Side by Side

Caryl & Jay Cabson

Nonfiction 2023/ unknown # of pages (and no image available)


While all of my blog posts are personal, I would say, this one is among the most vulnerable.

Side by Side is designed and written by an interfaith minister/spiritual director and a retired University professor/Provost, wife and husband, who have a heartfelt intention to explore spirituality and aging in older couples' relationships, and they do so through interviews with older couples, which they report on in each chapter.

I cried, or at least sighed, in almost every chapter.  I could not help but read the stories of these long-term committed couples through my own lens.  First, from the perspective of my marriage.  I would say Beryl and I shared a spiritual connection but did not have the words or the contexts presented here.  I wish we had this knowledge ... I think we would have been more intentional about our co-spirituality.  (Co-spiritual is my term, not the Casbon's).  Second, I look through the lens of my more recent relationship with a man who read a lot about Buddhism, but didn't appear to put it into practice, and me, trying to find a coat rack on which to hang my spiritual hat.  We had lovely, meaningful conversations, but were never fully capable of putting our co-spiritual ideas into action, beyond meditating together.

As I began to read the journeys of these couples, I attempted to keep opening my heart to their experiences, to embrace their wisdom and learning.  In the first half of the book, all of the couples' spiritual frameworks have strongly religious foundations.  I wished for more insight into couples who built a strong spiritual foundation outside religion.  Later couples in the book have broader underpinnings.  Still, I wish the authors were more intentional about discovering and exploring spiritual practices that were deliberately Atheist, Buddhist, Wicca, Hindu ... whatever.

Caryl and Jay Casbon say that many of their couples are "unchurched" but that does not ring true in the stories.  They say their work was "too public" for gay couples, and I find that to be a huge hole in what they produced. I think they didn't work hard enough to find diverse couples, and I think this weakens their ideas tremendously; enough to have me consider not recommending this book.

The end pages finally gave me what I was seeking by reading this book.  Stories on their own are not very informative to me.  In the last few pages, I found the questions to ask and the wisdom of how to approach being a co-spiritual couple.  Don't miss the Appendices, The Reader's Guide, and especially the Reflection Questions.  These managed to get me sobbing again, as I perceived what is missing from my life, and hopeful about what may be possible. If you are in a significant relationship, these end pieces may be very insightful for you.  The quotes throughout the book are appropriate and excellently placed.

I must recommend this book for those of you who wish to see your relationship as, or to build a greater container around, spirituality with a partner.

Side by Side is scheduled to be published in June by Creative Courage Press.  (Thank you for the preview copy, my spiritual friend.)

March 2023