It’s my opinion that relationships grow through three stages. Most marriages fail when one person wants to grow to the next stage, and their partner does not cooperate.
Stage 1 – Taking
In this stage a person is concerned primarily with what their own needs are. Whether or not the relationship is considered to be healthy depends on whether or not the individual is getting what they want from it. Conflicts occur when a person decides that they are not getting what they want, and they try to force it to happen.
Stage 2 – Give and Take
In this stage a couple comes to understand that they each have a different idea of what a healthy relationship is. They learn that it is much easier to get what you want from the relationship if you are also giving what your partner wants. Conflicts occur when one person starts to slack off and does keep up their end of the deal. Most couples never get past this level because they never become secure enough in themselves to stop needing external validation. Most of what we perceive as being needs in our relationship are really ego addictions. This is true for both men and women although they have different addictions of choice (for most men, sex. and for most women, constant positive feedback).
Stage 3 – Giving
In this stage people become secure and confident enough that they no longer perceive that there is anything that they absolutely must have in order to feel that the marriage is healthy. They let go of their ego addictions. If their wants are not being met for a while they are OK with that because their ego no longer depends on those things for its sense of security. This frees a person to focus on what they can give to their partner in order to bring more joy to both their lives. When both partners are in this mode you get a truly magical relationship in which they are constantly surprising each other with spontaneous giving. Nothing is forced and neither person feels manipulated or taken advantage of. Very few couples reach this level, and even the ones who do will sometimes slip back to stage 2 for periods of time.
My intent is to help lead couples from stage 1 to stage 2. To guide them into a give and take mentality in which they recognize that their partner’s needs are different, and equally important to their own. Every couple that manages to pull themselves up to stage 2 has scored a major victory. Although most couples may never get beyond this level, we should all strive for more.
Getting to stage 3 requires a lot of personal growth. It requires that you face all of your own fears and exorcise all of your own demons so that there is nothing to keep you in a taking mindset. You enjoy sex fully without thinking that you must have it. You enjoy positive feedback without being dependent on it in any way. You will feel safe and secure regardless of what your partner does or does not do. You learn to just take life as it comes and stop keeping score about who is giving what, and who is receiving what. You give because giving feels good, and gratefully receive whatever your partner feels willing to give. If one partner stops giving you may fall back to stage 2 for a while, but the goal is to eventually get back to open giving again.
Stage 3 is where I am aiming with my marriage. I may never succeed, but I have to try. I know that such relationships are possible, so I will feel that I am ripping myself, my wife, and our marriage off if I do not make an honest attempt at getting there. However, I also recognize that the vast majority of people would be perfectly happy at stage 2, so I devote lots of time and energy to helping them get there. If now and then someone pops up who feels that give and take feels false, I will know that this person needs to know about stage 3. I am not promoting it as openly because it would confuse some people and make others feel threatened. People who are in a stage 1 mentality hate stage 3, stage 3 requires that you give up on the concept of personal needs, which is 180 degrees opposite of what most people are willing to do.
In an ideal world, we would all be in stage 3 relationships. For now, I am content to tip the balance in favor of stage 2 and maybe some people will eventually go higher.
If you are interested in learning more, or support and guidance following this path in your marriage, Please visit my website at: www.2lovehonorandcherish.com