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Modern relationships differ from “older” ones in the way that nowadays people can be more open about their preferences and expectations. Females enjoy more freedom in most western societies and this has an important influence on their self-consciousness and ego. The “romantic ideal” of life-time relationships is – slowly but steadily – transformed into a more pragmatic attitude towards partnerships. Discovery of one self within a fixed relationship and redefinition of expectations and loyalty becomes an important topic to youngsters and older partners. The search about the (new) basics of life is also guided by components of the far-eastern culture. Respect, openness and friendship seem to be the driving forces in modern relationships.
The art of real loving.
According to a lot of studies many people seem to be quite limited in the development of their ability to love a partner and some even are rather blocked. The ability to love starts and grows with the health of the own mind and the openness of the soul. One can learn to love more or to love more openly, but the absolute condition, however, is the willingness to abandon prejudice, fears and emotional scars. A person who is regularly looking at “yesterday” is not emotionally living in the present and his or her ability to love will be hampered. Such a person will focus on security, duties, fidelity, capture and possession.
If one wants to avoid this attitude, then re-educating (re-programming) on the subject of love becomes necessary. An important condition to be successful is to be able to give love without the expectation of being rewarded for it. It might sound strange but the joy of giving should be the only objective. This phenomena is also well described by Dr. Anton Stangl in his book "Buddhism": "The one who is really loving acts throughout the consciousness of unity with others. The commitment to others is its very nucleus. Real Love does not claim, nor does it possess. However, she will call for action. A mere theoretical love does not exist, like beautiful words about love will not accomplish much. Only active commitment towards others will, like active help to those who are needy, avoiding bad thoughts about other people, being able to pardon, and renunciation of reward. The opposite of love is the presence of egocentrism or even egoism. Humans tend to put themselves in the very centre of events, claiming to be the most important of all. When oneself and his actions constantly are in the spotlight, then love and kindness are far away." (Chapter „Love and Kindness“ from the book „Buddhismus“ von Dr. Anton Stangl, ECON Taschenbuchverlag, February 1993).
Reading books and articles that handle in a positive way topics about life, love, philosophy, alternative attitudes towards life, etc (like „The Law of Resonance“ by Pierre Franckh, Koha Verlag) will speed up the process of the opening of your soul, the real source of love and positive energy. Don't expect great miracles happening tomorrow but give the possibility to daily small ones and allow this long-term present to yourself. Once on this track, you will have the right bearing to the art of real love.
Start from square 1?
As mentioned above, it might seem quite simple and easy to re-program yourself on the topic of positive energy and love, but what about those beings that have had (or still have) in their life bad or even traumatic experiences which caused a damaged trust in other people or a limited self-esteem? Can they really start from square 1?
A human being who has experienced this kind of negative situation will need a lot of motivation and spend much energy to overcome the resulting emotional scars, but it surely is possible. In one of my previous articles (Spirit 19 - Opening your Soul) I mentioned a motto that might give you sufficient motivation and energy to start this process: "Be convinced that you are a present to your environment, despite your perceived imperfections. If someone really did hurt you in your deepest feelings or self-esteem, then this person did not recognise and understand you as a present. Should you then carry the resulting emotional scars with you for the rest of your life, limiting yourself in the experience of real love? NO! Have mercy with the person who did this to you (maybe they couldn't help it or they were suffering from their own scars), forgive this person for what he/she has done (or not done), then look at yourself and raise the question: "Do I want to continue my life in this way?" If your answer is "NO", then take action, empty your bag, reprogram yourself to your benefit and decide to go on with your life in a new direction." From then on you can start from square 1.
Self-esteem and Success for Love.
It is rather impossible to love someone in a balanced and harmonic way if one does not have a healthy portion of positive self-esteem. This means that you have to know and accept yourself sufficiently - including your less funny properties. Without having a healthy mind and a balanced self-esteem one will be condemned to choose a partner to fill up the voids in his/her self-esteem and can become completely emotionally depending on the partner. Fears for abandoning will pop up and seizure will rule. A standard scenario for a guaranteed failure.
Expectations, Claims, Crises and Compromises.
When both partners confirm their love to each other, expectations and claims can come to life. The "giving without expectations", the ultimate foundation of love, will die. What's left are (hidden) agendas, the thirst for recognition and finally a soul abandoned in an emotional desert. "Only the consciousness about our illusion on Ego can make us free from its constantly manipulation to acquire satisfaction, ownership and power" (Chapter „Love and Kindness“ from the book „Buddhismus“ von Dr. Anton Stangl, ECON Taschenbuchverlag, February 1993).
Expectations about exclusivity and a dominating ego are the frequent sources of our mental and emotional misery, our unhappiness, fears, nervousness, jealousy and our failing contact with emotional reality. If there are no such expectations or if you can free yourself from them sufficiently, then there will be no room for lasting disappointments. And if they would pop up, then you can discover and handle them easily and turn them into something positive. Otherwise you will run from one matrimonial crisis to the next.
According to therapist Michael Mary, specialised in assistance for couples-in-stress, one will meet his/her own personality twice: in the beginning of the "Great Love" and the moment when this feeling is fading away. That's the moment of truth. Most relationships enter then in a critical phase. The so-called "character cosmetics" don't impress anymore as both partners became more knowledgeable about each other. Most of the "fancy stuff" has been stripped off and both partners will strive for their personal freedom (again).
Compromises mostly provide no solution, regardless the wording: "You have to make compromises to get a happy relationship." This is nonsense. Because in this way none of both partners will get what they hope for. Compromises are OK for daily practical topics (like windows open/closed, AC unit on/off, etc) or between functional partnerships, colleagues, buddies, neighbours. You can't make compromises on vital components of a relationship like emotions, expectations or recognition - it will take revenge.
Exclusivity, Jealousy and Fidelity.
The notion "loyalty" is a consequence of a possessive attitude, the need for exclusivity. It has nothing to do with real love and creates jealousy. Jealousy is the consequence of fear for comparison and the extreme manifestation of lack of self-confidence. Loyalty, exclusivity, possession - and many other social behaviours - are society-linked concepts that have been introduced during the development of our individuality and our Ego. Reducing one’s too high expectations about fidelity and exclusivity in a relationship is not about promoting the "free love" or "poly-amory" as such, but about reducing one's claims about possession and about preparing oneself to answer the important question "How will I behave when being confronted with infidelity? How important are my "freely" chosen criteria about fidelity and exclusivity, compared to criteria about real friendship and connection? If love, friendship and connection still are in a relationship, should I terminate this relationship because of this apparent “infidelity” and because of my hurt feelings? Should I leave behind a lot of good things, or should I take the behaviour of my partner as an opportunity to readjust my criteria towards a more tolerant attitude towards real life instead of judging the event, based on dogmatised definitions?"
Monogamy - the great lie?
About three quarters of the adult population in Europe are involved in a relationship. Most of them have expectations about emotional stability, security and sexual fulfilling. Love is, according to Klaus Heer - Relation Therapist (www.klausheer.ch), linked to monogamy. But the human being is not. Recent inquiries demonstrate that about 36% of all women and about 44% of all men had sex outside their partnership. And about 72% admitted that they would fancy doing it, if the opportunity would occur. Some experts mention that even 90% of all men and 75% of all women would have sex outside their fixed relationship. We can deny our lust, pretending it doesn't exist. But it's a deception. Although his romantic nature, Homo sapiens is strongly focused on sex.
Instincts do not shout, they whisper. Monogamy is not natural and it is a relatively new social element. Genetic research from the Swiss National Fund has revealed that monogamy only appeared about 20.000 years ago, when agriculture was being developed.
According to Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá (Sex at Dawn - The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality - www-sexatdawn.com), our distant ancestors moved around in groups as hunters and collectors in which both sexes had the same rights. Prey as well as sex were shared equally between the members as this system was the best survival strategy for those nomads. However, according to a study on the Y-chromosome from Isabelle Dupanloup (University Ferrara, Italy), during a major part of the Old Stone Age only a few men had the majority of the women. Our distant ancestors also did have sexual contacts with other hominids and regularly intermingled with the Neanderthal species, resulting in an important amount of up to 4% of Neanderthal DNA in our genes today.
Once colonisation took place with agriculture and the subsequent increase of population, political organisation and clusters, property, wealth, family structures and hierarchies were created and the concept of heritage - the fruits of hard and long labour - was introduced. So did the element of fidelity. In order to be sure that only their offspring would benefit from the fruits, men had to control women for fidelity.
Darwin defined the evolutional standard model of human sexuality as follows: “Men are focused to distribute their abundant semen as much as possible, whereas women are focused to protect their precious reproductive system and only admit that males which appear suitable to her to grow their offspring. Males want fidelity from women to avoid spending energy on cuckoo children, females want the males to solely share resources with them and not other women.” We do have diverging reproductive predispositions and monogamy is reported to be our compromise.
Sexual Therapist and author Ulrich Clement (www.ulclement.de) states: "Our model of love originates from bourgeoisie and romantics. During pre-modern times, ”infidelity” was part of daily life, at least for men. Later, love became a romantic ideal and sex within a relationship became the only standard. During the 20th century, matrimony lost its economic and social importance, leaving only the phantasm of romantic love, heavily guarded by jealousy. Without jealousy there are no claims of exclusivity, no issues about fidelity, no bitter fights, no unforgiving separations. Jealousy goes beyond cultures. In patriarchal cultures the honour of men is directly linked to the fidelity of their women; her sexuality only belongs to him - even before the married status - hence the importance of virginity."
But even in the Western culture, fidelity remains important and infidelity is one of the major reasons for separation. About 50% of matrimonies end up in divorce. The relevant question is not why we cannot be faithful, but why we hold on to a lie or a phantasm about eternal fidelity. Is it - after all - not infidelity that ruins matrimonies, but merely our unrealistic expectation that sex only can happen within matrimony? Why is it accepted to have regularly changing monogamic relationships and not sex outside a matrimony? Could it be that it is not the partner who is fooling us, but the concept of matrimonial love itself? Is it not infidelity that destroys relationships but our perception of fidelity?
Our wish to have a long-lasting, deep partnership originates from the desire to create a family, a home and not being alone (anymore). A legitimate and human desire, for sure, as Homo sapiens is addicted to customs.
It is not because women always have been more cautious about choosing their mating partners than men, due to the obvious consequences of pregnancy, that they are reluctant on having sex. There is no correlation between cautiousness and lust. Anti-conception pills have revolutionised the sexual behaviour of women in this way that they now can show their preferences without being exposed to the negative consequences. Today, women can have and do enjoy sex with several partners and without long-term commitments and this with mutual respect.
"The perceived differences in sexual behaviour between men and women have been reduced to almost zero. Impressive are, in fact, the similarities between men and women, rather than the differences", according to Ulrich Clement. It is only through definition by society, religion and finally by our education that it is regarded as "strong and virile" when a man has many partners short after each other, but the same society condemns a woman as "cheap and bad" when she shows an identical behaviour.
A Fixed Partnership - the Eternal Ideal?
"More that 90% of the adult German population want fidelity", according to a study from the University of Hamburg and Leipzig. "But about 50% admitted to have had sex outside of their fixed relationship. According to another study only 3% of all mammals commit to a fixed relationship but barely one species respect it." and "It is amazing how the idealistic concept of fidelity is persisting all kinds of "Zeitgeist" - bourgeois, reactionary, alternative, conservative, liberal, right-wing, left-wing, etc", writes journalist Markus Spieker in his book "Mono. The Need for Fidelity." Why is it that this concept continues to survive, despite rejection by proven reality? Why are we constantly chasing this unrealistic concept?
In view of the history of our ancestors one might congratulate the other 50% of the population who stayed loyal. Most creatures don't put fidelity on a high level. Even the birds who are known to prefer a two-some like the blue chickadees or the romantic swans have been found guilty of infidelity through DNA tests.
According to Markus Spieker there seem to be a cluster of 5 basic forces that rules human behaviour in modern relationships:
1. The Wish.
Fidelity has some attraction. All inquiries and statistics confirm this. The perception of values about fidelity are very robust, very conservative. The source of this lays in our Ego: it permanently wants to be confirmed and fidelity is one of the most important parameters to measure it. The higher the need of the Ego for confirmation (macho's and people with a low self-esteem), the stronger the wish for exclusivity.
Youngsters do have the strongest wish for exclusivity. The 30-plus segment was significantly more severe and conservative than the 60-plus segment.
2. The Reality.
Most people are loyal most of the time in their life. But there are significant and interesting differences between ages: 4,5% of the questioned teenagers had sex outside their relationship during the last 12 months, whereas it only was 1,8% in the group of 35-39 years. Youngsters do value fidelity very high, but aren't behaving accordingly: the footprint of - again - the Ego. This result is in line with point 1 above, however, there is another Ego component coming into play with this age group: the need for confirmation by discovering and testing own and foreign boundaries through experiments. "Can I do this?, How far can I go?" Once sufficiently examined, the need for confirmation diminishes.
Many studies have shown that people with a good self-esteem, a low level of narcissist or neurotic personality and depressive behaviour, did show a lower level of infidelity.
3. The Curiosity.
According to the Hamburg-Leipzig study, about 75% of those who were infidel did it because of "Curiosity". They were not unhappy in their relationship, nor did they experience sexual dissatisfaction. Curiosity seems to penetrate our mind slowly but steadily, regardless of what we already have. This is another component of our Ego: the drive that made Homo sapiens to what it is today - looking over the fence - is also steering us in our daily life: Curiosity.
4. The Desire for Stability.
Our tendency to infidelity has its natural anti-dote: our deeply rooted desire towards commitment. However, evolution psychologists have a sobering explanation for this behaviour: the chances for survival of the offspring increase substantially when both parents take care of them. The higher the need for caring - and Homo sapiens is at the top - the more important it becomes.
Other components that increase the commitment between partners and that might reduce the risk of infidelity are the "Home-sweet-Home" factor and the common friends, according to psychologist Kröger. People prefer stability.
5. The Will for Fidelity.
What a mess! Genes and hormones pull us towards one side with messages like "interesting new territory here, yummy opportunity over there", our Ego puts its own messages across with "score possibilities now, try it out! Super for your Ego!" and our ratio pokes us on the other side with "but what about the home and the friends? And all this is mixed together with, last but not least, our deep feelings - the love for our partner. "Fidelity is a cognitive process", according to the Swiss relation therapist Guy Bodenmann, which is the result of our free decision to grant exclusivity towards our partner. It's all about commitment.
Friendship - the most important component of a fixed relationship?
A healthy and well-balanced relationship is not based upon the need to find oneself "complete" through recognition by the partner, but upon a healthy and balanced form of self-esteem and deep, respectful friendship. This attitude will generate the wish to share our precious moments with somebody whom we care for, to whom we feel affection and connection, to whom we are in love with. The ability to love someone without the expectation to be loved back the same way is the pure form of love. It is the kind of love that only can be generated by an emotionally independent person. When deep friendship between partners does exist, then the perceived or shown amount of love becomes irrelevant, as everybody has his own way of showing affection. In this area, there should be no fixed rules or criteria, except for mutual openness, respect and trustworthiness.
When being fully in love, one can feel the sensation of the body floating lightly and one seeing life in a pinky way. Real mature love however is the deep feeling of interconnection between 2 or more souls; the sensation of unity, understanding, harmony... True friendship without the notion of possession.
- Michèle Binswanger: elected in 2010 as Swiss "Journalist of the Year" & Nicole Althaus: "Macho Mamas. Warum Mütter im Job mehr wollen sollen" - Nagel & Kimche.
- Markus Spieker: "Mono. Die Lust auf Treue" - Pattloch Verlag
- Ulrich Clement: www.ulclement.de
- Paartherapeut Klaus Heer (Ehe, Sex und Liebesmüh - www.klausheer.ch)
- Christopher Ryan und Cacilda Jethá "Sex at Dawn - The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" - www.sexatdawn.com
- Biologe & Psychiater Barash - Lipton, Die Zeit - Online
-Paartherapeut Michael Mary: www.michaelmary.de
- Pierre Franckh: „Das Gesetz der Resonanz“ - Koha Verlag; ISBN: 978-3-86728-071-6
- Anton Stangl: „Buddhismus“ - ECON-Verlag, 1993; ISBN: §-612-26014-6