I work with single people who have been trying to find a mate for years and who want my coaching so they can get married. I end up going to a number of weddings every year and help conduct some of them. I talk about the following distinctions:
1. Intimacy is not the same thing as romance.
Being "in Love" at the beginning of a relationship is wonderful. I think it is the result of us getting in touch with being, through another person. When you fall in love and get in that blissful state, you just love being, your being, and the being of the beloved, and the being of all beings in the world. You are "home" in that rediscovered sense of unity and bliss.
As Kris Kristofferson sings:
She wasn't quite as pretty as some others I have known,
and she wasn't good at conversation when we were alone,
but she had a way of makin' me believe that I belonged.
And it felt like comin' home when I loved her.
'Cause she brightened up my day like the early mornin' sun
and she made what I was doin' seem worth while.
Its the closest thing to livin' that I guess I've ever known,
and it left me feelin' warm, when I loved her.
-- Kris Kristofferson, "When I Loved Her" 1968, BMG Music Publ.
It is not the way they look or how good they talk that makes us love who we love. Their ability to be with us is more powerful. It is their ability to make us "believe that we belong" that "leaves us feelin' warm", that renews that old spark that first happened in Mom an eternity ago.
Too bad that once we are warmed, and begin to "believe that we belong", the feeling becomes a belief to be preserved, and guarded, and defended, so the feeling will never go away. This of course, makes the feeling go away. We end up resenting the person, with whom we used to be in love, for changing.
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Expecting Others to Live Up to Our Expectations
When you start expecting the other person to live up to your expectations based on what you felt before, you are going to get disappointed and pissed off. If both people are in this place at about the same time, a nasty argument ensues. This hurt and anger get formulated into belief instead of gotten over. In a short while, you are trapped in the thought, "How could that bitch/bastard be so wonderful and so shitty to me? How can she/he be so cruel?"
Next, after a few of these arguments, the two parties alternate between feeling insecure and feeling angry. When one gets angry, the other gets scared he or she is about to be abandoned. This alternating process occurs a few times. Then, a discussion like the following one occurs. (This discussion occurred recently with a couple I was seeing.)
The fellow is in his fifties, has been divorced three times, and is in a new relationship with one of my clients who is being coached on having relationships based on telling the truth. His last lover had walked out on him; he still "loved" her, of course, since she had rejected him.
"I really like you", he said. "These six weeks since we met have been just great. I have never told anyone so much, or had such an honest relationship. I thought, in the beginning, there would be all kinds of bells and whistles. But there aren't any bells or whistles or rockets going off. I have dreaded this conversation for a few days now. I think you are more involved with me than I with you. I am not in love with you. We have great sex. We laugh together all the time. But I'm not 'in love' like I have experienced before. And since we have been so honest about everything else I think we have to be honest about this."
The woman who was my client had a predictable built-in reaction to this, which was "Oh shit! Here we go again. Why can't I ever have a relationship work out? Just when I was thinking about us moving in together, he wants to back away. This is how it always goes. I am never quite good enough. I am good, but not good enough."
As you see, the condition by this time had become two minds relating to each other as "Its", coming out of the same mouths that used to be used by their beings for love. They are both right about each other when they say "you changed" because, of course, both have changed. In just six weeks, they have changed from beings out of their mind with love into minded beings.
Half of these wonderful beginnings split up. If they are "like-minded" beings, they stay together in boredom the rest of their lives. If they escape their minds' beliefs about each other repeatedly, they have a successful relationship.
From Soap Opera Nostalgia to Honest Relationships
I talked to this particular woman alone, and then to her lover and her together. I suggested that the way they had been telling the truth to each other in the beginning, and even in the moment of our speaking together, was what a powerful relationship is made of. I recalled to him and to myself how badly some of our previous relationships based on romantic love had worked out.
I said, "Soap operas are full of people who are in love and start withholding from each other. The nostalgia for what used to be, combined with resentment and hope for renewal, produces what we call romantic love. Romantic love is highly overrated. Romantic love is not as strong as a new friendship based on telling the truth. Romantic love is still fun, though not as romantic, without the tragic overtones of soap opera that come from withholding and being secretive. Romantic love recurs, every now and then, rather than dying after the honeymoon is over, if people have open-to-each-other relationships. Keep working on telling the truth about everything that goes on with each of you and you can work your way through to a powerful relationship."
That was my stand, and the place I listened to them from, and though I did my best and so did they, they didn't succeed. Those guys didn't make it. They parted, having learned another increment of information about relationships, but not a sufficient one to allow them to make that one work.
2. Desperation is a terrible basis for union.
If the couple I just talked about had gotten married when they got scared they were about to lose each other, and stayed married on that basis, it would have been a desperate union. That kind of marriage sucks.
3. Loving the holy human prototype is more important than loving the personality.
The holy human prototype is the person you see when you look into someone else's eyes without prejudgment. The holy human prototype is like a child. It is the noticer. It is the being, just like you, just across from you. It is the being who, you can tell by just looking, like looking in a mirror, has the same kind of electric circuitry as yourself. You can love that being of the other as much as you love yourself. When that being is a child, you can love her more than yourself. Beings do a better job of loving each other than minds.
Things That Help Couples Have A Powerful Relationship
* Complete any incomplete relationships with your parental family. Go have a revealing conversation with your father, mother, brother, sister, or any important earlier relation. This gives you completion as well as practice in renewal. This helps you finish incomplete situations from the past so you can begin living in the present, being present to each other, and living toward the future.
* Create together some common cause you are both interested in and committed to accomplishing. This opens up the possibility of working together, in communication with each other, in agreement about what you are both dedicated to accomplishing. You feel helped by each other, grateful to each other, willing to acknowledge each other, and capable of bringing about results in the world together. Actually creating something together is a lot of fun. Babies are fun to create, although they are a hell of a lot of work for a long time. Creating is a lot more fun than bitching and whining.
* Stay involved with other people committed to telling the truth and to something bigger than their own comfort. An honest relationship with other couples supports your couple. Couples need another couple or two for friends. If intimacy doesn't extend to friends and extended family, the network of support is too thin. If you have even one good friend to both people, to whom both can talk and who supports both in telling the truth, you have a great resource.
* Make requests from your mate for what you want but stay willing to take care of yourself. You can practice this by picking something you usually bitch about your mate's not doing for you, and then sit down with them and practice.
You say something like this: "If you want to please me, if you want to know what would make me happy, here is what I would really like for you to do. If you don't do that; it's O.K, I'm a big girl (boy), and I will take care of it myself. You are not obligated to make or keep me happy or to do what I want. I am responsible for my own happiness. If I get mad at you, I will handle it, and I'll get over it. If I get disappointed, I'll be responsible for my own disappointment."
Wouldn't it be great to be married to someone who really did that? This is a fine basic sort of position to come from to relate to other people in general: here is what I want, but you don't have to provide it for me. You are invited and requested, but not obligated, to take care of me.
* Take any help you can get. Stay involved with some ongoing context for learning and working on communication. Amy and I have received invaluable support from courses we have taken.
There are groups of people willing to contribute to other people everywhere there are people. That is one fine thing about which we current humans should all be very happy. Some groups are better at supporting people than others, but the world is full of people who wish to contribute to other people.
* Grow or die. If you don't keep growing you go dead.
* Have a long conversation (some time when you are not arguing) about when you first got together and how your relationship has evolved over time. Talk about times of jealousy, times of not much of anything, times of not much sex, times of sex that's not much, times you have worked well together. Talk about how your marriage has been a cauldron. Talk about when you have made the cauldron into a flower pot.
We are back to the beginning now. Back to that little being whose life came on in the womb. Back to that little being we go and discover the source of love. Full love, in orgasm, in sleeping together, in cuddling, in cuddling children, is a loss of identity at a time when you know who you are more completely than ever. When you are lost in love, your personality is included in something bigger than itself or else it is obliterated. How lucky can you get?
This article is excerpted with his permission from "Radical Honesty" published by Sparrowhawk Publications.
About The Author
Brad Blanton is the founding president of the Gestalt Institute of Washington DC and has been in the private practice of Clinical Psychology in Washington DC for the past 20 years. He specializes in individual, group, and couples psychotherapy. He can be contacted through his website www.radicalhonesty.com. He conducts workshops on Radical Honesty throughout the U.S. Visit his website to find out about his project entitled the "United States of Being".