Current Relationship Success
in U. S. The Four Levels
The Effect on Our Children Lovers, Friends & Community
The War Between the Sexes Sex ??
Partners & Children
CURRENT RELATIONSHIP "SUCCESS" IN THE U. S.
Regarding relationship "happiness", a study on marriage success done at the Santa Monica, California "think tank", The Rand Corporation, while I was a consultant there a few years ago; found that out of 6 typical marriages in the U.S., 3 ended in divorce (no big news there), but of the remaining 3, only 1 rated itself (by both man and woman) as "happy". Overall result: approximately only 1 out of 6 marriages could be seen as being happy. Not too encouraging.
THE EFFECT ON OUR CHILDREN (and ourselves)
Currently less than 50% of the children in the U.S. live in a "Mom & Dad" household. The rest are raised by single parents (the vast majority being women). These kids usually don't get much significant male parenting. The boys often painfully miss finding out what it is to be a "man". The girls don't get much loving male attention until they hit adolescence and are bombarded with sexual attention. Both miss out on seeing an ongoing successful male/female relationship as they grow up. And in case anyone misses the importance of this seemingly "cold" statistic on parenting; in September of 2000 the Surgeon General of the United States (not an "airy fairy" or liberal organization in any sense) issued a report stating that 1 in 5 of all children in the United States has a "mental health problem".
If that's not enough to get our attention, consider this from the CDC as of July 2002: "More people die by suicide than by homicide in the United States. Suicide rates among youth have been increasing steadily for the past four decades; suicide is the third leading cause of death among children and youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
is an important note from a book, The Illusion of Choice: How the Market
Economy Shapes Our Destiny by Andrew Bard, which gives us an insight
into the cause of some of this.
"In our modern economy, for economic viability we are forced to trade what money cannot buy; our relationships, family lives and sense of community."
From another goverment source: "Some researchers attribute teenage suicide to the weakening of the family unit. They argue that economic and political institutions have penetrated it, reducing it to a "consumer unit" no longer able to function as a support system, and no longer able to supply family members with a sense of stability and rootedness."
How can we expect to have good relationships ourselves and to offer meaningful and joyful opportunities to our children, if we let ourselves fall into the category of being "consumer units"!? We have more to offer to life, to ourselves, and to our children than this !!
The "War between the sexes"
Some symptoms: 5 different stories
"I bought a brand new bed for my
master bedroom. I LOVE IT! It was delivered yesterday.
I have this kind of "pledge" I've made to myself... I don't want to share
that bed with anyone who doesn't show great signs of being very much in
love with me."
"I have done something tonight I
am not proud of. Currently I am drunk and know that I am this way
because I have allowed myself to be hurt once more by the same man again.
I wanted to run, scream, whatever. Most of all I just wanted to feel
warm and loved. I cannot believe that I have allowed myself to listen
to him again. He really did know all the right buttons."
"My father adored me as a child
and in my marriage my husband did too. That's all I really want.
After my husband died, I've looked and looked trying to find someone like
that again. I just want to have someone who will adore me."
American myth of love and marriage is a recipe for emotional disaster.
We still pay lip service to the notion that young people will fall in love
and meet each other’s physical and emotional needs for the rest of their
lives. That’s obviously ridiculous but we have no other model of a “good”
Why does there seem to be so much confusion, hurt and pain around the subject of relationships? Why do so many relationships fail? Why do so many relationships continue on in sometimes horrific conditions of abuse, conflict or neglect; or at best continue on in a slightly warmed up version of the "procession of the living dead" with little or no vitality or joy being present? Is it possible that we are confusing satisfying the immediate symptoms of not having a relationship with the deeper aspects of human interaction which will truly provide for an enduring and deeply satisfying total relationship? Is it possible that we have been given ideas handed down from one generation to another for eons (with the best intentions of the giver) which are really false or at best limiting when it comes to generating successful relationships?
Confusing Symptoms, Sex and the
Real Source of
Relationship Pain, Failure & Loneliness
The answer seems to be dramatically "YES !" to both of these questions.
To start out, let's look at the simple reality of ideas handed down from
one generation to another, to another .... to yet another; such that finally
the particular idea, or cluster of ideas, seems to be "natural", something
that we "should just know" or something that is "just the right way to
be". One rather infamous example of this flow of a contaminated idea
was the situation of the Hatfields and McCoys.
These were two family clans located in West Virginia and Kentucky in the latter part of the 19th century. Somehow an initial argument started up between these two clans and through ignorance, mis-information, and bad communication; the initial conflict escalated to a full blown feud that lasted through several decades. The two families were isolated from much contact with anyone else outside of their very rural environment. They were not only isolated, but also had a distrust of "outsiders". This prevented any third, uninvolved parties from coming in and helping to negotiate an end to the misunderstandings between the two clans. The results were literally deadly and lasted for many, many years.
The situation evolved to the place that 2 perfectly innocence babies could be born roughly at the same time, one in each of the two clans; and these 2 babies would grow up with the thought given to them (directly and indirectly) that it was perfectly "natural and good" to kill "one of those damned Hatfields" or "one of those damned McCoys". Time and time again, there would be incidents where someone would have "success" in doing exactly that. One of those 2 babies, now grown up some number of years, would be killed. Of course each time it happened, one clan had its own "natural" rage fueled condemnation of the opposing clan reinforced; and the cycle of loss, pain, despair, hate and violence deepened.
Could the same thing (in a slightly milder form) be happening at times with men, women and the relationships they have, don't have, or seek to have with each other? To present just a couple of current thought forms: Are all men really just "scags" who want to get into a woman's pants, have a good time for a while and then leave? Are all women really just "manipulators" who try to trap a man through sex, into being a "wallet" for them and their children? Could these and other ideas, be false? Are these derogatory surmises about the opposite gender, really generated from false ideas given to us about what is really important in a relationship? Are these ideas seductive because they come from attempts to address an immediately present "symptom" or "hunger" when a relationship is not present; but which are false because they don't address deeper human aspects that truly support a relationship?
All of us, both men and women, have basic needs of safety and security. In our culture, much of this first level of need gets focused upon having money, or having access to someone with money. After this there occurs the natural needs of sexuality, sensuality, pleasure and comfort. This involves not only the pleasure of sexuality, but also the needs for companionship and not being lonely; the pleasure and comfort of snuggling with someone at night as one example.
There are certainly other needs that naturally occur for us after or in addition to these basic needs. For example, the need to have some degree of power and control over one's own life and its direction is a fairly universal need. It's easy to see this in just about everyone when they hit their teenage years and start struggling for independence from their parents. Yet in adulthood in our culture, and removed from much contact with their original family grouping; many men and women who are not in 'relationship' are not faced immediately with questions about satisfying power and control needs. They are often immediately faced with questions of getting enough sex and warm sensual companionship.
It hurts to be alone. It is uncomfortable and unhealthy to not have enough sensuality and sexuality in our lives. Science has finally demonstrated that sensuality and sexuality are biologically "good" for us. In addition to loneliness in-and-of itself, we now know that one important aspect of "love" is the simple act of someone paying attention to us. Particularly when we are removed from our original family (assuming it was at least fairly "decent"), being out of a relationship often also means we don't directly experience this basic element of being loved. The sentence from one of this article's starting statements, "Most of all I just wanted to feel warm and loved.", speaks strongly to this initial sets of basic needs and the drive to fill them.
Here in lies the seduction. Is is easy to want to finally get enough sexual and sensual pleasure again, and to feel appreciated and "loved" (someone is paying attention to us) because we are supplying that same sexual/sensual pleasure back to them. It is also easy at times to start "trading" money/safety/security needs back and forth with sexual/sensual/pleasure needs. Is there anything wrong with any of this? Absolutely not! What doesn't work is having the expectation (the idea) that doing this trading will generate a relationship that will last or which will remain vital and joyful. A variation on this theme is the seduction of staying trapped in an old childhood perspective (an idea) like, "I just want to have someone who will adore me." Here too, the old idea is not one which will sustain a joyfully vital relationship.
Time and time again (just like the Hatfield's and McCoy's) we have been
given essentially unchallenged ideas that doing this "trading" is
the right thing or the natural thing, or that if we just recapture what
we had in a childhood relationship all will be well. Yet if we pay
attention at all, we notice that it really doesn't work long term for keeping
a happy relationship going.
We humans have other needs to be satisfied: needs beyond safety and security, and beyond sexuality and pleasure. If we fully satisfy our basic needs for safety and sexuality/sensuality, we notice that there is indeed a need to have some power and control over our lives. We notice there is a need to be loved and to love. Beyond that there is a need to creatively express ourselves. And finally there is an existential need to try to answer the questions of "What is life all about?", "What is this sense of unity I have with other human beings when I am really peaceful, all about?", "Why is there pain?", "What happens when I die?", etc.
We just don't stop in our needs when the basic ones of money, safety and sexual/sensual pleasure are answered. To have a relationship which is fully "successful", we as men and women need to establish a connection which supports not only safety and sexual/sensual pleasure, but also goes beyond this to fully support each person. That is to fully support them in experiencing success in developing their own power, success in being loved and being able to love, success in developing and expressing their own creativity, and finally success in trying to answer the fundamental questions of existence.
Just as the Hatfield's and McCoy's were hurt by being isolated from innovative
outside thought, so are we men and women hurt by being isolated in such
a quest for a full and meaningful relationship. We need to have others
around us who know there is more to life than the old idea of money, safety
and sex. We need to be in a community of others who will support
us (as we support them) in going beyond just treating the initial symptoms
of missing "safety, sex, and pleasure" when we don't have a relationship;
to encouraging our success in meeting all of our human needs.
Eric N. Best, Ph.D. (C) Copyright October 4, 2000
The Mariposa Group
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Some ideas on cross gender relationships since that in part is what we
are about here. People can come together on different "levels":
PHYSICAL CONNECTION / SEX:
wonderful, uplifting element of some relationships. Empowering, energizing,
at the same time relaxing and soothing. Marvelous stuff. Yet
if that is all there is in a relationship, it will last at most about 6
months. (1 or possibly 2 years if we are really young, the sex is
red hot and nothing else comes along to distract either of us.)
2) EMOTIONAL CONNECTION:
good side: Snuggling at night, the best of companionship in a general
sense, having someone else there, sharing of laughter, life, experiences,
etc. The not so good side in terms of emotional immaturity;
hand in glove, reverse compatibilities. My short comings fit right
into your strengths and vice versa. We are dependent upon each other
in a clinging sense. If the relationship fits into this last category,
it will typically last (being vital) about 4 to 6 years at most.
If the emotional connection is all there is, the people may still be there
after 6 years, but the vitality has long vanished.
3) MENTAL CONNECTION:
share the same values, the same goals, or we have the same "purpose".
Then the relationship has the potential for lasting (being vital) for a
life time. No guarantee, but the potential is there. Many people
will have the same goal of raising their kids. But when the last
of the kids is out of the nest, the marriage falls apart. It's goal
has been accomplished. Others will run a family business or support
their particular religious or political doctrine. These are examples
of mental connections that may carry the relationship fully for a lifetime.
4) BEYOND THE MENTAL :
Perhaps this is where the ultimate potential of community really lies with regard to relationship. It's "goal" or "purpose" is the creation of a total environment (physical, social, emotional, and mental) which supports each person in discovering and developing all aspects of themselves. It honors and helps to bring forth the deepest and the highest elements of our being without denying the basic elements; it helps the process of integrating these basic needs such that they support the natural unfoldment of our highest aspects. In this, without any reference to religiosity, it might well be called spiritual.
[ Many people will tend to think of a 'spiritual' perspective on or about "love" as necessarily moving beyond "sex" or shared "emotions" for example. That's not the case. A spiritual perspective simply integrates sex and emotions into a larger, more complete arena. And if your focus right now is on shared sexual ecstasy for example, you will find nothing greater than that which is experienced at this last level of interaction where ALL aspects of your being can truly merge and flow with another! ]
task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find
soul rises to lips, you feel the kiss you have wanted.
July 11, 2002
It's always interesting (and pleasing) when scientific research catches up to and confirms a meditative/intuitive level of understanding. Here's some research confirming the validity of common goals in long term, successful relationships. [ Perhaps in another 10 or 20 years (with our help?) science will be able to confirm the value of the Level 4: Real Community type of connection in relationship success. ]
One of the keys to a long
and loving relationship
may lie in the way you support your mate's goals.
A recent study found a correlation between the degree of support couples demonstrated toward each person's individual goals and the success of their bond. People who perceived a high level of support for their personal goals were more likely to be satisfied with the quality of their relationship, compared to people who felt little support.
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LOVERS, FRIENDS & COMMUNITY:
"Nothing is less like friendship than a love affair. Lovers are normally face to face absorbed in each other; friends are side by side absorbed in some common interest. Above all eros while it lasts, is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the number necessary for friendship, is not even the best."
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SO ... WHAT ABOUT SEX !!??
Where does the ever present issue of "sex" fit in with real community?
If C.S. Lewis (above) is correct
with his "Nothing is
less like friendship than a love affair";
what do we do with this delightful, powerful and yet seemingly fickle human
energy called sexuality when it comes to sustaining successful relationships?
Our experience is that real friendship based upon both compassionately sharing your truths and common purpose(s) creates a "bed" where sexuality constantly and wonderfully blooms anew.
"There are two questions a man
must ask himself: The first is 'Where
am I going?' and the second is 'Who will go with me?' If you ever
get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble."
As Howard Thurman suggests, it seems the greatest key to relationship success (for either a man or a woman) lies in finding your own passionate "purpose" in life and then finding those who are headed in the same direction.
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