Do you know what it takes to create a committed, intimate relationship?
In looking over the YourTango website on love and relationships, the words commitment and intimacy are prominently featured over and over again, and many a love-seeker is caught up in this quest. This pattern is similar in my psychotherapy practice in which numerous clients come in asking for my help in finding a committed and intimate relationship.
Those who feel that they have failed in achieving this desire, express enormous despair and lament that their life is not complete without this. They cry out, "Will I ever find the one?" They then go on and share with me all of the times that their pursuit has ended up empty with tons of disappointment.
Typically, most people have never asked the question, "What is a committed intimate relationship?" One woman came to see me and wanted my help in achieving this goal. So I asked her, "Are you willing to experience sadness in your life?" She immediately answered, "No, I don't like sadness. There is nothing positive in that experience. I just want a committed love relationship."
To this I said, "I'm sorry, but you don't meet the criteria for the relationship you are requesting." She tried arguing with me about my "no," and I stated that "These aren't my rules. I am just letting you know the rules of a committed intimate relationship." She left frustrated.
This experience is reflective of many people I have seen in my life, both professionally and personally, who have no idea what a committed and intimate relationship asks for, despite the energy they expend obsessing and seeking this goal. There is a major lack of understanding of what a committed intimate relationship (CIR) really is. The gap between the desired goal and what is involved speaks loudly why we see so much frustration in this arena, as well as the enormous divorce rates that occur in our culture.
This article is my attempt to fill that gap and assist single people, and even married ones, who choose this path. It is my hope to clarify the demands of this kind of relationship and the nature of this journey. My wish is to take the surprise out of the equation, which is a frequent result for those on this quest, in order to reduce the anguish and the mood swings.
The first thing is to realize that this journey is rarely just a smooth boat ride. A committed and intimate relationship is extremely demanding and asks you to be open and experience the many waves from joy to disappointment, as well as willingness to accept and expose numerous unacceptable internal personal parts, such as fear and sadness.
Lastly, it requires the capacity to accept one's deepest vulnerabilities. Anything less than this kind of openness will result in attracting people who are just posing as intimate partners, which will become obvious within a very short period of time. Also, be aware that there is no shortage of posers and pretenders. One couple came to see me who had broken up numerous times even though they said they loved each other.
It was revealed that each time she felt scared in the relationship she would run, while he would desperately try to avoid his insecurity by protecting himself through getting aggressive. They were not open to their fear or their insecurity, and the relationship would continually overwhelm them, leaving breaking up as their only solution.
The Honeymoon Is Not The Trip
A major dilemma that couples frequently face is their wish that the honeymoon period will hopefully last forever. In truth, the initial excitement that occurs during this time is merely designed to get one into the relationship, and it's a very short part of the journey. It is meant to fade, so that the real work of the committed and intimate relationship can begin, which is to look in the mirror and learn to accept and integrate the unacceptable aspects of ourselves. This will demand a shift from judging and rejecting qualities in our partners, to exploring the source of our rejecting behavior by turning our eyes on ourselves.
In no way is this easy work, and it will present daily challenges. If we select a relationship with a truly intimate partner, they will demand constant exposure from us by their presence with very few exceptions. Attempting to look good and hiding from a parade of our so-called negative qualities, including feeling impotent, inadequate and insecure will prove to be an endless task. A frequent lament I hear is, "What happened to the person I first met?" I say "Nothing happened, other than their presentable mask faded and the real person showed up."
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