In the past the course of a pairing relationship was highly prescribed in many societies. There used to be a period of courtship, without sexual contact, which progressed on to marriage where the responsibilities of men and women in relationships where clearly prescribed. Generally speaking the women looked after the home and the children and the men went to work to provide for the family.
Although these are of course highly stereotypical descriptions they remained the main template for paired relationships for many years, until the world wars, improvements in education, the introduction of birth control and changes in societal expectations made this format largely impractical.
Since that time it feels as though the ‘gloves are off’ and for many, relationships have become an arena for conflict, uncertainty, confusion and disappointment.
By looking at relationships in a developmental way instead of clear roles and responsibilities manner, I hope to help you to understand what is happening (or has happened) between you and your partner or partners in your relationships. This approach will I believe also help you to diagnose why problems have occurred and to make different choices about what to do about it.
Before I go on I want to make it clear that apart from violent or behaviour there is no right or wrongs between a paired couple. A better question would be to ask yourself, ‘is what I am experiencing in this relationship acceptable to me?”.
This book is intended to help you understand yourself and your motivations better in order to improve the chances of you getting a successful paired relationship. Of course in the process it will help you to improve your understanding of other people and their motivations. It is not about telling you how to get a successful relationship nor is it about telling you what you should do in your own life. But I do hope that it will act as a diagnostic tool to help you work out what has gone wrong in previous relationships, assist you to make some more informed choices and give you a sense of what you can do differently next time.
Before I go on, let me share some of the assumptions about relationships that I make in the book.
- Relationships are a reflection of our own personal development.
- We all have a drive towards completion which we tend to express mostly through our relationships with others
- If you want a more healthy relationship you need to develop yourself
- Relationships which are nurturing, respectful, loving and kind are the way forward.
- People in healthy relationships tend to have a set of skills and approaches which virtually anyone can learn.
Since I believe that so much of a healthy relationship is about our own personal development I have taken the decision to divide the book into three parts. The first part talks about the continuum of love, which suggests that our relationships are a reflection of our own personal development. The second part looks at your own personal development and the third part looks at how you can make some different choices in order to have a healthy relationship with someone else.
The Continuum of love
Infinite love – characterised by an ability to love someone as they are without expectation
Complete love – characterised by loving and accepting yourself in order to love someone else
Team work love – characterised by the sharing of tasks and resources
Romantic love – characterised by a dream like state and a sense of euphoria
Impoverished love – characterised by game playing, manipulation and drama
Basically what the continuum of love suggests is that the relationships we get are a reflection of our own personal development, which means that we will seek out partners who we believe will complete us in some way. I have split the levels of pairing development into a number of stages from impoverished love, through to romantic love, team work love, complete love and infinite love.
To demonstrate impoverished love, if you ever look at programmes like Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle where people are virtually killing each other in front of the cameras on national television, when the body guards come on to split them up and they are asked by the host why they are together they will often say that ‘they love each other’. This is an example of the other person meeting some of their needs albeit at quite a low level. Someone to be there for us to meet our basic needs for attention is better than having no one at all.
Now lets look at romantic love, which has become the holy grail of western society. Here people subconsciously seek out people to complete them. Being in romantic love feels as though you have become a whole person. In this case an emotional person will fall in love with someone who is very stoic. A quiet person will fall in love with a very outgoing one, a giver will fall in love with a taker, a tidy person will fall in love with an untidy person and a sad person might fall in love with a happy person. It is as though you have found your other half and you feel at peace with yourself and the world. Here the attention is all focused on the relationship as though no one else in the world exists and as a result work or other social commitments may be take second place particularly in the early days of the romance.
The trouble with the euphoric state that most of us have aspired to in our lives is that it does not last. After 18 months to 3 years it is as though a light bulb goes on or a bubble has burst or the rose tinted spectacles have come off to reveal the person in their true authentic glory. The cuteness of the untidy person becomes highly aggravating to the tidy person and the creativity they used to adore now becomes very irritating when they forget to pick up the shopping or remember their birthday. In other words the very things that they once adored in the person become the very things that they now can’t stand.
At this point people ask the question ‘remind me, why did I get together with this person?’.
In the ‘old days’ when we did not have the option to leave, the relationship would transform into something else at this stage. It would either degenerate into impoverished love characterised by constant arguing, game playing and manipulation. Alternatively either party might leave the relationship either to pursue a new experience of romantic love or if the relationship has been a particularly painful one they may decide not to risk getting hurt again and seek pleasure in the company of a new partner without any emotional attachment.
The other option for the romantic pairing who have fallen out of love is to settle into the next stage, which is team work where both parties would have clear roles and responsibilities within the partnership and in the wider networks of which they are part.
In a team work relationship the success of the partnership would depend on how fair both parties perceived the distribution of services and resources to be. Generally speaking men seeks services – eg. sex and ironing and women seeks resources – can he look after me and the kids financially? If the unwritten contract is out of kilter with what is actually happening within the relationship one or either of the parties will be unsatisfied and may decide to leave or seek fulfillment out of the relationship.
After talking to people who were in a team work relationship, there is no doubt in my mind that a team work relationship which is loving, supportive and nurturing can lead to further personal growth and the movement up the continuum leading to complete love and if they grow together they can attain the experience of infinite love.
Infinite love occurs when two people who are whole people in themselves choose to be with another person in a relationship just because they want to be with that person. They do not expect the other person to fulfill their needs for security, relationship, self esteem or to feel complete. They are with that person simply because they choose to be that person and they find the time and energy to be with them as well as contribute to the wider society.
Until I had developed the continuum of love model I was still looking unsuccessfully for romantic love and then realised that trick with getting someone to fall in love with you romantically was to largely to pretend to be someone you are not so that they can project onto you all of the qualities that they want to project on to you and then fall in love with you.
The best way to do this is to be a blank canvas that people can paint you on to. To do this successfully you don’t say what you think or mean, you need to be on your best (or worst) behaviour at all times and you read as many of the self help books on getting the guy down the aisle or the woman in to bed that you can. The trouble with this approach is that it is inauthentic and although it most definitely works it will increase the likelihood of the ‘rose coloured spectacles’ coming off sooner rather than later.
The reason I identified the stage of infinite love was that although I wanted another relationship I did not feel that I wanted to enter into another romantic relationship. I felt I had ‘been there and done that’ and as a result of my reading believed that this was a transient state, which was unlikely to lead to a lasting and happy relationship.
I also did not much fancy the idea of team work love. It felt boring to me I am afraid. I was perfectly capable of looking after myself and did not need someone to ‘put the bins’ or pay my bills – although sometimes that would have been nice.
I did not have children to support nor did I need financial security or help with changing light bulbs. In other words the roles of the traditional male in my life were not really available. I did however desire love from someone who could understand me, listen to me and give me the emotional and physical involvement that I yearned for. And I would love to do that for them too.
I had also come across many men on line who loved their wives deeply and had an active social and family live but who felt trapped in a sex less marriage. It struck me that if you choose to pair with someone because of their home making and team working abilities you should not then be surprised when the relationship lacks passion and adventure as the years progress.
So on my quest to find a type of relationship that I would find attractive and meet my needs for a mind, body and spirit connection I developed the idea of infinite love. This is a love that I believe that few people have achieved but I do believe that it is something to aspire to. Infinite love happens when two whole people choose to be together because they get their needs for mental, sexual and emotional connection met in an open and honest way and still have energy to contribute to the wider society.
So my question then became a different one, which was ‘what skills, temperament, emotional intelligence and qualities would I need to have to enter into a relationship with infinite possibilities and emotional depths?’
This question made me realise that in order to have a relationship where one whole person pairs with another whole person that they would both have had to be on their own personal journey either outside the relationship or within it if they are both willing to grow together.
From my perspective a lot of relationships are about my ‘stuff’ colliding with your ‘stuff’ and hoping that the outcomes are not too painful and that we learn as a result of them.
The intention behind this book is to help you avoid some of the predictable pain caused by repeating dramatic or disillusioning patterns. This will enable you to make some different choices about relationships and once you have made those different choices to learn the skills to enable you to choose different experiences in your paired relationships.
For more information on assertiveness, influencing (including building rapport), negotiation, conciliation, taking a stand and making peace in a step-by-step manner please refer to the People Skills Revolution and the People Skills Eevolution Handbook published by Global Professional Publishing.
Please note: The information contained in this blog is copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the prior permission of the author who can be contacted through her website at solutionsunlimited.co.uK.