Help and Healing for Intimate Relationships
Reprinted from Breitenbush
Newsletter, January 2002
Intimate relationship forms
the cradle of civilization and fills that cradle with the next
generation. Relationship systems evolved over eons like
water circuitously snaking through valleys to form the Grand Canyon.
Safety, food, religion, economics and government predominated as
shaping forces. Geologic time created slowly changing patterns
of intimate relationship, but recent, multiple, rapid shifts are a
The 20th Century ushered in dramatically accelerating shifts
regarding how we view our most intimate relationships. We are
living the upheaval that comes out of the intersection, in the blink
of an evolutionary eye, of numerous, simultaneous and staggering
social changes. The acceptance of romance and personal
attraction as the most compelling form of entering a couple
relationship is barely a few hundred years old. Yet romantic
love underlies the western experience of couple intimacy at the turn
of the millennium. It is not an easy process to integrate the
romance model with the waves of cultural changes and expectations
we're generating around long-term relationships. The issues
profoundly challenge our communication and conflict resolving skills.
Despite intellectual protestations, we often have unconscious
assumptions and expectations that real love and intimacy should feel
good, that attraction should last on it's own, that our own needs
should all be met. Differences are magnified by these beliefs.
Effectively tackling issues requires one to slow down enough to see
and listen, inside themselves and inside the relationship. It is not
dissimilar from spiritual work --- where confronting the self and the
real world we live in can be painful and slow. It can't be done
in the fast lane any more than loving a child can be neatly sandwiched
between "important" work. For most of us, relationship becomes
the yoga, the practice, the spiritual path that happens "while you're
busy making other plans." (Thank you John Lennon)
In counseling or workshops I emphasize that real, full
bodied intimacy is not always pleasant --- and that the harder part is
often what fuels your growth. As for "attraction" --- once the
love-drug runs it's course, you are on your own and your level of
development will be more of a determinant of how much you can stay
attracted to an imperfect human partner than whether or not your
partner is malleable to your specifications.
Since "falling in love" romantically is primarily an
unsustainable drug-induced "feel good" experience, we are ill prepared
for what comes next. And what comes next forces us to ask
questions: What are we going to do with love, marriage, sex, romance,
commitment, conflict, divorce and the children in the cradle?
I confess to being eternally fascinated by the questions and
the human attempts to create relationships that are satisfying and
enduring. My learning and my teaching irrevocably lead me to
think "it's about me and not about my partner" over and over again.
So I challenge people to become the kind of person who is capable of
creating the kind of relationship they want.