A Guide to Mature and Whole Relationships
By Ofer Zur, Ph.D., and Sam Keen, Ph.D.
Based, in part, on bestselling author Sam Keen's book
To Love And Be Loved
The Basics: Love 101
- Attention: A choice to focus on your lover. To attend to your partner with selfless, but not obsessive or excessive attention. To notice what mood s/he is in. To be aware of your partner's pain, struggles, hopes, accomplishments, and disappointments. To put your concerns on hold while attending to him/her.
- Showing Up: A commitment to present your authentic self to your partner. To reveal your true feelings with dignity and respect, despite the risk of rejection or disappointment. To be the real you, starting now, even if your own voice is buried beneath years of silence and retreat. To know that true happiness in relationships requires self-revelation.
- Biographical Knowledge: A non-judgmental biographical quest. To get to know your lover's past. To study the other as an anthropologist would study a remote and mysterious tribe. To dedicate yourself to extensive and attentive listening. To probe by asking questions. To develop an historical understanding of the forces and events that have shaped your mate's life. To understand his-story or her-story.
- Empathy: A discipline of seeing and understanding the world through your lover's eyes. To put yourself in your spouse's shoes. To make sense of your mate's world by adopting his or her perspective. To learn and practice the skills of emotional understanding.
- Dependency: Recognizing it is part of our genetic makeup to depend upon and need the person closest to us. To know both partners are responsible for ensuring the emotional well-being of the other. To develop the relationship as a secure base which supports both partners' full engagement in life.
- Cultivating Sexual Connection: Nurturing deep, passionate interest in each other through a lifestyle of cherishing and prioritizing the relationship. To cultivate emotional intimacy as the basis of erotic pleasure. To strive for deeply connected sexual experiences rather than tolerating impersonal, fundamentally distant encounters. To view sexual dissatisfaction as a barometer of declining emotional intimacy and a call to relationship action.
- Constructive Conflict: A promise to fight fair. To face arguments, disagreements and conflicts creatively. To understand that those who argue well, love well. To fight without desiring to win, or to destroy the other. To disagree without physical or emotional brutality, name calling, threats, residual resentment or withholding love, sex or money. To appreciate your partner's position. To comprehend that several realities and truths can co-exist simultaneously and, paradoxically, that warring parties can simultaneously both be right.
- Renewal: A commitment to start over and over again. To endure the hard times. To learn to rebuild trust and affection after falling out of love. To resolve, heal, forgive, and forget, and move on. To work through the difficulties; the extra-marital affair, illness, the death of a child, poverty. To meet the true challenge of a good marriage--when we fall out of love and into reality and then to begin again and again.
- Care: Acts of kindness and support--not just thoughts, or feelings. To offer real, tangible, and generous support to your lover. To help unselfishly. To actively encourage your lover's emotional, physical, and/or spiritual growth.
- Appreciation: Expressions of gratitude. To say "thank you" for what your lover does, provides, enables, or supports. To say it often. To be aware of the other's contributions and efforts. To recognize the ways your lover shows his/her dedication to the relationship.
- Repentance: A desire to atone. To feel remorse and ask for forgiveness when your words or behavior have hurt your partner. To say "I'm sorry!" as often as needed. Not only to express sincere regret for any pain or anguish you inflict on your lover, but also make a commitment to change your behavior.
- Absolution: A willingness to forgive. To let go of resentments. To replace anger, rage, and disappointment with tolerance. To "agree to disagree."
- Reality Check: A practice of asking yourself regularly what are the strengths in the relationship. Doing this even more frequently when times are tough and the negatives loom large and even threaten the relationship. Conversely, to admit to negatives in the relationship that you may prefer to ignore.
The Lover's (Prerequisite) Essentials
- Self-knowledge: A journey of self-exploration. To know and understand yourself. To strive to be conscious of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. To identify, and reflect on your state of mind, your motives and desires, your hopes and disappointments. To acquire the skill of "watching your thoughts." To practice the discipline of self-awareness.
- Balance: Acts of wholeness. To find a healthy equilibrium between the forces and desires that operate on us and within us. To juggle solitude and society, work and play, giving and getting, consolidation and innovation and openness and skepticism. To seek a balance between embracing and celebrating creatively and energetically our lives and accepting our mortality.
- The Lover's Personal Investments
- a. In Your Emotions: To engage in understanding your emotional life. To name and appropriately express your feelings from joy to despair, fear to love, trust to jealousy. To strive to know the causes (internal vs. external and past vs present) of these feelings.
- b. In Your Body: To nourish your physical being. To attend to your diet and life style. To exercise regularly. To guard your health. To accept your physical appearance regardless of the cultural norms.
- c. In Your Friendships: To love and be loved by others other than your spouse. To take the pressure off your lover by developing close, non-sexual, meaningful relationships with other people from whom you can receive love and criticism.
- d. In Your Family: To spend significant and quality time with your spouse, children, parents, grandparents and other blood relatives--feasting, talking, playing, reading, vacationing, camping, being together. To model to your children how to be a moral and ethical person.
- e. In Your Community: To contribute and volunteer in your community. To appreciate and encourage cultural diversity. To participate in a variety of communal activities through the schools, support groups, the business community, political events, and recreational clubs or sports.
- f. In Politics: To be concerned and act towards bettering the community at large. To engage in traditional political activism or non-traditional form of politics. To make known your concerns and opinions about communal, regional, national, and international affairs.
- g. In Nature: To recognize your bond with the natural world. To feel the dirt under your feet, the wind in your hair or the stars up above. To strengthen or re-establish your connection to the Earth. To take personal responsibility for your consumption habits and for the ecological health of the Earth.
- h. In Your Ethics and Morality: To wrestle with moral questions and have integrity at home, work and in the world. To become a critical thinker who examines carefully all norms, mores, rules and laws. To examine your personal behavior from ethical and moral perspectives. To look at the state of social justice, and express concerns about racism, sexism, animal abuse, political oppression etc.
- i. In Your Aesthetics: To explore and appreciate beauty, and harmonious order in your personal life and in the world. Investing in visual, olfactory, aural, tactile aesthetics.
- j. In Your Solitude: A solitary communion. A private time and place where you do not have to respond to your beloved or anyone else. A time to contemplate, be aware, be quiet, meditate or pray.
- k. In Your Vocation: To identify your calling. To assess your gifts and talents, your likes and dislikes, and your strengths and weaknesses. To connect your life's work to your personal conviction about what the world needs.
- l. In Your Spirit: To tend to your soul. To wonder about the mysteries of life and human nature and the great questions of purpose and meaning. Practice your spirituality through (non cultish) organized religion, your meditative practice, or simply by the way you live.
Community Connection: To debunk the myths of family self-sufficiency that the nuclear family must or can provides economic, physical, and emotional self-sustenance. To end familial isolation and the constant relocation of families to new communities. To position the family in the midst of neighbors, friends, mentors, and guides.
Support: A source of help. To call on trusted elders, friends, or consultants to provide the kind of help once available from wise grandmothers, grandfathers, tribal elders, family doctors, priests, rabbis, etc.. To eradicate the idea that families must solve all their problems on their own. To seek periodic help or 'tune-ups' for the marriage or family relationships especially during critical developmental junctures--the birth of a child, adolescence, mid-life crisis, illness or death in the family, relocation, retirement.
The Community of Care: Love 202
Sensuality: A celebration of the senses. To be gentle and attentive to your lover. To open all the senses to the sensual experience. To smell, non sexual touch, taste, see, and hear your mate--and not only during moments of sexual intimacy. To expand the lover's connection.
Sex: A more-than-physical act. To focus on openness and vulnerability, not only carnal lust. Not about techniques, positions, scores or frequency. To seek a physical and spiritual union through sex. To lose the self in the other. To feel united for a precious moment before we return to our separated state.
Romance: A lover's gift. To make romance the path to connection, not necessarily orgasm. To express your attention through candles, poems, flowers, dates, cards, gifts, and longing gazes. To celebrate the attraction you feel toward your partner through attention and planning.
Adoration: A passionate admiration. To admire selflessly and realistically. To fully express this deep appreciation to your lover. It is the feeling of being lucky to be in your lover's presence.
Sympathy: An ability to resonate. To tune-in, or spontaneously respond to your partner. To vibrate in harmony like two strings on a guitar.
Desire: A fire of passion. To yearn, hunger or crave for connection. To long for union. To fall in love is to burn in the fire of desire, to stay in love is to attend and rekindle the fire as the years roll by.
Sexuality: Love 1-on-1
Waking Up: Evaluating and acknowledging your level of happiness in the relationship. To share this information with your partner, even if difficult. To know that a relationship that habitually undermines self-confidence or peace of mind is good for neither partner. To treat a loss of happiness as a wake-up call.
Attachment: Understanding the role attachment styles play in adult relationships. To know that intimacy needs vary based on attachment patterns. To identify your and your partner's primary attachment style (anxious/avoidant/anxious-avoidant/secure). To take attachment styles into account while navigating difficult relationship waters.
Storytelling: A gift from the past. To relate the tales of the day. To gather around the dinner table and share your triumphs and failures of the day and to re-tell old stories, hopefully, better each time.
Co-Creation: An expression of creative unity. To celebrate the fertility and growth which evolves from your union--the children, but also the dreams, the homes, the journeys, the crises, the gardens that you make together. To grow together in ways you would never have been able to grow alone.
Devotion: A selfless dedication. To show ardent and selfless attention to the other. To continually replenish the cup of commitment, and offer it to your lover.
Sacrifice: A willingness to suffer for the sake of your mate. To be ready to give up your happiness to ensure your lover's. To offer of yourself without resentment or expectation of anything in return.
Bliss: A blessing. To transcend individual joy in moments of mutual ecstasy and serenity.
Compassion: A loving instinct. To instantaneously feel for your lover's pain and suffering. To feel without necessarily knowing or understanding the sources of your partner's distress. To be open-hearted and let your compassionate love flow.
Beyond the Essentials: Love 1000+
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