I made the delightful discovery that Connie Zweig and Steven Wolf went public with their deep friendship. Who are they, you ask? They’re the authors of the best-selling book, Romancing the Shadow.
At the very beginning of the book they write:
“This book is the fruit of a deep and abiding friendship. Our first meeting sixteen years ago was a meeting of souls...We met often in restaurants and coffeehouses for long hours of conversation, which felt like what the Sufis call sobet, a communion of souls. We discovered a profound affinity and, at times, wrestled with our differences…we wish to acknowledge one another, first of all, for the opportunity and for the love.”
Now that’s taking an intimate cross-sex friendship public.
Connie and Steven happen to share a love for Carl Jung and his insights. Steven, a psychologist, Connie, a therapist, have integrated Jungian psychology into their lives and their practices.
There is more. They both have romantic partners.
Steven dedicates the book, “To my wife and soul mate.”
Connie writes, “To Dr. Neil Schuitevoerder, loved, and loving partner, and best friend.”
Romancing the Shadow is not a book about deep male-female friendships. It’s written from a Jungian perspective to explore the path of greater authenticity, vulnerability, and intimacy in relationships. As Jungians, they explore the shadow side of our stories which sabotage our nonromantic and romantic relationships.
But Connie and Steven do have a chapter on engaging the shadow in friendship. Within that chapter, they have a special section devoted to male-female friendships under the heading: “Women and Men as Friends: Dangers and Delights.”
This book was such an unexpected gift to me this past week.
It’s another cultural sign we are in the post-romantic age and that a non-romantic bond between men and women is to not something to be avoided but is a “new cultural good” (for cultural good, see Andy Crouch’s Cultural Making).
This is what more evangelical men and women are going to discover in the twenty-first century: the dangers and delights of intimate male-female friendship.
In much of the current evangelical world, you won’t find deep friendship stories like these two practicing psychotherapists have. You won’t find them in books in the neo-reformed movement. You won’t find them in many books in the neo-anabaptist movement.
You won’t find leaders in these communities warmly acknowledging their deep love for their opposite sex colleague or friend.
Imagine what this would look like if evangelical theologians could write a book like this proclaiming their deep friendship bond.
“This book is the fruit of a deep and abiding friendship. Our first meeting sixteen years ago was a meeting of souls...We met often in restaurants and coffeehouses for long hours of conversation, which felt like what Jesus envisioned when he prayed for men and women be to one (John 17)… We discovered a profound affinity and, at times, wrestled with our differences…we wish to acknowledge one another, first of all, for the opportunity and for the love.”
Can you imagine Scot McKnight, David Fitch, Geoff Holsclaw, Mark Driscoll, or D.A. Carson writing something like that about a close opposite sex friend?
It was quite fascinating to see this void in Prodigal Christianity. I consider Dave and Geoff as friends. I'm grateful that they acknowledged my book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions in their book. But when they get to the chapter where they address "sexual redemption" you won't find them embodying deep friendship stories like Zweig and Wolf, though they do admit to the possibility in the abstract.
Many evangelicals have the danger part down pat.
What many conservative white male leaders in the evangelical world are missing are the dangers and delights of deep community between men and women as soul friends. Their books are missing soul friendship stories between men and women like Connie’s and Steven’s. Though they differen significantly in their approaches to gender, this is what Mark Driscoll, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, David Fitch have in common.
That’s not new news to my blog readers.
The bestselling book Romancing the Shadow steps into the same vision as my book.
Two therapists like Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf glowingly refer to their friendship as a “deep and abiding friendship” which embodies “a communion of souls” while simultaneously affirm their deep love for their romantic partners.
"Communion of souls." Not emotional adultery. Not triangulation.
Later on in their book they when they get to the point of considering friendship between men and women they state:
“Men and women can find soul friendship with another.”
This is another sign of a shift as a new cultural good between men and women.
The opposite of emotional adultery is not a romantic couple who follow gender-segregated rules in all their outside relationships.
As Jungian therapists, Zweig and Wolf are deeply in touch with the dark dynamics of triangulation. Triangulation has been one of the major push backs I have heard from evangelicals. What Zweig and Wolf are telling us is their deep abiding friendship is the opposite of triangulation.
Their friendship bond is so life-giving and enriching, that out of it came this book to help men and women engage their shadows as singles, romantic partners, friends, and workmates. Out of their shared common vision and deep friendship they wrote a bestselling book on deepening self-awareness, authenticity, and vulnerability.
They do not shortchange friendship within the book.
They fully embrace in life (not just theory) deep soul friendships between men and women.
“In a soul friendship, we honor and recognize each other’s essential nature. Our roles are more fluid; our respect is mutual; our deeply felt bond does not rely on doing as much as being. Soul friendship requires a loyalty to more than passing feelings or opinions of a cherished one, a fidelity to more than temporary goals or appearances. It demands authenticity, or loyalty to soul…it offers a place where we don’t have to hide.”
They get the mystery of friendship:
“Friendship cannot be reduced to personal psychology alone; it cannot be explained away by psychodynamic patterns. Rather, friendship is a mystery, a constant source of wonder that is as near to us as our own breath.”
What impresses me about many of the thoughtful Jungians I have read is their understanding that soul friendship fosters individual separateness and closeness at a profound level.
David Sumway in his 2003 book, Modern Love observes that "We may no longer expect marriage to be one long romantic adventure, but we now demand of our partners a closeness that is equally unrealistic." But he goes to say, "The emergence of the discourse of intimacy is an encouraging development...for gender relations and, ultimately, social relations."
I'm celebrating Romancing the Shadow as another public sign we are now in the post-romantic age. What therapists like Zweig and Wolf are doing is embodying a healthy expression of closeness as soul friends which is the opposite of emotional adultery or triangulation.