By Stacy Bremner, MA, RP
Have you ever struggled in your marriage or intimate partnership and wondered why?
Have you ever had relationship expectations that were not fulfilled?
If so, you are not alone. In our society we enter into a romantic partnership, with hopes and expectations for great love and need fulfilment, and then become disillusioned when our dreams are not fulfilled. We then think we are with “the wrong person” and that, “there must be someone better out there”. Fifty percent of all first marriages end. And the divorce rate for second and third marriages is even higher. Why is that?
We are taught that “compatibility is the grounds for marriage”, and we think that we become unhappy because we are incompatible. Yet why does this happen when we started out so well? How could we be so happy in the beginning and why can’t that happiness stay?
Love and marriage is not really what we think it is. Nature has a plan that we are not aware of, and we set ourselves up for failure by believing that the initial Romance is LOVE.
So if Real Love is not Romance, what is it?
Real Love is actually the third stage of relationship. The first stage is Romance or Infatuation. The second stage is the Power Struggle, which is unavoidable, and has a purpose. The third stage is Real Love, and we can experience that once we figure out how to get through the Power Struggle without breaking up!
Let’s look at these stages in greater detail: Nature gets us paired up in the beginning with all the exhilaration of attraction, infatuation, and romance. We feel so good together because our brain makes us feel so good! Our brain releases that “Love Potion Number 9” in response to our anticipation that “we have just met the person who is going to take better care of us than mom or dad ever could!” We become high on our own brain chemistry and feel the exhilaration of bonding through our similarities, as Nature intended, to perpetuate the species. But we often make a commitment while in the romance stage. Why wouldn’t we? We feel so wonderful together!
Yet once a commitment is made, the love drugs start to wear off. We think we have the perfect person, and now we sit back and expect our needs will be met. But in Stage 2, The Power Struggle, we come face to face with our differences in a mate. We might be shocked, fearful, or let down, and the differences begin to cause arguments. And there are many things to argue about. Our top 4 favorites include household chores, finances, parenting, and sex. We tend to stubbornly present our ideas and opinions and reject the wisdom of the partner. There are reasons for this, and the key point here is that while we want to be married to someone just like us, because that would feel so easy, we actually NEED the differences so we can grow a part of ourselves. The incompatibilities create a wonderful tension that gives us a growth opportunity as Nature intended.
Couplehood is not designed to bring us peace and happiness; it is designed to push us forward into growth! If we actually chose a partner who was just like us we would be so bored we would leave.
So, as we learn about Nature’s agenda, and we open up to the idea of growth, we can become less stubborn and dug-in. For example, if my spouse says, “I want you to be on time”, or “I would like more affection”, I will listen, and work to stretch into those things. Our efforts to stretch help us to become more whole and more complete as a “self”. Plus, we can feel good that we are meeting an important need of our Beloved. After all, aren’t we in a relationship with a person we say we love? The growth and compromise from both sides can contribute to True Love, and a greater feeling of connection, which is the third stage of relationship, and our ultimate destination.