The Inner Marriage: Love, Heartbreak and the Search for Wholeness

by Benig Mauger

As a therapist with almost 20 years of listening to and bearing witness to heartbreak, it wasn’t until I experienced it most profoundly myself that I understood its beauty, its depth and its ability to thrust us into a spiritual journey. It was this experience that propelled me into writing my last book, ‘Love in a Time of Broken Heart-Healing From Within’ (2008). In it I have shared my life experience both as a woman and therapist. Using myths and stories, I’ve charted the inner journey to healing after heartbreak as well as outlined the influence our early lives have on our love relationships, and much more. More importantly though, writing this book led me to a deeper understanding of the universal search for wholeness and the essence of the inner marriage, as well as the nature of love and our search for it.

In a time of increasing emotional isolation and fractured relationships the search for love is endemic. Despite knowing that love lies within we still seek it outside of ourselves. This means that when the one we love leaves us, we are heartbroken, leaving us not only bereft of him or her, but also of love. And the inner marriage becomes even more elusive. There are a lot of broken hearts out there, and a great need for healing.

At the basis of our human relationship experience lie three fundamental truths, as I see it:

  • Our impulse to love another soul is part of our spiritual journey and our inner search for wholeness.
  • Our adult relationships bear the mark of our first relationship with our parents.
  • A broken heart is a sacred initiation with opportunities for soul growth.

What is the Inner Marriage?

Fundamentally, the inner marriage is about the balancing of the masculine and feminine within oneself. Carl Jung believed that every human being has contra-sexual components; in other words, all of us have masculine and feminine energies, and what every individual seeks (either consciously or unconsciously) is a balance between these two energies, in order to feel complete. In this respect, outer union with a partner is merely a reflection of our need for inner balance. Or, to put it another way, the drive to relate in love is merely the outer manifestation of the universal drive for wholeness and union within. That is the reason why, for so many of us, the urge to love another soul and have a partner is so strong.

The search for inner wholeness is generally given expression in our love relationships. Love has a transcendent quality that draws us. Of the Inner Marriage the poets say: ‘When two souls have finally found each other there is established between them a union which begins on earth and continues forever in Heaven’ (Victor Hugo). The mystics say: ’If you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so do whatever best awakens you to love’ (St Theresa of Avila, 2003). From a psychological perspective, the inner marriage is encompassed in the Jungian concept of individuation. Jung suggested that the drive to wholeness is inherent to the psyche and is a process of gradual lifetime unfolding. Individuation is a natural process – an inner union that, in essence, is essential to the spiritual well being of every individual.

Learning about ‘Otherness’

Loving, and relating, is fundamental to our spiritual growth. The consciousness of relating to another being opens us to union and wholeness that is not possible any other way. It is only through the constant chaffing of differences that we learn to deal with otherness. Through this acceptance we move to inner wholeness. The same principle applies to all inner processes. Jung referred to this when he claimed that fundamental to individuation is the vow to another. In weddings, ordinations and other ceremonies, the taking of vows is a symbolic act, which transcends the individual. The vow is a vow to the Other, to God, to another person, to one’s work. Jung writes of the necessity of this vow as a step to inner wholeness.

The unrelated human being lacks wholeness, for he cannot achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in a ‘You’. Wholeness is a combination of I and You, and these show themselves to be parts of a transcendent unity whose nature can only be grasped symbolically, as in the symbols of the rotundum, the rose, the wheel or the conjunctio Solis et Lunae (the mystic marriage of the sun and moon). (Jung,1985)

A vow to the Other is an essential part of our soul’s journey to wholeness. Sometimes the vow is to the creative muse, as with Rilke and other great poets and artists. Rilke’s wedding was an inner marriage to the divine within. It can also be to God as with the great mystics, and it can be to one’s calling in life. For others, this call to the divine, to wholeness is through a lover and soul mate. But ultimately, the vow represents in all human beings a longing for transcendence, for wholeness and is an affirmation of relationship.

Yearning for a Lost Wholeness

Why do we search for love? In some deep part of our soul we all have a sense of love, as well as a memory of wholeness, and of belonging. We also have a sense of having lost this wholeness, and this further fuel our search. Psychologists would tell us that what we are searching for is to return to the nirvana that we thought we experienced when we were in our mother’s wombs. My own belief is that while the birth experience is most definitely our first great experience of physical separation, it is merely a reminder of an earlier separation, and causes us to search endlessly for the person who will give us the desired sense of completion. Often this is a nameless yearning we feel in our hearts and we imagine it will be healed through meeting the perfect partner, our soul mate.

The minute I heard my first love story

I started looking for you, not knowing

How blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere

They’re in each other all along   (Rumi in Coleman, 2005)

Whether our search is for that ‘other half’ as Plato calls it, or the one that will complete us and lead us to the divine mystery, we all seek wholeness. Our innate sense of belonging and of loss is archetypal and primeval. The fundamental nature of our great myths is about the struggle to return to a state of oneness. Whether this longing is expressed through the various world religions or spiritual traditions or simply in everyday life, they all lead us to the same place, a desire to return home.

Love is both Human and Divine

The search for love is archetypal, ageless and universal. The hero’s journey is archetypally imprinted in each of us. We all have an inner hero or heroine, and part of us is always engaged in the hero’s journey to arrive at spiritual fulfilment and inner wholeness. Our search for love is, at its most fundamental, a search for God or a search for another spiritual source. Because of its transcendent nature, love can take us straight to the Divine. And it is sometimes through loving (and perhaps losing) another person that we are thrust into a spiritual search so that our love relationships become an intimate part of our spiritual journey to reach the inner depths of our own souls. In short, as we search outwards for the person we believe will ‘complete’ us, we are simultaneously searching inwards for a sense of wholeness. In this sense, our love experiences become initiations of a sort. All initiations are spiritual tasks of empowerment that we can choose to either engage with or not.


Today however, we are struggling with a loss of soul, one that Jung noted in the last century. We are increasingly fractured and our lives are increasingly fragmented, making the search for wholeness all the more urgent. We tend to think in parts thus fragmenting our lives so that our need to heal our spiritual malaise has become acute. Although love is a human and divine passion that we are all compelled by our natures to seek, we have tended to separate the two aspects in ourselves, thereby inhibiting our ability to receive love. The division between human and divine love is responsible for many of our difficulties with love. Writings and sacred poetry from the mystics have attempted to address this misconception. In his writings, the celibate mystic St John of the Cross (in Housden,2001), one of the greatest spiritual love poets of all time, said that a few bars of a Spanish-Arab love song that he heard one night, inspired his best work. When we are separated internally, we suffer soul loss, and this is most often expressed as a loss of faith in ourselves. Indeed, it is our general sense of fragmentation that produces both our search for love and simultaneously, our inability to receive it. Love and the search for it, is how we touch the divine within ourselves, and even though we have become separated, we long for reunion and for healing. Basically, our sense of separation is what causes us pain and also drives us into relationship.

Love and Healing

Love offers us the opportunity to heal a loss of connection with our souls and our inner life. Intimate love relationships offer us a unique opportunity to heal childhood wounds and overcome the scar tissue of our past. We cannot actually do this in isolation. Some people think that they can only do inner work and pursue their soul’s calling if they withdraw from engagement with others. It is easy to become conscious alone. But return to relationship and that consciousness is constantly challenged. We can heal a certain amount by being alone and sometimes that is appropriate, but we cannot grow alone.

Not an easy task:

“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, The ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation” (Rilke, 1992).

Loving another person can open our hearts, and bring us to experience compassion. However, because of our innate sense of separation, love remains locked in ambiguity. As I’ve said, we have a tendency to imagine that it is outside of us. It is out there in the world and if we’re lucky we might be loved, or someone might love us. We don’t see that it is inside us, that we are love. It is the projection of love ‘out there’ that ultimately makes us unhappy.

Architects Of Love: Anima and Animus

For all of us, our first relationships create the template for later relationships, particularly relationships involving love and intimacy. Also, since our mothers and fathers are generally the first male and female in our lives, they make up our inner images of male and female and so influence our choice of partners later in life. Both men and women are greatly influenced by parental imagery. Trans-generational patterns are passed on in prenatal life since it is in the womb the archetypes become humanized, and pre-existing trends or patterns begin to be activated. It is not that we are already primed to live a particular life or that our future is mapped out for us, it is more that we are predisposed to experience life a particular way. Our archetypal and psychic inheritance together with our early life experience greatly influence us, but need not determine how we go on to live our lives. We always have choice, but we generally need to become aware of our unconscious patterns before we can exercise this choice.

Nonetheless, both mother and father archetypes are very important and seminal to our development as men and women, and how they have been humanized for us will depend on our parents. The animus or inner masculine is responsible for our creativity, and more specifically, our ability to bring that creativity to life. Jung suggests the animus represents the spiritual aspect of the psyche in so far as this is as counterpart to nature, and a certain amount of this activated energy is necessary in order to become conscious. Ego consciousness involves a differentiation, a necessary break from nature. This means developing one’s mental capabilities and the ability to see the bigger picture. In terms of creativity, the animus is responsible for the activation (or lack of activation) of that creativity in our lives. Developing the animus is important as a counterpart to the feminine. Developing the anima or feminine principle, which is more to do with relating, is also very important, because she represents everything to do with relationship, our relationship to ourselves, to others, to God, the world of love and emotions, how we relate in general. The anima in contrast to the animus, which is more about meaning than image, is always about relating, and in a man is usually about relating to a woman. This woman can be his inner woman or an outer woman who represents his anima.

The anima figure, however, is characterised by the fact that all of its forms are at the same time forms of relationship. Even if the anima appears as priestess or witch, the figure is always in a special relationship to the man whose anima it embodies, so that it either initiates or bewitches him’ (Jung,1987).

Anima is intimately connected with love and relating. For most of us, reclaiming soul is all about healing our hearts of emotional wounds that may interfere in our ability to love.

‘Our birth is but a sleep…’

Birth is significant as the first physical and emotional experience of separation. At birth, we are separated from our mothers and womb life, thereby activating what psychologists term ‘separation anxiety’. However, I do not believe birth to be our primary separation. At a soul level, we already hold a memory of wholeness and of having lost this wholeness. The added significance of birth is that it triggers the original separation of our soul and Oneness, when we lost something so integral to our spiritual wellbeing that we spend our lives trying to return to the state of union we once had. From a psychological perspective however, our original love affair is with our mothers, so that what happens before, at, and immediately after birth, in relation to our closeness to her, is important as it sets down or activates dormant emotional patterns. Bonding is necessary for the healthy emotional development of the child and his or her ability to form healthy attachments later in life. Crucial bonding and attachment patterns are forged during pregnancy and birth when the child is coming into being. Our birth experience will certainly affect the path we will take to return to this place of wholeness, of soul. Every time we find ourselves involved in a love experience we are re-enacting the lost wholeness that goes back to our earliest moments. We are not aware we do this, it is an unconscious impulse created by our need for healing. Our first relationship is with our mothers and fathers, and this relationship becomes the template for all future relationships, and most particularly intimate ones.

Heartbreak as a spiritual opening

Being in love and suffering the loss of love throws us into a deep place. Our hearts are touched and we open ourselves to depths of pain and joy, to profound feeling perhaps never experienced before. Though we are all probably destined at some stage to have our hearts broken, it is less often understood that this ‘break’ enables us to ‘open’ our hearts more. And that this opening is to the Divine, to infinite love. There is a saying among Sufi’s, asking God to break one’s heart: ‘Shatter my heart so a new room can be created for a Limitless Love’. Experiencing the loss of love paradoxically, returns us to love, to the inner marriage, and to the sacred wisdom of the heart. In profound vulnerability, a deeper intelligence comes through. “The heart is the Anahata chakra, the nerve centre that encompasses feeling for another human, feeling for oneself, feeling for the earth, and feeling for God. It is the heart that enables us to love as a child loves: fully, without reservation, and with no hull of sarcasm, depreciation, or protectionism” (Pinkola Estes,1992).

Heartbreak in this sense is a sacred initiation. The journey to healing after heartbreak is well documented in great myths and stories handed down to us as part of our archetypal heritage. The journey always involves trials and tests, death (of the ego) and rebirth-new life. Part of this journey involves the willingness to suffer, and to be in exile for a while. Symbolically, we are in exile anyway because when we are broken hearted we are divided, and our search to return home to ourselves represents our healing journey. To be an exile is to be apart from others, divided within, and forced into a search for belonging. We have to endure the dark night of the soul. The dark night is like death in that everything we know is dissolved. Our castles are destroyed and our troops are killed. The battle has been fought and lost. Our dreams are smashed and our hopes are dashed. And our old heart has to die along with the relationship that is no longer.

Awakening the Inner Lover

We are rewarded at the end of our journey, at the end of our dark night, by Love. Our inner process, if it is fully engaged with, leads to an encounter with our inner lover, our hearts, so that our marriage is to the other, within the inner marriage. In the space left vacant by our lost love, we find ourselves. We discover the one we have neglected for another. As Derek Walcott writes:

The time will come when, with elation,

You will greet yourself arriving at your own door,

In your own mirror,

And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here, eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self

(Walcott, 1985)

In losing love, you will have found it.

Benig Mauger is a Jungian psychoanalytic psychotherapist, writer and speaker. Author of Songs from the Womb and Reclaiming Father, she has a private practice and also travels internationally to lecture, teach and run workshops. Her work is featured on her website


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Housden, J. (2001) “Dark Night”, John of the Night, in Housden, R. Ten poems to change your life, London: Harmony Books

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Jung, E. (1987) Animus and Anima Spring Publications

Mauger, B. (2008) Love in a Time of Broken Heart-Healing from Within Dublin: Soul Connections,

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