Sunday, August 24, 2008


I don't write about my relationships, as a rule. Rather, I don't publish. (smile)

It's partly because to try to describe something so multidimensional is so much work. Words fall flat. If I'm praising or celebrating something good, it seems simplistic to me. If I'm complaining it is just poor taste.

So I don't.

But most of what we do each day revolves around working with other people. Colleagues, spouses and partners, children, the clerk at the lunch counter.

If we come into a relationship with our best selves, we may get to discover our full selves - more of who we are - if we are serious about the splunking that relationships cause.

Not many people are.

I've always been one to push myself in a big way. This took some thirty odd years to acknowledge, but it bears noting, as it is a big part of the way I am wired.

This makes me difficult to live with, at times, even for me.

Pushing forward is both helpful and can be harmful in intimate relationships. Just like we don't insist our children potty train, anymore, or demand that they walk when we are ready, we have to learn how to support each other when we are working up close and personal.

I once heard a family specialist (or maybe a dear friend) described siblings as the great motivators for younger kids. The little ones go thru periods of developmental challenges and get bratty and intolerable for a few weeks or months. The parents are (hopefully) duly supportive and set good limits. Older brothers and sisters, in the meantime, have little patience and are prone to using Kid Rules - age-old ways to make your point, such as "Too bad.", "Get over it." and loving smack down arguments, if not flat out wrestling or careening thru the house and yard.

The expert noted that this helps younger kids get thru their learning curves, motivates them, pushes them. And it isn't all bad, tho it's tough to watch the dynamics as a parent, sometimes. It's also hard for me to watch my dogs try to work out their roles in the pack (with growls and bites and even fights), but this is how they are wired, so I tolerate as much as I can stand.

In our intimate relationships we also push each other and often end up in conflict - we push limits, boundaries, and for more good stuff. We want so much from marriages and LTRs (long term relationships) that it is sort of comical, when you think about it.

My grandparents didn't put up with a lot of shenanigans, (my great grandmother got divorced around 1919, way before it was acceptable) but they didn't expect to be "fulfilled" by a spouse, tho they may have hoped for as much. They expected tough times to come around, and expected to weather them as well as possible. They were aware of their place in the long history of human progress, and expected to be a part of that, for their children and grandchildren. As we all know, they built things to last.

Without over-romaticizing the early part of the last century, which is so common, also note that the balance of power was different.

Recently I read something about power, in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Someone was debriefing survivors of the Cambodian atrocities, and found that what these severely traumatized people wanted to talk about came down to two questions: Who is in charge, and How much do you love me?

If this is true, that these are two of our most fundamental concerns, then isn't it interesting that they are brought together in a committed relationship? There are power struggles and there are "love struggles".

Happy couples figure this stuff out early on and never look back - simple. They find some balance of power and are secure in the love they share (which takes a lot of work) and yeah, live happily ever after.

The rest of us, most of us, wonder if we can achieve that, and then set to work finding the "right" person, being in love and courting, bump up against hard issues and either track into some semblance of peace and raprochement, or we clatter along, neither completely unhappy nor happy, and then others go off the rails and end it, sooner or later.

This entry is about power then. And I have to stop and recommend a book, The Power of Two, about working out differences and issues. One of the best books I've ever read on the topic, as it isn't theory as much as How To with very clear examples of good and bad ways to talk about difficult subjects.

This seems the crux, to me, of a good relationship: Balance of power, ability to solve conflict. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Still, most mere mortals give love little thought, once they settle in with someone, instead work to make a living, raise the kids, and then wonder what happened when it gives way.

Since so many marriages end, and so many more relationships break without ever becoming solid, I wonder if we care enough to look hard at what lurks inside? The dark that lies within.

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