The Love We Crave Series: LOVERS

Erotic couples understand that passion waxes and wanes. It’s pretty much like the moon. It has intermittent eclipses. But what they know is how to resurrect it. They know how to bring it back.
— Esther Perel, 2013

A text message from my sister popped up on my screen one evening:

"Did you hear the news about Mark and Lila?"

This couple just had their second baby. Intrigued, I replied I had not

"Mark had an affair and has left."

My jaw dropped. Eleven years of marriage. I hadn't seen this coming. I knew they were having issues like any couple we knew, but infidelity?

Thousands of questions raced through my brain. An affair with who exactly? I had memories of Mark and Lila publicly kissing and flirting at social gatherings a couple of years ago, their Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) making people at church and Bible study feel uncomfortable and even more aware of their singleness. They met online and got engaged only a few weeks later. 

Now I felt sick for Lila and the children. I was furious at Mark's cheating and swore out loud, making-jump the friend I was with.

____________________________________________________

This is the third article for The Love We Crave Series, based on The Four Loves, a pillar piece of lit by C.S. Lewis.

For the past few weeks I have been coaxing us to think of intimacy. Not just as an insurance against loneliness; but more than that, a holistic lifework, one that requires the cultivation of healthy, honest relationships.  These are in the 4 areas of: storge (familial), phileo (friends), eros (spouse) and agape (God).

In summary:

You were created for a community of equal give-and-take, intimate relationships.

Assuming we are all modern day, 'self-actualised' men and women - doing this will guarantee that we live our highest quality of life; contingent on the theory that if we prioritise people, and aim to do relationships well, we will live a fulfilling life of purpose and impact.

So this week, I want to prevent the splitting of our future forever commitments by asking:

How do two married people get the best chance of staying together?

EROS Love: Your SPOUSE.

While in the past, marriage was for having 14 children incase one didn't make it, for women to be accepted into society, for economic benefits and continuing the family surname; no one single person was ever expected to fulfil all your needs. 

Primitive cultures found four generations living in one household, and a village of people to call their wider social community. 

Modern day marriages ask much of any spouse.

I know I do - I am looking for a man to be my best friend and husband, my sounding board for when I write a new poem and doting Father to my children. I expect that he'll thrill to the role of Bacon-Bringer and Writer of Cute Romantic notes to slip underneath my pillow.

Contrarily, I want him to excite me. To work on his own projects. To turn me on with his intelligent banter and washboard abs, and send I-Miss-You texts when he's off hunting wild, dangerous bears with his male counterparts or rescuing cute kids from malaria.

SECURITY, meet adventure. ADVENTURE, meet security.

In her 2013 TEDx talk, The Secret To Desire in a Long-Term Relationship, Relationship Therapist Esther Perel says we have two fundamental sets of needs. Said Need-Sets require reconciliation in a committed relationship, if the desire for each other is to be sustained:

First set of Fundamental Needs:

  • security
  • predictability
  • safety
  • dependability
  • reliability 
  • permanence

Second set of Fundamental Needs:

  • adventure
  • novelty
  • mystery
  • risk
  • danger 
  • the unknown

Mark Manson suggests that the reason why people cheat is because they overvalue adventure, novelty and mystery. Call it self-gratification (I'll put that in the second set of fundamental needs), more than working at the intimacy with their partner (put that in the first set of fundamental needs).

His very unsexy algorithm is as follows:

SELF-GRATIFICATION > INTIMACY = CHEATING

  1. As humans, we all have a natural desire for self-gratification. Good food. Good sex. Little work. Lots of sleep. Porn and video games and corn flakes.
  2. As humans, we also all have a natural desire for intimacy and to feel loved by somebody else, to feel as though we are sharing our lives with somebody.
  3. Unfortunately, these two needs are often contradictory. To achieve that intimacy and love, you have to sacrifice your own self-gratification at times. And to achieve self-gratification, you often have to sacrifice some love and intimacy.

Mark Manson - Why People Cheat in Relationships

An equal give-and-take. A compromise of needs.

THREATS TO SECURITY 

Channel 9's reality TV series: Married At First Sight (also available on Stan) had newlywed couple Clare and Lachlan constantly arguing about scheduling.

Lachlan the Farmer moved into Clare's teeny inner city apartment and played supportive husband while she worked her full-time Marketing Manager job and pursued her amateur theatre hobby. She only spent one day on his 160-acre farm.

So Lachlan compromises his needs more than Clare does hers. He is willing to shift and change his calendar to make room for his new wife's needs, but her expectation is to keep on living her single woman lifestyle, with very little sacrifice on her part.

Clare feels secure and happy, but at the expense of her husband. He is far from feeling secure, for his wife does not acknowledge he also has a farm business to run, and priorities of his own, which constitute big parts of what-makes-Lachlan-Lachlan. He has also spent all their married time together in her apartment and lifestyle.

His lack of feeling valued by her erodes his trust in her. (Ok, enough italics).

Perel says we are looking for a unique flavour of security and personalised adventure in our lover/spouse. In security we feel grounded; we have connection. We feel at home. And when we feel safe at home it is then that we want to play

But if we don't even feel like our significant other acknowledges our needs, we begin to resent them, and there is no chance at building intimacy and safety when we cannot even have that conversation with our spouse. 

Sexy Fighting

Arguing is normal with newly married couples, but it's about how you argue that matters.
John Aiken, (Clinical Psychologist)

I don't mind conflict. I see it as an opportunity to lay the cards on the table, to get raw and honest, and to move the relationship forward.

Misunderstandings get ironed out. Pride is called forth, words are explained and apologised for. Vision for the relationship is then re-cast, agreed upon and the two can hug it out and continue walking their relationship holding hands.

However, I do mind conflict when I've tried several times to have this hard conversation, assessing what I need to apologise for, and how I hurt my partner. Yet, said partner does not show up emotionally. They refuse to see things objectively, to pursue peace and understand why I was hurt. They refuse to accept responsibility for hurting me, instead erecting a wall of defensive shouting and sarcastic comments.

When this happens, I do one of two things:

1. Exit the relationship

2. Stone-wall them, and then exit the relationship. 

So what be the solution, you might ask?

I was so inspired by this that I wrote a non-poetic poem:

Follow @FreshlyBakedPoetry for more square-poems.

Follow @FreshlyBakedPoetry for more square-poems.

Further reading, if you so desire:

Let's ERADICATE LONELINESS. 

SO LIKE AND SHARE THIS ARTICLE TO EQUIP ANOTHER PERSON TO PRIORITISE PEOPLE, SO THEY BUILD A THRIVING NETWORK OF LOVE AND SUPPORT.

CLICK ON THE LOVE HEART BUTTON AND SUBSCRIBING VIA RSS FEED OR TO THE NEWSLETTER.

READ MORE OF THE WEEKLY COMFORT BLOG: