I am sure you do. Who wouldn’t?
So how do you create a better relationship? First, you have to know what a better relationship is. How do you define it? So right now, list five qualities of a really good relationship – don’t think, list.
Honestly, which ones do you really have? Does your relationship have these qualities?
No shame if it doesn’t. Most likely your parents weren’t the models of what you want in a relationship. We are all learning what was never taught to us.
I’m not here to tell you that I am a master at relationships. But I will say being dyslexic allows me to see things from a different prospective.
After 30 years of working with men and women in a variety of settings, I discovered that we are all learning. I learned that most of the psychological perspectives on relationships are based on a therapy or a pathology model; that is, what’s wrong with the relationship, not what’s right. We’re all good at knowing what is wrong with a relationship, our partner and maybe ourselves. We have learned to tell our stories of why we are the way we are. We understand the psychological significance of our wounds. We even know how to fix some of them – at least in others.
What do we know about creating a sustainable, kickass relationship?
I propose that part of the problem is the frame we hold relationships in. We hold relationships in a context based on what we had as a kid and have learned from the so-called “experts” since. Let’s get dyslexic for a second and look at relationships from a different perspective.
Someone else in the room
As people go from lust to romance to attraction a “third body” is created: the relationship itself. It develops its own identity Shamans would say it becomes a unique spirit. If it is a person onto itself, it doesn’t have a voice.
Robert Bly turned me on to this concept with his poem, The Third Body. As you accept that your relationship lives beyond either one of you, then you can love and honor this third body. This means giving your relationship a voice. Both of you start speaking for it as if it were a child who couldn’t speak.
Act as if you were this third body, what would you say? If you were to champion the relationship, what would you say? This could mean putting your needs aside momentarily to speak for the relationship.
When you speak for that third body, it takes the conversation deeper. It also allows you to get off your agenda, which your partner certainly appreciates. You almost become another person in the room. You start seeing and feeling things you didn’t before, shifting your perspective. Speaking those thoughts and feeling can be scary at times because it puts your position, and possibly the relationship, at risk.
For instance, if you feel you and your partner are not getting enough alone time, just the two of you, there are several ways you could approach your partner. “I need more time with you,” may come across as demanding, even reproachful. But what if you approach it from the perspective that this third body needs both of your time and attention? Instead of “you need to spend more time with me,” you’re saying, “WE need to spend more time together.” A new level of collaboration develops.
One way to become attuned to the third body is to look for it in other relationships. You may notice how a couple is killing that third body through neglect and denial. They may be pretending that their relationship doesn’t need any attention. I am sure you have been with a couple where their relating feels like two people texting.
You wouldn’t neglect a child, so don’t neglect your third body! Committing to spending time together, when you and your partner deliberately develop the third body, will pay significant benefits. At first is may be tough, because you are unlearning as much as learning. After a while you will notice that you begin to cherish the third body and your partner. As simple as this is, it is powerful.
The next post in the series takes the third body to a new level. You learn how to deepen and enrich your third body.
Photo by Julien Haler