Do you remember buying those little chewing gum sweets called Love Is… ? When I was a kid I bought them often. I would race home filled with expectant delight and open them up in the privacy of my boudoir, I wasn’t interested in the gum at all, I just wanted to see what it said, I wanted to find out what Love was. Love was a mysterious magical place that I wanted to understand.
As you get older your hopes and fantasies of ‘what love is’ scale up or down to something more real.
Real can be wonderful, real can also be painful. In any real relationship, one that is worth its weight in gold, you will get to know and become your true self (which is different from your imagined self) while your partner does that too. This process can feel like something between awesome and awful.
But what is it to love someone really? Eric Fromme writes about love in his book, The Art of Loving and says:
“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration patience, faith and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling it is a practise”- E. Fromme
In our modern culture, we are not taught how to love. We are fed Fairytales about love. But this isn’t what real Love is…
The active love of another human being requires us to give of ourselves and show genuine concern for ‘the other’. What this looks like in real terms is very different from the fanfare of romantic love where two people fall in love with their projections of why they imagine the other person to be.
Real love is actively helping your partner reach their greatest potential. But how many of us do this?
No one wants to have an unhappy relationship, but this is sometimes where we find ourselves. What do you do once you are there?
The Marriage Happiness Rating Scale (MHRS) was developed by psychologists to measure the level of satisfaction in the 10 primary areas of life within marriages and long term relationships. The benefit of doing such a test is you can quickly identify where the relationship stagnant or unfulfilling.
- A score of 1 represents extremely unhappy. A score of 10 is extremely satisfied
- Plot your levels of happiness as accurately as possible over a week (bad moods and fights can dramatically alter scores, don’t do the test during these)
- Avoid the tendency to play it safe by answering 5 for questions
- Be honest with yourself
The Marriage Happiness Test
- Household responsibilities 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Rearing of children (if you have) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Social activities 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Money 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Communication 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Sex 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Career/Academic progress 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Personal independence 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Social life 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- General happiness 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
- Spiritual/Emotional Connection 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10*
*The 11th question is not part of the original MHRT but I think this is a most important area of relationship life
In Astrology, a relationship chart reveals these exact strengths and limitations- in fact taking the MHRT test wouldn’t even be necessary for the Astrologer would know exactly which areas would be lacking and which areas would be fantastic. The astrologer keeps the innate strengths as the focal point of the relationship. While the limitations, which every relationship has, are treated as a work in progress that is steeped in good communication. When the air between two people has become too destructive to resolve conflict, go and see a qualified professional with your partner.
If the relationship is worth saving, an Astrologers, Psychologist or Life coaches will be able to provide advice and an objective point of view.
The basic elements of a good relationship, according to Eric Fromme involve; care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.
Where active care is lacking there is no love. Without care, there is no responsibility.
Responsibility is not about duty, it is the voluntary ability to respond to the needs expressed or unexpressed by your partner.
Respect; the supportive encouragement for your partners growth and unfoldment in a way that is true to who they are and who they want to become
In order to respect someone, you need to know them. But knowledge is only possible when you can transcend self-concern.
Severely unhappy in a few areas? Successful communication involves listening receptively and talking compassionately. In order to do this, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse need to be avoided when things get painful (Gottman:1994).
The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse
- Criticism– when partners attack one another character instead of the behaviour
- Contempt- name calling, personal attacks, mockery body signals and swearing (a.k.a dirty fighting&power games) are used to psychologically wound and emotionally abuse your partner.
- Defensiveness- blaming your partner without taking responsibility yourself. It takes two to tango!
- Sullen withdrawal- Stonewalling is when one partner storms out or removes themselves from the discussion by ignoring the other partner. Drastic withdrawal conveys contempt. This causes enormous tension. Neither partner feels they have any influence over the situation and it leaves both partners feeling useless.
Gottman who wrote,“Why marriages succeed and fail and how you can make yours last” referred to these negative communication patterns as the advanced signs of the progressive death of a relationship. Don’t let yourselves fall into these destructive patterns of communication.
“Love is as love does”- Scott Peck
Image Credit: Fallen Angel, Luis Royo