Enduring love, romance, and intimacy can provide nourishment in ways that even the healthiest diet cannot. Read on and hang on tight to love.
1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.
2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.
3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.” – Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker
Love and marriage used to be so simple…
You could expect to marry young, start popping out kids in your teens, and go toe up by your 30’s. Relationships were a veritable breeze. Short, sweet, and over before you knew it – just like a ride at the amusement park.
These days however relationships and marriage are in a state of crisis, with over 50% of all marriages ending in divorce. People are living longer and thus partnerships that would have lasted only a couple decades can now expect to go on for forty, fifty, even sixty years. IF they can make it that long, and let’s face it, a lot don’t.
The trouble with people living longer, and their relationships lasting longer, is that we haven’t adapted our relationship skills to keep our relationships thriving over the long haul.
This reminds me of a cactus I used to have in the windowsill of my apartment in NYC. Cactus’ are a very resilient plant they can survive harsh desert storms and go without rain for months on end. When I first got my Cactus I loved it, watered it, changed its pot, put it out in the sunlight. But after awhile I forgot about it. It turned brown and looked half-dead for years, eventually I just threw it away because I got tired of looking at this sickly looking poo colored plant. That’s how most of us approach our relationships. They are great at first and we derive a lot of pleasure from them, but eventually they lose their luster because we don’t know how to keep them healthy and moreover, we don’t know how to get back to feeling about them the way we did at the beginning. So we chuck them…and for most of us… the cycle repeats.
Enduring love, romance, and intimacy can provide nourishment in ways that even the healthiest diet cannot. Healthy food is really just one means of nourishing ourselves. As people we also have a primal need and hunger for touch, romance, play, intimacy and unconditional love. The energy that healthy, positive, loving relationships provide feeds us far beyond what any fruit and veggie can do.
People in happy long-term relationships live up to 15 years longer than those who are single, and studies find them to be happier, healthier, younger looking. So if nothing else, a good relationship will increase your sexiness!
Just this past weekend I heard this world famous couples therapist Harville Hendrix speak at a conference about how to make our most intimate relationships last, not just last but be fulfilling, exciting, and full of juice after a rupture, or neglect, or betrayal.
He opened his lecture by showing us a video of a mother and her child. In the first part of the video the mother is engaging her baby in play and they are working together, pointing to things excitedly in the room and interacting joyously. The baby is cooing, smiling, and happy. Then the therapist instructs the mother to look away from the baby and not respond to her. What happens next was heart-breaking. The baby tries desperately to get her Mother’s attention, becomes very anxious and fearful, then upset , then angry and lets loose a series of high pitched screams. Finally the therapist tells the Mother to engage with the baby again, and all at once the good feelings, the cooing and the happy baby returns.
This, in a nutshell, is how most relationships work – with one exception- the majority of us do not know how to get back to the good, happy, relationship after a rupture. A rupture can be anything from neglect to a betrayal like lying, infidelity, or a lack of emotional support. Everything goes great in the beginning of relationships, that’s easy peasy, but when our partner is no longer actively engaged in curious communication, play, and building trust in a relationship, the other person usually behaves in a crazy way to get their partner to engage the way they once did.
The trouble is for those of us who had that ruptured relationship early on by parents who neglected, abandoned, or abused them – who often go on to take their resentments, hurts, and abandonments out on their adult partners, both fearing and expecting them to repeat the rupture their parents inflicted on them. Some of them avoid relationships altogether, others sabotage them, and still others re-create the same unhappy dynamics they experienced as children.
“We like to think that we have free choice when it comes to picking a partner,” Harville Hendrix explained. “In fact, subconsciously we choose someone —who resembles one of our parents in positive as well as negative ways.” No matter how wonderful those caretakers were, he explains, they weren’t perfect. As a result, we all have old emotional wounds and unmet needs that stay with us for years. We assume that the person we love will help us rewrite the script, soothe those hurt feelings and satisfy all those missing needs — and in the beginning, they often do. But as time goes by, couples become gridlocked in power struggles large and small that can simmer for decades.”
So how do happy couples do it? How do we flip the switch on our relationships and get them moving forward again? What qualities do happy couples have and what behaviors do they regularly engage in that makes their love last while most of us flounder at our attempts at enduring love?
A single guy named Nate Bagely started a Kickstarter on a quest to find out just that and spent his life savings to traverse the whole of the United States interviewing couples in happy, long term relationships.
“I’ve interviewed gay couples, straight couples, rich couples, poor couples, religious couples, atheist couples, couples who have been together for a short time, and couples who have been together for over 70 years,” he said in his Ask Me Anything. “I’ve even interviewed couples in arranged marriages and polygamous couples.”
On the key things that make a relationship successful:
“This was actually one of the most surprising things I learned on the journey.
Self Love: The happiest couples always consisted of two (sometimes more) emotionally healthy and independently happy individuals. These people practiced self-love. They treated themselves with the same type of care that they treated their partner… or at least they tried to.
Emotionally healthy people know how to forgive, they are able to acknowledge their part in any disagreement or conflict and take responsibility for it. They are self-aware enough to be assertive, to pull their weight, and to give love when it’s most difficult.
Commitment: After that emotional health came an unquestioning level of commitment. The happiest couples knew that if shit got real, their significant other wasn’t going to walk out on them. They knew that even if things got hard – no, especially if things got hard — they were better off together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
Trust: Happy couples trust each other… and they have earned each others’ trust. They don’t worry about the other person trying to undermine them or sabotage them, because they’ve proven over and over again that they are each other’s biggest advocate. That trust is built through actions, not words. It’s day after day after day of fidelity, service, emotional security, reliability.
Establish that foundation, and you’re in good shape.
Intentionality: This is the icing on the cake. There’s a difference between the couple who drives through the rainstorm and the couple who pulls their car to the side of the road to make out in the rain. (Yes, that’s a true story.) There’s a difference between the couple who kisses for 10 seconds or longer when they say goodbye to each other rather than just giving each other a peck… or nothing at all. There’s a difference between the couples who encourage each other to pursue their personal goals at the expense of their own discomfort or inconvenience… even if it means their partner has to stage kiss another woman.
The couples who try on a daily basis to experience some sort of meaningful connection, or create a fun memory are the couples who shattered my perception of what was possible in a loving relationship.”
On the best advice he was given:
“One woman in Georgia gave some pretty amazing advice. She and and her husband have been married for over 60 years, and after being asked what her best relationship advice would be, she paused and said…
‘Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.’”
On the best way to solve disagreements:
“Resolving disagreements was one of the topics that came up the most.
Here’s what I learned:
Don’t Fight To Win: A huge number of couples talked about how they didn’t fight against each other. I mean, if you’re in love, you should be playing for the same team. Your goal should be to resolve the issue, not to emerge victorious over the love of your life… and let’s be honest, you just feel guilty when you win anyway.
Seek to Understand: If you’re having a hard time playing on the same team, stop fighting and instead try to understand why your partner is upset. Typically what’s being talked about isn’t the real issue. People are inherently bad at being vulnerable, especially in threatening situations. Be willing to ask sincere questions. Let the answers sink in. If she is complaining that you’re spending too much time at work, maybe the real issue is that she misses you, and wants to feel connected with you. Rather than arguing about how you’re providing for the family, and she needs to respect how hard you work, try to listen to what she’s really saying. Then hold her. Come home early one day, and surprise her with a date, or some special one-on-one time. Reassure her that she, and your relationship, are a priority for you. If you don’t want that same issue to arise again, keep investing in the solution.
Just Be Nice To Each Other Seriously. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t call names. Don’t take jabs. Don’t try to hurt the other person. Argue naked if it helps… but just be kind and civil ad respectful. It will prevent so many bad things from happening.”
And Nate’s favorite quote from all the interviews:
“At the end of Ty’s life, I want him to be able to say, ‘Terri was the greatest earthly blessing in my life — the best thing that ever happened to me — and that I’m a better man because of how she loved me.’ And that’s the goal that I live with every day. That’s how I want to love this man.”
Happy, healthy relationships are what we all aspire to whether we know it or not. We all need love, trust, curious communication and support on our journeys as humans. I hope this will inspire you to work towards building or re-building that meaningful relationship in your life.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
That I am not on anyone else’s life timeline and that my life is unfolding exactly as it should and when I am truly ready for it.
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
My ability to love and nurture those around me. I have always been big hearted and I love sharing my heart with those who matter most such as my family, my friends, my boyfriend.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
Anytime I am able to share my work as an artist, actress and writer with people. It is especially moving when it is meaningful for them.
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I am very open to the world which some would say is good, others would say I need to be more protective of that vulnerability.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)
Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?
Willingness to keep my heart open to the world, to new experiences, people and joys.