The Life And Death Of Any Relationship Hinges On One Ingredient

A therapist's story of finding and losing love, and how he finally learned to make it last.

Last updated on Apr 20, 2024

Forging a friendship through working together, ceramics class Cottonbro Studio | Pexels

Striving for a joyful and fulfilling relationship to stand the test of time can take a lifetime. Many more decades than we care to admit can go by until we discover what makes relationships work.

Before I was old enough to consider a romantic relationship, I wanted a connection that excited, engaged, and inspired me to be more. I was raised to believe finding someone I loved and who loved me would mean I found "the one". We would have kids, pets, and our home. All would be perfect.


I was missing the key to a lasting and meaningful relationship.

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The success of our relationships hinges on one thing: co-creating serendipity that lives forever

What I was missing 

After a couple of marriage attempts, which I am grateful for to this day, I met the mother of my children. I no longer subscribed to my original relationship conditioning. But I still believed I held the key to success. I was wrong and remained wrong until recently. Strangely enough, when I look back, there are many clues.

Co-creation helps you accomplish something truly wonderful

Creating together helps create a life more wonderful and special than you believed possible.


Here's an analogy from when I was assistant editor of my high school yearbook: The teacher in charge was most exciting woman I had ever met. Yes, I had a crush. So, I decided I was going to the best editor she had ever seen. If I overproduced, wrote the most amazing articles and poetry, and took the most amazing photos, I could be responsible for the best yearbook ever.

My teacher knew something I did not. If she paired us up with different teammates for different tasks and gave us an assignment we must create together, magic would happen. She was one of those rare educators we experienced in school who understood the value of creating lasting memories and awakened us to the importance of connecting with others by using our innate creative abilities.

She enthusiastically invited serendipity. Every day, in every way, we discovered and created works of art that would become bound into a single book designed to immortalize our High School years. To this day, no other class I have taken has come close to the thrill and sense of joyful connection I experienced. What she released into our awareness was our innate need and desire to connect through shared creations.

Co-creation is the essential ingredient that must be present and continuously nourished for any relationship to last, whether kids in school, an occupation we pursue, a family or community unit, and absolutely our romantic relationships.


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Co-creation can only happen when two or more people work toward a common goal 

It is not when one person creates for another. Although what we can give and receive from others can be spectacular, that exchange will never sustain an ever-evolving extraordinary relationship.



You receive the most kind, gracious, generous, and creative gifts. Your life is good. You do not need more or better things because you like what you have. Your partner is an amazing provider. You get breakfast in bed, help take care of things, and you don't feel used. You even get plenty of physical intimacy when you want it. But gosh darn it, something is missing. It can't be your partner. They are wonderful. Look at all they do for you.


Yet even still, you can feel there is something more. Just what is it? It's the one thing that brings more life into your body, more joy to your heart, and more excitement and celebration than anything else. It's the experience of being a part of the creation.

Imagine this scenario:

You're making a meal for your beloved or your family. You love to cook, and it brings you joy to feed others. Tonight, your partner comes in and asks if they can help. Perhaps you were a little tired, so you let go of the reigns and say, "Sure." You share what you have planned, and your partner gets to work helping. They ask you if you would like this or that. They get in a grove with you, and you find yourself decorating the plates of food together. You put something here, and they add a fun extra thing there. Next thing you know, you are at the table with candles and a few extra touches and looking at a meal that is so awesome you stop to take pictures before eating.

couple co-creating a mealPhoto: George Rudy via Shutterstock


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Another example: 

You are helping your kids with their schoolwork, mostly by letting them know they need to get it done. They get stuck on something, and you're a good parent and show them how to do it correctly. They appreciate your help but expect it, too. But this night, after the homework is done, you start working on a puzzle together. It’s 3,000 pieces, and as it comes together, the picture tells a story about a powerful magician in a mysterious castle.

The two of you have fun building the borders and filling it in while helping each other find the pieces. You decide together not to use the picture that came with the puzzle and put it together the hard way, without clues. Every step along the way is full of surprises and more serendipity. Years later, your adult child reminds you how much fun they had and shares how they didn’t know they could even do anything like you did together.


Co-creation is the glue that binds a family together forever

Your partner makes love to you all the time, as often as you like. But do they make love to you or with you? You know the difference. Even if you are good with the amount of physical intimacy you get when you and your partner create the magic. It surprises you with laughter or tears or (you fill in the blanks) because there is a discovery of something new, unexpected, and divine. It’s pure bliss.

For a relationship to flourish over time, this level of discovery is essential. Unfortunately, most of us have very complex and busy lives. Most of us care deeply for our families, friends, and our beloveds. Yet, we are busy getting and doing for ourselves or others and not being in the creation of life together.

It’s like fast food. We feed ourselves quickly and unconsciously with ingredients that shorten our life span, replace the joy of eating, and nourish our bodies with instant gratification. We have co-created nothing, and we pay the price.



Co-creation is like inquiry. As a discipline, inquiry instantly prevents us from misunderstandings and delivers us into beautiful, revealing, and loving connections. It’s so easy, so simple and so life-giving,


Co-creation is just as easy. Our lives are complex and messy. Yet, if we make a conscious effort to create with others instead of for others, a deeply fulfilling, meaningful, and joyful relationship continues to flourish. It does so because it has the most essential ingredient to stand the test of time.

Make a special effort to be in a creative partnership. Co-creating the things you value most. And always be ready for the most amazing surprises.

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Larry Michel is the father of Genetic Energetics, a typology to help us love more fully and connect more deeply. He is also a world-renowned relationship coach who works with people across the globe to find the greatest joy, inspiration, growth, abundance, and excitement in their relationships.