space in ways you would prefer I not, I sincerely apologize. I missed the first half hour of the Ken Show Saturday, so perhaps, for all I know, your questions for Wilber were posed and answered, in which case, my apologies again for going on and on, as I will be doing here.

What you describe as “…illusions to keep us dumb, stupid, obedient, and complacent” is worthy of validation, although I would add that I don’t think it’s anyone’s specific intent to keep us stupid; I don’t think there’s a conspiracy by any “powers-that-be” to keep us dumbed down. It’s just a matter of where the evolution of consciousness is in society; whether it’s in the area of love relationships, or politics, or education, or religion, etc., they all are lacking in higher perspectives. You of course already know this.

You’re familiar with Cook-Greuter’s work; in her “Ego Development: Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace,” she writes that the “highest goal of Western civilization” is the conventional Conscientious stage, and yet there are four stages beyond that in her model. As Wilber and others have often stated, one is pretty much on their own if they grow/develop beyond society’s “highest goal” as culture does not support further growth, much less encourage it. So yes, there can be feelings of alienation, particularly if one lives in an area that is ultra-conventional/conservative, as it sounds like you do.

A phrase that seems in vogue again, as I’ve come across it numerous times in recent readings, is “consensus trance.” Perhaps you’re familiar with this phrase? Coined decades ago by the psychologist and theorist on states of consciousness Charles Tart, it refers to the cultural conditioning and the conditioned reality we all live in. It means that we all are subject to “automatic and conditioned patterns of perception, thinking, feeling, and behaving.” The cultural narratives that you refer to are part of this consensus trance, but we can “wake” from it, and when we do, in my experience, there often can be a sense of anger, as I sense you may be feeling. Just as we may feel anger about our parents having raised us with a lot of “wrong thinking,” we can feel the same way about cultural conditioning that we have to unlearn.

But ultimately, for myself anyway, the anger gives way to a feeling of gratitude and freedom, as one is no longer “under the thumb” of conventional (and pre-conventional) thinking, feeling, behaving, perceiving. Do you experience any of that gratitude (because you are fortunate you know, if you’ve awakened from the consensus trance), or any of that freedom?

(And while I’m speaking about anger, I also sense you have, perhaps not hate, but anger toward women for their still being subject to the consensus trance. I don’t think women as a group are anymore subject to the consensus trance than men are, perhaps just in different areas/ways. But both sexes are equally affected. Have you read any of Warren Farrell’s material on men (and boys)? Some good stuff there about the cultural conditioning of males, which might be worth a look if you’re not already familiar with it.)

Finally, regarding the existential despair/depression you speak of. In the book “Integral Psychology,” Wilber says a few brief things regarding this (and maybe you’ve already read this too?) I quote:

"In fulcrum-5, as…the center of gravity begins to shift from conventional/conformist to postconventional/individualistic, the self is faced with “identity versus role confusion”: how is the self to discover who or what it is, once it no longer depends on society (with its conventional ethics, rules, and roles) to make decisions for it? In fulcrum-6, the panoramic view of vision-logic brings existential issues and problems to the forefront, along with the possibility of a more fully integrated bodymind (or centauric self).

He goes on to say that “Humanistic-existential therapies tend to deal with (all the issues of the prior fulcrums) and on actualizing an authentic self, existential being, bodymind integration or centaur (F-6).”

You may have already exhausted the opportunities for therapy in your area, or even the Pittsburgh area, which sounds like it’s at least an hour’s drive for you anyway, but if you feel you’re dealing with an existential depression, and if you still wanted to explore therapy a little more, then you might just google “humanistic therapists in Pittsburgh,” say, and check some of them out. I recognize financial resources can be a problem for some people, but I hope it can work out for you. Humanistic therapy is non-judgmental, here-and-now focused (versus addressing so much of one’s past), and works with your strengths toward self-actualization (which can take many different forms). To be able to clarify and examine your thoughts and look at alternative ways of thinking can be really useful, and bring meaning back into your life.

Finally, I don’t think anyone who responded to you on this post had anything but good intentions, and that includes me. While we may have all missed the boat in saying anything really useful to and for you, it’s not because we didn’t want to. So keep us in your circle of care, okay?

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It’s true, LaWanna. All who replied were very tolerant with me and I appreciate it. In retrospect, what got me riled up was the title of Keith’s book, Loving Completely, because I felt it was too idyllic. Even so, I should have been more considerate as Corey said. I admit too that when I wrote my post, I was not in the best mood. Yes, your comments have been immeasurably helpful to me and so I’ll be around. Thank you.

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I hope you can find solace in your times of need.

“Between the love that we seek and the love that’s already there,
Let it soften my soul and focus my stare.”

Thanks, Coda. This community helps and I have yet to spend more time on it as well as the IL web site.

I’ve just started the Loving Completely online course and I’m looking for someone who is also completing the course that I can share insights and results with through doing the exercises. Please contact me if you are interested.

Just found this talk today…so thinking my question may go unread by someone who can answer it…but something I’ve been wondering about for the last year or two is this:

"How important is it that partners in a love relationship share at least some “proximity” in “cosmic address” (generally speaking)? …or would you say that’s less important than the five questions you cover here?

I have to say I agree with much of what gnosisman had to say… and find it difficult to realistically imagine finding a healthy partnership for many of the same reasons, although I’ve had a lot of time to “adjust accordingly”…and feel “pretty o.k.” with whatever may or may not come my way at this point. Over twenty years ago, I was going through my own (crisis?) ,and was seeing a therapist for a short time and remember telling him it was a similar feeling to being trapped in home raising toddlers with little to no “adult conversation”…One can start to feel as if they’re “losing it”…but at least in that scenario, you know it won’t last forever. When it’s about seeing so much more than the majority of others out in the world, and not knowing anyone with whom you can engage/connect with on a regular basis, it can be very disorienting and difficult to accept…It’s almost like a “shocked disbelief”… that one’s own growth can seemingly isolate them in something like an “alternate reality” where no one seems to able to “meet them”. I could be wrong, but I sense that’s where gnosisman’s anger/attitude was coming from. I eventually came to the realization that there IS no one out there who can “fix this” situation for me…and then set my mind to focus on what COULD be done from this vantage point…what positives there were in it…and what tweaks I could make in my own expectations/goals that were more in alignment with “what is”. Have I completely given up on “loving completely”? No…not completely, hence the above question…although I feel pretty content these days…still feel true compatibility is a bit unlikely…but open to it if it should ever present itself…

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I think that is a common experience that we think we are alone and nobody to talk to with whom it would be fun. That’s why we organise video chats peer to peer and if you are interested to join, you are welcome. Integral Zoom Meetings

I come to this having only read a few posts.And so apologies if this feels out of kilter with what has gone before. I have found the human givens approach useful. It has helped me both in my work as a family mediator and as a family solicitor in helping clients find a way forward. My structure I take from all this integral stuff, my content is informed by a number of areas, including Keith Witt. His stuff can be applied to the relationship that exists/needs to exist between separated parents. A link to human givens: https://www.humangivens.com/
What I’ve found in my relationships is that they vary considerably. I’ve been fortunate to have been married over 30 years. My wife and I are on the same page when it comes to the idea that we each would be worse off without each other, but after that we are often on different books, never mind different pages! I have good friends who have absolutely no idea about Integral stuff and would describe it as “woo woo” if they did have any idea about it. However they are good friends and meet many of my needs for companionship. Self assessment would tell me that my spiritual and intellectual evolution is out of kilter with the rest of my life and I’ve spent too much time on it to the detriment of day to day “chop wood, carry water”. however, it is what it is.We don’t have time or energy to do everything.
I would tentatively, very tentatively, suggest that significant relationships don’t have to tick every box. It can be enough that your significant relationship meets many other needs and as such is fulfilling. (Sometimes I wonder whether we expect to have the kind of relationship with our significant others that mirrors the relationship we expect to have with God. That ain’t gonna happen!).

Yes, lekawa, you have that right. I was laid off 12 years ago from Philadelphia and ended up in small sleepy town. Demographically, it’s the worst place to be for anyone who is single, at midlife, seeking a LTR. Establishing friends that have some depth fares no better. I’m sick and tired of the trivial and mundane talk I get from most people who live here -even those who are highly educated. You would think that an online personal would help me find a LTR but no matter how many times I send messages to women who live within a 20 mile radius, none are willing to at least spend the time it takes to have a cup of coffee with me. No matter what I say in my profile or how I say it, it makes no difference. No doubt, if I was a multimillionaire, I’d have lots of super attractive women after me. It just confirms what Dr. Erich Fromm said that we live in a having mode of existence instead of a being mode and it’s painful as hell that far too many people don’t give a rat’s ass about the latter.

Aside from all the above and my previous comments and to make matters even more discouraging, I recently came upon Henry Nouwen’s short book The Wounded Healer. In it, he narrates the story of Peter. I was in tears as I read because by life is a lot like Peter’s. Nouwen says

I did not paint this portrait of Peter to show you a picture of a sick man in need of psychiatric help. No, I think Peter’s situation is in many ways typical of the condition of modern men and women. Perhaps Peter needs help, but his experiences and feelings cannot be understood merely in terms of individual psychopathology. They are part of the historical context in which we all live, a context which makes it possible to see in Peter’s life the signs of the times, which we too recognize in our own life experiences. What we see in Peter is a painful expression of the situation of what I call “nuclear man.”

Elswhere he says,

Peter’s paralysis as the paralysis of nuclear man who has lost the source of his creativity, which is his sense of immortality. When man is no longer able to look beyond his own death and relate himself to what extends beyond the time and space of his life, he loses his desire to create and the excitement of being human.

This is EXACTLY how I feel right now and it’s near impossible to find anyone who understands me. On the contrary, far too many people find it either boring, morbid, or depressing to talk about these matters because they run too deep -and God forbid they should be deep! As if doing so has nothing to do with learning what it means to be human. When Dr.Mari Ruti said that the myth of romantic love is making us stupid, so too is our failure on self awareness and our cowardice to question our most cherished beliefs about love, politics, and religion. As long as the vast majority of men and especially women remain stupid, finding one who understands me would be like winning the billion dollar lottery- it’s not going to happen, especially where I live. If I can’t find a woman who truly wants to live up to what Keith says in his book because it’s so complicating -which it is- then maybe I should just find a woman who just wants to have sex since I haven’t had it in over a decade. Mainly because I was holding out with hopes that I would find a woman who understands me, who can see that I am quite unlike most men.
But the more I strive to be a better one, the further it alienates me from the vast majority of them who are too stupid to appreciate me. These are the women Keith bluntly refers to as being pussies because they say they want a lasting healthy relationship but are unwilling to strive in making it a living breathing reality. Keith, Urick, and especially Robert Augustus Masters are telling us what we need to do. I’ve seen their many videos and read their books but where in the hell am I going to find a woman who has at least a modicum of what these authors are saying? I often imagined burning all my books on spirituality and self development because no one that I know appreciates it. Even my family thinks I’m wasting my time reading them. I only have so many years left of my life and I can now see why it’s becoming prevalent among some men who spend thousands of dollars buying well endowed anatomically correct life size sex dolls so they can have sex any time they want and spare themselves the trouble of being in a real relationship because it’s too fucking complicated. I thought of these men as being insane but not anymore.