I remember the day I found out my mother and father were getting a divorce. My sister told me mom was divorcing him because he had an affair with her friend. I guessed she wasn’t a very good friend. After I got off the phone, I considered the news. A river of contemplation washed over me, concepts like the metaphysics of relationships, the cause of love’s decline between two people, the audacity of cheating on a woman who had given thirty years to a marriage. What did it all mean? My thoughts turned to my father, and I foolishly began to pass judgment on him. How dare you do this to her? You son of a bitch, how could you be so selfish? That’s when I realized. It was selfish. It was the “me” factor. In psychoanalytical theory it is called the id, which is the part of the psyche that is unconscious and only concerned with instinctual needs and drives. If this demon, which lives in us all, is not recognized for what it is and kept under control, can any relationship last?
The nature of relationships
The very nature of relationship is to be mutually interested in or involved with each other. So how do we nurture a healthy one? Like plants need certain elements to grow and thrive, so it is with relationship. First there is love, which is the seed we plant. Then there is trust, which is the soil that love is planted in. Honesty is the fertilizer that feeds and nourishes the roots. Friendship is the sun that gives it color and health. Finally, service is the part we play which produces the rest. Sounds easy huh, you just add all the right stuff.
None of the previously mentioned ingredients come naturally to us, however. The very act of love is the denial of the id. To nurture self is to neglect relationship, which is held together literally by the attention we give it. Any prolonged neglect, while we focus on self, will cause it to become unstable. Since it is ultimately virtual in nature, it may cease to exist.
Individuality in Relationships
The opposition to this theory would state that satisfying the id is the path to perfect union. Only when each person is singularly and equally fulfilled, can a partnership flourish and grow. Many feel that if they deny themselves, their uniqueness’s will be lost.
In a good relationship, nothing could be further from the truth. If my aim is to use all my resources to build up, care for, and bring all the happiness possible to my partner, and her goal is exactly the same, then both of us will be fulfilled, and our union will stand strong. The goal is not to do away with who we are, but to bring each single part together to make something new and wonderful. It all starts with love.
So What is Love Anyway?
The popular cultural definition seems to be a metaphysical virus of some sort. Mirriam-Webster defines it as, strong affection, warm attachment, attraction based on sexual desire, or to feel passion for. These are nice, and have their place in the beginning, but are all based on emotional and id responses, and as such are volatile. I spoke with Steve Savelich, former pastor of Willamette Christian Center. He told me that love is best defined as a daily choice to protect and provide. He also said that love equals time (personal interview). So love is an equation. Wow! But wait a minute. His version sounds a lot more like friendship than love.
As a matter of fact, if we are lucky that is exactly what it will turn into, a good solid friendship, hopefully with sex. Friendship helps give love stability through the ups and downs of life. When me becomes we, something wonderful happens. The lifelong love we dreamed of as little girls gets a chance to come true, and we gain someone we can trust.
Trust in Relationships
No one likes a person who can’t be trusted. If my partner’s relationship with me is based on her own self interest, I can’t be sure I can trust her. If we have a disagreement will she decide to go her own way? What if someone else comes along?
When this happens, my focus becomes self preservation or my own self interest. But, let’s turn it around and look at it from the other direction. What if my partner puts my best interest as her most important objective, and I put her best interest as mine? We can relax and love each other. We can be at peace in our relationship.
Trust is the most precious ingredient in the equation of love. Sometimes it is the hardest to come by. When others have done us wrong we tend to guard our hearts, even if our hearts beg us to set them free and let them trust again.
The Balance in a Relationship
Once trust is established in a relationship, a delicate balance has to be maintained. On one hand, trust must be guarded by both parties with vigilance and dedication. On the other hand it must be allowed to be relaxed, at ease. That is, after all, what trust is. If I worry about whether or not I can trust her, then I don’t. When properly maintained, trust is the fortress that keeps out all the enemies of relationship. It keeps out all the monsters that lurk without and within.
Make no mistake. There is a monster that lurks within us all. It is called the id. Always, it tries to persuade us to look out for number one, sometimes even at the expense of the ones we love. The house of relationships however, is a holy place, where this demon cannot be allowed to dwell. Not because of any vows we have taken, but because our hearts live there. Unless the “me” factor is kept out of a relationship it will end up in ruin, because a lasting relationship must be served by love, honesty, trust, and friendship for it to survive.