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What does it take to be in a stable loving relationship?

March 1, 2014

Loving relationships require a certain mindset. In return for regular sex, contact, affection, belongoing, children perhaps, someone to share bringing up the children, the benefits of an economy of scale, one needs to give up the ghost of finding the perfect mate, disengage one’s behaviour from the eternal desire to ‘get the best that I can’ and give up the fight for and dream of constant improvement.


It also means a retirement from promiscuity, from the constant tasting of ‘fresh meat’.


Subduing the desire for better sex, better relationships and a more attractive and entertaining mate, is easier to achieve, if one feels comfortable about the rest of one’s life, and if one feels that one’s long-term future is going to be secure, stable and comfortable. If one feels comfortable about the present and the future with regards to where one is living, what one does for work and the network of family and friendes that one has, then one is consumed less by a desire to improve upon what one has, and to constantly search for better, but rathere conserve and maintain. What I’m saying is that a general sense of well-being and ease is required to have a general sense of well-being and ease with a prospective partner, required for a long-term relationship.


Feeling comfortable without a partner is dependent on how one if juxtaposed familially, socially, on what one has materially, where one lives, one’s income, whether one has the spending power to participate. It is easier to sit back and relax surrounded by a supportive extended family, living in a beautiful house with extensive gardens and a permanent contract in a rewarding post, with a regular and generous income. And one is more likely to be attractive to a person of similar stature in such conditions.


It is less easy to achieve if one is living in a one bedroom flat, with few friends and no job, having just escaped a father and mother, who spent the last six years of your life renting you out for sex to their friends and associates. The desire to better yourself, the constant doubt as to whether someone would make the perfect partner, comes from the stress of isolation, persecution and poverty, from the knowledge that one has a lot of things that need achieving socially, emotionally, materially and philosophically before one can live a life worth living. When one is unsettled, feels insecure about where one is living or where one is working, has no income, finds one’s family undermining rather than supportive, absent rather than present, the emotional and psychological needs for reassurance and security are all that much greater, and often in the first throws of a relationship, too much for any partner in probation to be able to or feel comfortable fulfilling.


When you have a good network of people around you entering into a relationship is much better, because you can get your needs met by a variety of people, and your partner isn’t under so much pressure to meet your demands.


In order to be at ease, the kind of ease that makes establishing a long-term relationship more likely, one also needs a set of relational competencies, required to secure, maintain, enjoy and from time to time, repair a relationship. Some of these competencies are intellectual. One needs to be intelligent and creative enough to identify something that works for both people in a relationship, something good enough, even if perfect for none.


Some are emotional. Some of the emotional competencies concern how to handle stressful situations. Some are communicational. Having understood what a solution might look like which takes into account the emotional dispositions and needs of both one’s partner and oneself, one then needs to have the ability to communicate this information and the possible solution intelligibly. Furthermore one needs to be a negotiator, such conversations are rarely resolved by one party presenting a well thought through plan to the other, and to be a good negotiator one needs to simultaneously consider the emotional and practical needs of one’s partner alongside one’s own, and modulate one’s own emotional tone and a communication of one’s needs into that conversation and dialogue. All this is needed because two people will always have a range of different needs and expectations, there will always be conflict and discontent in a relationship that needs addressing, that comes with the territory.


In order to feel at ease, one needs relational competencies, but in order to have relational competencies one needs to have relational value, i.e. one needs to feel that one is valued by others and that one could be valued by others. Relational value, a sense that one is loved and loveable, is required as a cushion against emotionally uncomfortable moments, which occur in any relationship, when one appears to be annoying another, or making another person unhappy in some way, and when one’s partner appears to be rejecting. Relational value then allows one to feel comfortable with disagreement in a relationship, comfortable with discomfort, comfortable with rejection, comfortable with not being liked, comfortable with being disprespected. Relational value is a belief that I will be alright to him or her even if at this moment I am not alright to him or her. Or that, generally I am alright to him or her even though right now and on this issue I am not alright to him or her. Sometimes this is about being able to agree to disagree without worrying that the relationship is threatened by the disagreement.


In the same way one needs relational value to acknowledge one’s own deficiencies and traits, as they are perceived by others as well as oneself, without which it would not be possible to consider compromise and change, for the benefit of the relationship, nor create space in the relationship to make space for those traits to be exercised without damaging the relationship.


Relational value is also needed to believe that one can share vulnerabilities with one’s partner and not be ridiculed or rejected as a result, sharing vulnerabilities provides the information that a partner sometimes needs to modify his or her behaviour, in a way that makes the relationship more workable for you. Relational value also underpins empathy, the ability to suspend one’s concern with one’s own emotional take on a situation, and instead to imagine what it feels like to have the emotional concerns of another. Empathising is in a sense hypnotism it is to be temporarily engrossed in the emotional needs and demands of another, and to enter this state, to become so controlled by another’s emotional state, one needs to feel loved and trust that one will not be taken advantage of. People who have a sharp sense of not having any relational value, will find it difficult to empathise, for at least to the extent that they are unimportant to others, they are putting themselves in the powers of people who are likely, at least in their eyes, to do them harm.


A good sense of relational value is also required to constructively handle disrespectful behaviour in a relationship. If one has relational value than one is able to say to oneself that one is being disprespected but is worthy of respectful behaviour and will be respected in the fullness of time, rather than fearing that being disrespected is inevitable, because one is by one;s very own nature worthy of disrespect, and that one will always be disrespected.


In addition to feeling at ease, and having the relational competencies to negotiate a relationsip, one also needs spare time to invest in a relationship. Relationships are investments, they are built on expenditure of energy. The gravity, which keeps a relationship together is the energy invested in it by both parties, and like the moon slowly drifting out of the gravitational pull of the earth, the two parties in a relationship will gradually drift apart if energy isn’t expended to keep them together. One needs time to listen to the needs of one’s partner, but one also needs time to reflect on one’s own needs, in a way that allows one to articulate verbally what one sometimes only ever feels in quite an abstract sense, the kind of feelings that when one is single one often doesn’t feel the need to articulate. One also needs time to think up solutions that will help meet the needs of one’s partner and oneself, and then think of the form of language and relating, that will help progress the issue and one’s relationship.


All of what is said here about what works for one person to achieve a relationship also works for the other half. In other words, whether you succeed in a relationship is just as much about whether your partner in probation has all of the above, as whether you have it.


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