It may not seem that way but our original and primal drive to intimate relationship is sexual. Culture and religion dress it up as something a lot more respectable and regulate and channel its powerful energy, but sex is under/behind that urge or desire to be in an intimate relationship. Different traditional cultures have various restrictive courtship rituals but in the modern global culture where people are free to choose their own partners, Sensual Attraction is the name of the game.
Personas get to know each other and we are attracted to what we see, hear, smell, and touch. The beautiful, sexy, confident ones generally have higher self esteem, more comfortable in their own skin, they more easily pair up. But most of us are not so beautiful and sexy and not so confident, but rather anxious and a little, or very afraid of being rejected.
We cautiously get to know each other and we are careful to be likeable. And when someone cares enough to listen, and likes me back, it feels so good, and when I like her back, its thrilling and exciting. Personas need to be liked and accepted and so we both become temporary versions of our best selves, hiding undesirable traits and conforming to each other.
We enjoy spending time together, doing stuff together, getting to know each other’s likes and dislikes, and then go a little deeper behind the persona and begin the beautiful adventure of really discovering one another and ourselves. Being liked, accepted and loved allows us to relax, open up and show a side of ourselves and emotions that we never knew were even there and its tantalizing to feel so alive. At some point we kiss and, no matter where or how awkward or nervous, it’s so special and memorable… time slows down and the world shimmers… the Caring Romance phase begins.
Physical intimacy and affection releases powerful hormones like oxytocin, endorphins, phenylethylamine, and dopamine, a cocktail of feel-good love-drugs that make both of us high and puts us in a zone of our own, in which nothing else matters. In this state of intoxication and heightened arousal the beloved can do no wrong. Each is focused on the other, listens, understands and helps the other, sacrifices for the other, and makes the other feel special. In a world of indifference and people constantly putting you down, this is revolutionary! This release from the hyper-critical societal, familial and egoic self-focus coupled with constant, loving attention, is transcendent and liberating. The lovers overlook flaws or faults or see it as quirky, and trust each other complicitly… as they say “love is blind”.
Those parts that are missing from consciousness, somehow find counterparts in the other person. This is why they say “opposites attract”. On a semi-conscious level an intelligent analytical man is attracted to the carefree simplicity of his girlfriend, and vice verse. The serious routine driven woman is attracted to the spontaneous adventurous man, and him to her. An overly sensitive man who is very cautious likes the somewhat brash insensitive female who tells it like it is.
But at a still deeper unconscious level, repressed trapped energy gravitates towards its receptacles and shadow locks recognize the keys to their unraveling. In the shadows are some of our best parts but also our worst; entrenched emotional exemplars; relationship roles and routines; infantile, immature idiosyncrasies; and complex chronic chthonic core beliefs and attitudes. That’s why we call it “falling in love”. We fall into the abyss of Love.
Culture, and the extent to which people are ruled by it, determines when and in what order sex and marriage will happen, and if they do, both of these change the relationship profoundly. Its not like in the movies. In real life sex is a little awkward and painful at first and takes some practice to get it going good but when its good its orgasmic union and bliss, flushing negativity and amplifying connection.
Sex is a deep, powerful energy exchange which opens the doors to the unconscious and intermingles conscious and unconscious energies. It brings greater intimacy and trust but also allows more primal patterns to surface and drops the pretense to some degree. Sex was the driving force and ‘goal’ so having achieved it the personas relax, ease up somewhat, and the hidden traits and qualities start surfacing. The shadow parts begin to show and then there is trouble in paradise and you start to see another side to the person you adored and idealized.
Marriage is an important part of virtually every culture. Some couples feel compelled and encouraged by family and culture to get married and some don’t. Marriage is a formal contract before God and government, family and society and once bound, the contracting parties seem to have some formalized rights and obligations.
There’s some degree of stress involved in planning, and getting married, and starting a home and family together but there can be many joys too, but after the honeymoon phase, we finally ‘relax’ into each other’s company and settle down and share our space and world. This can be a wonderful adventure or a lonely nightmare to be endured patiently. If a couple chooses not to get married but move in together they are in the same boat but without the same formal contracts and cultural shackles.
It is impossible to power the perfect persona 24/7…365. Nobody can do it. Eventually if we stay together long enough, and are having sex and living together we inevitably will come face to face with each other’s competitive egos and default personalities underlying the personas… longer still and we will be faced with each other’s shadows in all its endarkened, inglorious, schizmoidal inaptitude. And so begins the Destructive Conflict and power struggle phase of the relationship.
This person gradually transmogrifies before your very eyes but you can’t really put your finger on it because somehow it was always there yet you just couldn’t see it. There are more frequent arguments and conflicts that seem to accumulate and escalate, and before you know it you’re shouting at each other and can’t seem to understand each other anymore. We oscillate between fighting and making up.
We both deal with upset and conflict in the modes of our daddies and mummies (or lack thereof), according to installed patterns of excessing/repressing emotion/behavior. It’s like my father pattern is fighting with her mother pattern… her dead grandfather battling with my dead grandmother, and vice verse.
When a child is born it’s a wonderful magical time, but also quite stressful and difficult. The woman’s body and life are changing. Hormones fluctuate, her body expands, and she has swinging moods, worries, and fears. Childbirth is generally painful and traumatic but when we hold our bundle of joy in our arms, this gurgling, wide-eyed little fountain of pure consciousness and love, melts our hearts and we are in love again. High with endogenous euphoria, we float in a blissful realm… until the bills start rolling in, and the stinking diapers start filling up, and the crying, and the sleepless nights and the clash of parenting reflexes, patterns and ideas. Nobody really prepared us for any of this shit. Its like we have to just wing it, and figure it all out as we go along. Our lives will never be the same again and that’s hard for us to accept. There’s less time, less money, and less energy for ourselves and it takes time to process and adapt to this whole new dispensation.
But regardless of all that, we shower our first born with so much love and affection, care and nurturing, pampering and conscious positive attention and stimulation, but also unconscious negative attention. It’s something so new and fascinating for both of us. We see ourselves in our child, and something bigger, better, purer than ourselves, and we are in awe. Everything hard in us softens and melts into mush. Our families are also excited and everyone is generally united and supportive around the child and the child grows up in that early bubble, secure, worthy and held in high esteem.
The child can either end the destructive conflict or deepen it. For those who cannot re-orientate and adjust to the purifying love of the child, the battle resumes with renewed vigor, but there is something new now. The subtle parental patterns become more prominent. The woman’s pattern with her own mother, rises within her, kind of fused with her motherly instincts. This can be a good thing or it can be scary, as powerful waves of raw unstable emotions dominate for prolonged periods. The man’s father pattern surfaces within him, and the old power struggle takes new shape around the child and they fight about the child… and then they fight with the child.
They cannot stop themselves from being ruled by automatic thinking complexes, owned by raw emotional eruptions, and possessed by shadow surges, and the raw unconscious reactivity which destroys intimacy and trust and undermines the relationship’s foundation. The destructive conflict phase can be mild or it can be all out war or a silent horrible nightmare depending on the individuals and their drives, repressed emotions, shadows and complexes, but also on the support of family, friends and guides/counselors, and how they each, and both together, educate themselves and try to bring consciousness into the relationship. The ‘destructiveness’ of this phase is not all bad.
As they push each other’s buttons, and find their weak spots and trigger those unconscious patterns they bring what was buried, back up to the surface to be addressed and so they are also destroying barriers in each other; barriers to true intimacy and trust; but also the invisible walls of all those defense mechanisms, so that something new can be built upon the ruins of the ancient edifice, something fresh… authentic.
Some couples don’t get past the Attraction phase. One or both of them are put off, they don’t like what they see or hear. Some couples don’t get past the Romance phase because as they get closer they get turned off and move apart. Some couples don’t get past Sex because it wasn’t good, or because it scared them, or because it allowed a frightful glimpse of deeper shadow material. Out of all the couples who get Married and/or live together, some will not get past the Conflict phase. There are more bad times than good and they cannot seem to understand each other, and they don’t really enjoy each other’s company any more and don’t have the strength and energy to pretend and so divorce/split is the only way out. Some couples try to make it work but don’t make it past having a Child. They can’t handle the loss of ‘freedom’ and the escalating conflict, and so one leaves or they split up. But some couples stick together because of society, or for the children’s sake or because they still love each other.
In the old days the forces of family, culture and religion were enough to keep couples/ families locked together and to hide their broken marriage and family from the public eye and just go on, and on. The dominant partner rules the house, and the submissive partner accepts subjugation, but lives a secret inner life, and so they fight a cold war full of covert espionage, defense mechanisms, and venting, and at times of stress, open war… armageddon.
But nowadays culture and religion do not have as much sway and the old roles and norms are changing, we watch movies and TV shows and acquire new ideals and standards, women’s liberation has given individual women a voice and more power and they stand up for themselves and increasingly declare war. People can lose track of what’s really important to them and can get completely derailed and then divorce is inevitable… a very common thing these days. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be.
In the case of serious physical/emotional/ sexual abuse, women and men, find it very difficult to break out of such relationships. People abused in childhood often end up in co-dependant abusive relationships later in life as either perpetrator or victim. They never seem to see it coming but when the madness starts they feel powerless trapped in old chains which they cannot break.
But there are many couples who in the midst of destructive conflict still have enough love and care for the other person, and for their child, to find a way to face the darkness in themselves and overcome the controlling patterns, reintegrate some lost part of themselves, and change. They say “people never really change” but that’s not true. Those who cannot change will forever struggle in relationship and life but when both partners are open to healing together, willing to accept each other but also ready to embrace change, they will move through and rise above into the Conscious Collaboration phase.
By integrating repressed and shadow material exposed by the heat of the destructive phase we are somewhat more stable and calm, rather than reactive and volatile. At some point a new dynamic takes root and we learn to resolve conflicts, communicate effectively and understand each other. We move beyond expectation based on what we learnt from family/parents and culture, and into something more sincere and authentic. We learn a new range of skills and coping strategies. We allow each other some space, space to just be, space to figure things out, space to cool off… breathing space. In that space we start to know each other anew, but now it’s not personas, egos, shadows and personalities getting to know each other, but rather something more real and conscious.