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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why Marriage Matters

The July, 2009 issue of Time magazine published an essay by Caitlin Flanagan titled, "Why Marriage Matters." According to Ms. Flanagan, "marriage can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world--or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children."

Ms. Flanagan reminds us in the past 40 years the American family has changed profoundly. She refers to Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin in his book,"The Marriage Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today" who says the difference between contemporary American families and those of other nations is their combination of frequent marriage, frequent divorce and the high number of short-term cohabiting relationships which creates a coming and going of partners. This lack of commitment creates hardship and hurts children.

People today still hope to be married forever, to still be loved and cherished as we grow old. We want to achieve a soul mate relationship, but are we willing to do the work and make the sacrifice it takes? Those of us who have been together fifty plus years will tell you it is well worth the effort. Our family gets together because we delight in each other's company. We feel loved by each other and by our children and grandchildren. We are experiencing the payoff of years of sacrifice and hard work. Aging is without question the most difficult stage of life. Love of family gives us the strength to accept the losses. Family matters!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You Believe in Soul Mate Relationships?

On April 25, 2008 I wrote a post on "What is a Soul Mate?"
Here it is:

I was asked by a radio interviewer to define soul mates. That was easy. A soul mate is someone who knows you very well and likes you anyway. A soul mate sees your strengths and discounts your weaknesses. A soul mate accepts you just as you are without any changes. A soul mate believes in you.

Acceptance empowers, encourages, comforts. It is the greatest gift one person can give another. No wonder so many people search for a soul mate. Not many realize they have to learn how to be one.

Recently some relationship experts discussed the question, "Do you believe in soul mates?" Elisa Mecco kindly gave me permission to post her comment. "My husband and I are licensed soul mates according to Dan's criteria. We have also been to hell and back and supported each other through adversities of every sort. We are closer as time goes, we take responsibility, we have worked hard at our relationship and still work out everything that life throws at us together. We love each other more deeply every day. We enjoy each other's company more than the company of anyone else. We enjoy the company of the same friends and we have many real friends. We miss each other in a calm and serene way when we are not together. We are excited about each other after all these years. We believe in each other being well aware of the other's imperfections and limitations. We can and do tell each other everything. I believe this is possible because we are different in more superficial aspects (and we complement each other), but we are similar in the deeper aspects of what really is meaningful in life, what makes sense to do, what are our priorities and values. We have a strong spiritual connection. We both try to help others, find the deepest gratification in giving, in empowering others. This has often gotten us in financial difficulties because there is always someone who needs help and a cause to support. Somehow we always manage to get out of it and we don't let it get us down.We have learned to do without. We grow together and try to help others do the same."

Later Elisa added a postscript:
"This is the result of hard work, understanding, patience, trust, and unconditional love.It wasn't anything like what you see in romantic movies, no love at first sight, actually a solid friendship and mutual understanding on important matters was the foundation. My husband and I have been giving each other the space and support to be ourselves to manifest and actualize the essence of our beings.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Competition for Power in Relationships

Who Has the Power in Your Relationship?

An interesting part of the struggle in relationships is the denial of the competition all couples face in deciding the many things that mates must decide. Where to live? Whose job is most important?  Do we rent or buy? Who manages the money? Who does what to run the household? Do we have children and if so, how many? The list goes on and on.

Because of the denial that all of these decisions involve power, people unconsciously compensate by engaging in subtle behavior to maintain their own self-preservation. Some conservative Christians, for example, emphasize Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians to women to be submissive to their husbands. They don't include the advice to men to love their wives as they love themselves and to couples to be submissive to each other. Women who try to follow this rule usually become skilled at manipulating to get what they need to hang on to themselves.

Some men make their mates their mother. Someone once said, "When you make your wife your mother, you have to get a girl friend." Many women complain that they resent feeling like a mother to their husbands. I have had a number of women in counseling tell me, "I feel like I have three children instead of two" or whatever the numbers are.

For a relationship to become a soul mate relationship, the couple must feel they are equals. They must be willing to learn how to resolve conflict and to focus on each other's strengths. They need to recognize their own denial that there is competition between them and be willing to identify the frustration of being unable to always get what they want. If they can communicate those feelings without blame and learn from each other, their love will grow.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Desire for Intimacy

Desire for Intimacy Depends on Different Levels of Differentiation

According to Dr. David Schnarch, expert on spirituality and sex, desire for intimacy depends on different levels of spirituality. He divides spirituality into two levels. Level one is childlike: a reflected sense of worth, other validated intimacy and desire out of emptiness. Level two is mature: internalized sense of worth, self-validated intimacy, and desire out of fullness.

It is a sophisticated way to say. "People who have more poker chips are willing to risk more." People who have childlike needs focus on themselves and what they need while people who have internalized their sense of worth are focusing on the joy of giving to another. They don't worry about losing what they have.

The joy in a mature relationship comes from being able to share with one's lover what comes from overflow in themselves. They do not fear closeness or of losing who they are. The closeness becomes the validation that increases their sense of self and the differentiation from any other person. Two people in relationship who have become mature evolve into the soul mate relationship most people look for.