When Veronica and I starting working together to explore relationships in our fortnightly sessions together we used the Continuum of Love approach as an underpinning model. When we came to look at Evolving Love we became acutely aware that we were breaking new ground – at least for us. I remember the time when we realised this and we both found the thought of exploring unchartered territory exciting.
I am not entirely sure that we did this deliberately, but we both stopped dating. I think we did this because we were aware that if you are developing yourself that the people that you attract and will be attracted to will change. So I believe we both would recommend that you stop looking for love whilst you are developing yourself along the lines we suggest.
For us, evolving love was a journey rather than a destination. We realised that as we changed, it would change. We also realised that people we had previously been attracted to ceased to interest us and people with different qualities started coming into our lives (or maybe we just started to notice them).
Although there is no map or template, for this part of the journey we did gather hints or suggestions from some of the authors who have eluded to it. One of the most vocal was the mistress in the book ‘Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress who said:
‘I am not a cartographer to map out the way for any given marriage; what is precisely needed is willingness to do without maps or rather to make one’s own, to be inventive, to imagine and dare. Reality always lies beyond the loss of inherited forms and between emerging from the latter and into the former is a trackless desert that frightens and dissuades many people from trying on themselves. To be afraid is sensible; this is dangerous territory. What is not so sensible is to fancy that shutting one’s eyes shall have the desert go away.’
She goes on to say:
‘If love is a creative stuff, it is for that very reason not a continuous state, any more than a genius works at gale force every hour. All creative energy has winters and summers, planting and harvest with time between growth’.
‘It corresponds to a polarity between the sexes reaching beyond legal and social ‘equality’, a creative tension where each is whole, yet each is more because of the other’
This idea of continual growth, movement and renewal of a relationship was echoed by Michael Foley in The Age of Absurdity when he talks about love.
No one is easy to live with – and there is no such thing as a final, definitive state of love. Like happiness, love is an ongoing process, a kind of never-ending joint creative project. And as with happiness, the striving for fulfilment becomes itself the fulfilment. Also as with any creative endeavour, love is subject to the cycle of exhaustion and renewal: the exhaustion essential for the joy of renewal.
There is no template on how to have a successful relationship. What I believe you are trying to create at this level are two people who accept and love themselves enough to be able to accept and love another person.
As Robert Johnson says in ‘We – Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love’:
Love is the power within us that affirms and values another human being as he or she is. Human love affirms that person who is actually there rather than the ideal we would like him or her to be or the projection that flows from their minds.
Evolving love occurs in a relationship where two creative evolving people are together through choice.
Lorraine, Neil Strauss’s therapist in The Truth says of an evolving relationship:
‘A healthy relationship is when two individuated adults decide to have a relationship and that relationship becomes a third entity. They nurture the relationship and the relationship nurtures them. But they are not overly dependent or independent. They are interdependent which means that they take care of the majority of their needs and wants on their own but when they can’t, they’re not afraid to ask their partner for help……. Only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together.
Strauss himself echoes this when he says:
‘But in a healthy relationship of two people with equal internal power, sometimes your partner doesn’t agree with you or support your behaviour. And that is where the real relating begins’
‘No one can make you feel anything and you don’t make anyone feel a certain way. So don’t take on responsibility for your partner’s feelings and don’t blame your partner for yours. The most caring thing to do when they’re upset is simply to ask if they want you to listen, to give advice, to give them space, or give them a loving touch’.
You may feel that undertaking all this work on yourself is in some way selfish but I agree with Neil Strauss when he says:
‘The best thing we can do for our relationships with others …. Is to render our relationship with ourselves more conscious. This is a not a narcissistic activity. In fact it will prove to be the most loving thing we can do for the Other. The greatest gift to others is our own best selves. Thus paradoxically, if we are to serve the relationship well, we are obliged to affirm our individual journey’.
Although there are no maps to follow when co-creating an evolving love relationship some common themes emerge which are likely to be present in both partners who would:
- Share common values
- Enjoy each other’s company
- Exchange the leadership role
- Have an emotional flow between them, which means that the support and enthusiasm would shift from one to the other depending on what was going on in their lives.
- Be able to achieve more as a couple than the could achieve individually
- Decide to be together through choice rather than need
- Have acknowledged, addressed and healed any emotional wounds
- Have ‘real time’ reactions to events and an ability to process and deal with emotions.
- Have developed methodologies to explore differences and disagreements.
In addition to these qualities since they are energised rather than drained by the relationship they will also have the capacity to look outwards and address issues they care about in the wider world.
Since evolving love is such a rarely documented, or even maybe rarely experienced partnership, I found it quite difficult to find any examples of this kind of relationship, until I thought of my childhood hero Paul Newman who famously said:
‘If you have steak at home why go out for hamburgers’.
He had a legendary love story with his wife Joanne Woodward, which was almost unheard of in Hollywood. Talking about his marriage he commented:
“I’ve repeatedly said that for people who have as little in common as Joanne and myself, we have an uncommonly good marriage. We are actors. We make pictures and that’s about all we have in common. Maybe that’s enough. Wives shouldn’t feel obligated to accompany their husbands to a ball game, husbands do look a bit silly attending morning coffee breaks with the neighborhood wives when most men are out at work. Husbands and wives should have separate interests, cultivate different sets of friends and not impose on the other … You can’t spend a lifetime breathing down each other’s necks … We are very, very different people and yet somehow we fed off those varied differences and instead of separating us, it has made the whole bond a lot stronger.”
And when celebrating 50 years of marriage he said of Joanne’s support:
“Joanne has always given me unconditional support in all my choices and endeavours, and that includes my race car driving, which she deplores. To me, that’s love.“ *
And on the subject of having created enough energy within the relationship to be able to address issues of concern in the wider world, it is interesting that Paul Newman made more money for his Newman’s Own Foundation, which grew out of his popular salad dressings, than he ever made out of films.
Here is the philosophy of the Newman Own Foundation from its website which shows a lot about Paul Newman’s values and beliefs.
The Power of Philanthropy
Newman’s Own Foundation is an independent, private foundation formed in 2005 by Paul Newman to sustain the legacy of his philanthropic work. Funded entirely through the profits and royalties of Newman’s Own products, the Foundation does not maintain an endowment, raise funds, or accept donations. The Foundation believes that each of us, through the power of philanthropy, has the potential to make a difference. Since 1982, when Paul Newman first declared, “Let’s give it all away,” more than $460 million has been donated to thousands of nonprofit organizations helping people in need around the world.
Ah but I hear you say I haven’t had the best start in life and I just can’t imagine myself achieving anything like accepting love and let alone evolving love. Although I will acknowledge that both I, and Veronica have addressed our personal development issues for many years before working together, after meeting regularly for 18 months to discuss relationships specifically we believe that we have developed approaches which will help you to make the leap if you want to.
The approach is based on having a theoretical understanding of relationships to enable people to make more conscious choices. This is combined with an understanding of the role that emotions play in our wellbeing and how to improve our ability to connect with ourselves and others at a deeper level.
Now I have tracked the continuum of love and described what happens on each rung of the ladder, I want to present some other perspectives, which are relevant to the story of love. The first of these is attachment theory.
With thanks to Jo Grant for permission to use her photograph of intermingled hands.
Please note that this article is Copyright and cannot be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any way without prior permission of the author.
* HelloMagazine.com, 1/29/2008.