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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 destabilizing phenomenon.

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.

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