Women Who Run with the Wolves: Ups and Downs in Love
Many women stick to the romantic ideal that their relationships, particularly with loved ones, have to be happy and harmonious forever and ever. They simply forget or suppress the fact that the ups and downs of life are an essential part of their relationships. They might even see it as some sort of punishment or unjust fate when the relationship seems to go downhill after a high. In theory, they get support from their innate female instinct which helps them integrate positive and negative experiences and withstand difficult situations.
Love in A Partnership in the Course of A Lifetime:
Let’s think of the different periods of growth in nature. A seed falls on fertile ground, begins to sprout, grows, forms stems, leaves, and blossoms; then retreats again in autumn and winter. It emerges from the earth again in spring and develops powerfully during the oncoming cycle of vegetation.
Similar to nature, there are phases of arising, growing, decaying and reviving in love. We find it hard to bear when love fades away and we don’t know whether this is the end of a partnership or if it still makes sense to hold on. Should we believe in the partnership and continue to work on it? What happens if the relationship is really dead, or have we been hurt so badly that we do not want to go on any longer?
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote the following story in her world-bestseller, “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” and it happens to be one of my favorites in the book. Initially, it might seem a bit creepy, as it speaks of the unconditional love between a young fisherman and a skeleton-woman; who is brought back to life by his love.
A father throws his daughter down a cliff into the icy cold water below; after she had done something wrong. She drowns and the fish eat her flesh until there is just the skeleton left. One day a young fisherman comes to the bay to fish. He does not pull a big fish out of the water, but instead, he has caught the skeleton of the girl. He runs away, but the skeleton remains hooked on his line, no matter how hard he tries to shake it off. Back in his igloo, he falls into a deep sleep. When he wakes up, he discovers a heap of bones next to him.
After some hesitation, he tries to re-order the bones of the woman, which takes him half the night. He then wraps the bones into warm fur and falls asleep again. While he is asleep and dreaming, a tear runs down his cheek. When the skeleton woman sees this, she quietly crawls over to him and puts her mouth to his tear and drinks it. The skeleton woman starts banging with her cold bony hands on the man’s chest just above his heart and sings. Suddenly, her body fills out with flesh. As she continues to sing, her hair, eyes, nose, ears, wide hips, breasts, and hands are restored. Her singing continues while his clothes come off his body and she creeps under his blanket. From that day on, they are forever together and are always nourished by her friends; the creatures that live under the water.
The Deeper Meaning:
The key message of this tale is about the ups and downs in love that require a great deal of wisdom and acceptance of the life-death-life nature of a relationship. This does not mean someone has to die, but that partnerships are subject to different cycles. We should become aware that lasting relationships may contain a number of small inevitable ‘deaths’ and surprising ‘resurrections.’
The untangling of the bones points us to the work that is involved in a partnership. Only when partners recognize that passion is nothing to be ‘collected’ but something that comes in cycles; do they then understand that it is worth working on a relationship. The skeleton-woman sleeping with the fisherman, symbolizes love and devotion in the lives of two people, even after a difficult situation.
What Do You Respond To?
Read my questions and see what feelings come up. Maybe you would like to write down your thoughts:
- What point are you at in your partnership at the moment?
- How realistic is your expectation of a partnership?
- Are you still dreaming of your Prince Charming, or have you recognized that he is already there, although it is not obvious?
- How do you see your role as a fairytale Princess at your partner’s side? Do you fulfill it?
- Have you ended a relationship because you thought that after the ‘death’ of the partnership there would be no rebirth?
- Have you terminated a relationship too early; regretting it afterward?
- Are you in a relationship that is dead; with no sign of rebirth?
- Are you ready to collect the bones, sort them out and revive them for your partnership?
Overcoming the Dead Spot:
The condition for abiding love is the acceptance of an invisible third. The skeleton-woman or ‘Mrs. Death’ is the symbolic personification of our life-death-life nature. She accompanies us throughout our life in different areas; not only that of partnerships. Whenever we reach a dead spot or we lose trust in the relationship, we need the skeleton-woman. She has to be invited, welcomed and embraced so that love can return and remain. Then we can spread out the “bones” of our partnership; sorting them out and providing them with skin, flesh, muscles, hair, and eyes. We cannot always manage this on our own, but there are people who can accompany us and support us.
I hope you have enjoyed this “Women Who Run with the Wolves” blog series.