Great question: Is there a third body in relationship?

I’ve been contemplating and exploring what the “third body” means for years. I recently shared my thoughts at a women’s circle. It made for a very stimulating and enlightening conversation.

Robert Bly’s poem was what inspired me. A relationship between two people has three components  A me, a you, and a “we” (third body.) These particular lines from the poem struck me.

“They obey a third body that they share in common.

They have made a promise to love that body.” Robert Bly

How do we love an invisible body?

Does everybody know their is a third body?

If your partner doesn’t even know their is one how can they participate in caring for it?

Whose responsibility is the third body?

I don’t think everyone has a sense of the third body. Some people intuitively know, some have been conditioned to know. Those who take care of “hearth and home” may have more of a knowing than a not knowing. Lot’s I don’t know.

Awhile back in order to make the third body more visible to my sweet man I asked him to carry a raw egg around all day. It represented the relationship. It’s fragile. It can break if you aren’t paying attention. Even if you put it down you need to put it somewhere safe. It takes one hand to hold it. It’s not easy to carry a raw egg around all day. It’s not easy to be in relationship.

It helped. Making it physical.

Sometimes the person who knows has to let go of carrying it. That shakes things up.

Taking care of the third body is like taking care of most things you love. Cultivating good boundaries and sometimes being boundaryless, having a shared vision and values and having some of your own, paying attention to the spaces both real and invisible between you, honest communication, trust, vulnerability, cleaning up messes, owning your triggers, offering up time and space for ritual, celebration, “being” time.

It’s mysterious and magical when you touch the third body. The beauty of mutually caring for the unseen between you. And of course we can expand this metaphor out to all relationships. But I’ll leave that for another post.

To consider:

Read the poem.

Take one line and savor it, maybe memorize it.

See how the words and you become something all on their own.


Then take it to a relationship that matters. Play with the invisible. Talk about it, wonder about it. Imagine a world where we took more time to cultivate and engage the invisible.