A Zen Theory of Relationships
Noreen and I have a theory about the way in which relationships work.
There are a number of possible scenarios which may get played out in any relationship. These are shown in the ladder on the right.
Any successful, lasting (and we assume, sexual) relationship probably has some of all of those, and the two parties drop in an out of the roles at appropriate (or even more spicily, inappropriate) times. The higher up this scale is the relationship, the greater the degree of bonding. You probably have to be well on the way to lover-lover before you will let the other person sufficiently into your physical and mental space to fully develop the elements involving parent and child. (I suspect that carers are probably an exception to this, and this could be one reason why caring is so stressful.)
Actually, thinking about it, we've concluded that lover-lover relationships probably often develop as adult-adult, then friend-friend, then child-child (which is the play part of any relationship), probably then lover-lover, with the others being filled in later.
Less fulfilled and rounded, less complete, relationships will be missing some of the rungs of the ladder, probably from the top down.
For instance, a deep friendship will probably not have the lover-lover level, and maybe some or all of the parent and child elements. Working relationships tend to be largely adult-adult, but may have a greater or lesser element of friend-friend.
Relationships which are only lover-lover may be great as one night stands, affairs or for pure lust (nothing wrong with that as long as you know what you're doing) but will probably not survive long-term.
It's probably the parent-child and parent-parent levels which provide the glue (porridge is Noreen's word) of doing mundane things (like washing the dishes, together) and which really binds a relationship.
And probably where a long-term relationship has gone slightly flat or stagnated, it is missing one (or more) of the key elements: probably lover-lover, friend-friend, child-child or sibling-sibling, as, once achieved, the others are more easily maintained at a more mundane level, I think.
What is interesting is that this accords reasonably well with the view expressed by Margo Woods in her book Masturbation, Tantra and Self Love (Omphaloskepsis Press, San Diego, 1981) where she says:
Another reason relationships fail is that we try to make them the center of our lives. I would like to suggest that a passionate relationship is a corner, one fourth of the relatedness of a human being.
There are four archetypes of relationship:
2) Passionate beloved
4) Self/creative work, vocation/health
What happens to us when we fall in love is that we neglect everything else and get rid of everything which interferes with the relationship, because "love (romantic love) is all we need".
We need all four forms of relatedness. Just as we feel lost without a lover, we feel lost or incomplete when we have no creative work, poor relationships with our parents or children, or no friends.
Sites about Personal Development and Relationships
- Interpesonal Relationships on Wikipedia
- Knapp's Relational Development Model on Wikipedia
- NLP Information Center