We live in a world where ‘love’ is questioned or even mistrusted; where the concept of marriage and long term committed partnerships are under scrutiny as being archaic sociological structures for the pursuit of power and control, or at least as a vehicle to ensure an ease of meeting certain needs. Is it any doubt then that relationships are seen as traps and marriage as the old “ball and chain”? Psychology and the “spiritual revolution” reveres the individual and extolling self-love and resolving your own “projections” as the solution to happiness and self-fulfilment, ultimately further entrenching societies move to isolation as we become more and more engrossed in our virtual worlds and inner psyches. In days gone by we lived in large communities, with many people lovingly being connected and supporting one another, however today some are even lucky if they get to live in a community of two.
However, what if the key to ultimate personal growth, personal satisfaction and long term happiness is found in these very relationships which are feared and questioned? What if ultimate freedom is found within the structure of commitment?
Our loving relationships are a dynamic dyad of interrelatedness. A partnership of two people where we are able to love and be loved. Where we can share, grow and co-create with another whilst being supported and support. Where we can nurture each other and ourselves to live our fullest potential, thriving in an environment of sexual intimacy and trust. Allowing our relationships to become places of safety. Not safety from the security worries of the world with our attachments to material possessions, but a place of safety where we can really open our hearts and allow ourselves to both see and be seen by another. To let another in to our inner landscapes, where we can share our dreams and desires and embrace the journey of life with a friend and partner at our side. A place of safety where we can remove and take rest from the weight of the armour of our personal defences. Where we can simply be ourselves, and be loved and accepted in that with complete satisfaction of intimate communion and sexual expression.
Yet, it doesn’t take much to realize that the majority of relationships are not experienced in this way. That many of us feel very dissatisfied, frustrated and even lonely in our relationships. That we get lost in emotional struggles and elaborate power games as we seek to feel heard and understood; while we seek to meet our needs for emotional connection, stability and security.
Dr Bowlby (1907-1990), a British psychologist was key in his work of childhood development and secure attachment parenting. His work however has been continued and many studies have been conducted to extend secure attachment beyond childhood into our adult relationships. It has been found that when lovers feel secure with their partners they are better able to ask for and receive support; they have greater ease with inevitable relationship conflict and are less aggressively hostile; partners feel more empowered and understand and like themselves more and then surprisingly so, the more partners felt they could reach out to their partners and that their needs were accepted, the more confident they became at solving their own problems and being separate and independent.1
Where we do not allow for the attachment bonds with our partners, or where we avoid our inevitable “neediness” is when we either become anxious and neurotically pursue and chase our partners for affection and affirmation or we avoid our partners and ourselves in the denial of our own emotional needs through a plethora of avoidance strategies…. And so the cat and mouse game of intimate relationships ensues. Ultimately rendering no-one a winner and everyone a loser.
They say that the first step towards change is awareness. Being able to see and acknowledge that perhaps our emotional and relational lives could be improved. To discover the space between; the space where we join and co-create our dreams and desires for intimacy and connection. The space where we are both seen and heard. The space where we can share and grow with one another. The place where we are both winners.
The path to intimacy can be scary. It can be exposing and threatening, yet ultimately bestowing the greatest rewards both to ourselves and everyone that we encounter. It is the ultimate hero’s journey.
And thus, as much as the hero’s journey is a personal and individual path, it is never without the necessary and guided support. Seeking and asking for support is integral in the journey of self and relationship. We are often too close to our own selves and to our situations to really see the dance that we are dancing. It takes the value of the witness, to reflect and guide, in order to transform the dance to something of great beauty.
In May 2015, I will be hosting a two-day couples retreat near Cape Town giving couples an opportunity to engage in a facilitated process of deepening intimacy with one another through compassion and understanding. To support their journey, no matter what point they already are in this life-process, through another layer, another moment. To find out more about this event please view here or alternatively please if you would like to know more about how I could possibly support you.
Source: Johnson, S, 2008, Hold me Tight, Little Brown and Company (USA)