worked with many couples over the years, in addition to dealing
with our own relationship issues, we have found several elements
that underlie successful and joyous relationships.
these, the number one ingredient for success is the "C"
word: Commitment. Lots of folks say they are committed as long
as their partner shapes up; they keep one foot out the back door
and an eye out for someone who might better fulfill their needs.
And, of course, this is part of the original problem: wanting
someone to fulfill their needs. Or waiting for their partner
to meet them halfway (it will never seem to be halfway!). Success
in relationship means a 100% commitment; 50-50 means neither
partner is whole within themselves and expects the other to complete
them. This will never happen!
see commitment as meaning that quitting is not an option. In
other words, however bad the other person may look to us at any
given time, we have agreed not to leave the relationship. That
does not mean that we won't take some space apart, a breather,
to calm down so that we can see things more clearly, but it does
mean we won't quit. There have even been times when we have threatened
to quit (a bad idea), but have withdrawn the threat once we regained
our sanity. For the most part, this agreement makes sense in
all but the worst situations, such as physical abuse.
trial and error in numerous past relationships, we have seen
that no matter who we hook up with, we are always there, bringing
whatever is unhealed in us to the relationship and having it
reflected back by our partner. Jung said that whatever we're
unwilling to face in ourselves, we'll be forced to confront in
the outer world, such as our partners.
we've learned is that there are basically three stages to a developing
relationship. Stage 1 is the honeymoon or fantasy stage where
everything is wonderful, we have found the fulfillment of our
dreams, our soul mate, our other half. Sex is great, communication
wonderful, we are high on love and life.
gradually, Stage 2 sets in. Perhaps we made a mistake. We are
seeing some flaws in the other person. As a matter of fact those
flaws are considerable: She doesn't agree with me, he doesn't
understand me, he/she wants sex too much/too little, they're
mean, angry, we don't deserve to be treated this way, why do
I have to hold the relationship together, why don't they do their
part, why isn't he ever home, why doesn't she allow me freedom,
etc. This is the stage where most relationships either fall apart
or move into hopeless resignation.
it possible to move past this stage? Is there really a Stage
3? You bet! If you're willing to do the work. Strangely, this
is not about pointing out all the flaws you see in your partner
so they can heal themselves. It's about seeing that the healing
which needs to take place is your own. And when you are really
willing to see this and acknowledge it, you move into Stage 3.
At this stage, dreams of happily ever after really do begin to
come true-not as a fantasy, but as a deepening connection and
love for your partner. A friend recently made a sarcastic comment
about something being "as exciting as marital sex."
Obviously, someone who has never experienced Stage 3! This was
true for us through all our other relationships up until this
one. We had never made it past Stage 2.
we figured out that it made no sense to keep changing partners
when things got tough, but rather to use the relationship as
a mirror of ourselves, both the beautiful and the ugly. By seeing
and reclaiming the shadow we have projected onto our partner,
we can heal that part of us that wants to keep running away out
of fear. In order to do this, we must acknowledge to ourselves
and to our partner that this business of relationship is truly
sacred, or, as Stephen Levine says, the most powerful yoga there
of course, along the way, we have needed help, an uninvolved
third party to help us gain clarity and re-own our projections.
We have finally learned that counseling is neither as painful
nor as expensive as divorce or separation. Now, when one of us
is really off the wall, the last thing that person usually wants
to do is seek help, so we have another agreement: If one partner
requests counseling, the other agrees to go no matter what reasons
they may find for not going.
if you are in Stage 1 or 2, don't despair if things begin to
feel like they're falling apart. Be willing to stay the course
and the rewards are beyond anything you can imagine. Remember,
besides the joy and pleasure our partners bring to us, they are
also experts at pushing our buttons so that the aspects of our
lives triggered by those buttons may be healed.
you be blessed with a master button-pusher who refuses to leave.
And may you do the same for them.
one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
The moment one definitely
commits oneself, then providence moves too." W.H. Murray.
& Sande have been in a committed relationship for 18 years,
having had a lot of fun in Stage 1, considerable doubt and struggle
during Stage 2, and absolute amazement at Stage 3. Both have
Masters degrees in counseling and have trained with Gay and Kathlyn
Hendricks, Jack Zimmerman and Jackie McCandless, Charles and
Caroline Muir, Joyce and Barry Vissell, and the Sterling Institute
of Relationship. Sande and Bob are available as guides through
the turbulent waters of Stage 2. They are Maui residents and
can be reached at 879-0657.