Are you comparing your relationship to the next couple and wondering if you’re doing it "wrong"-? Or feel like you have no idea how to play the dating and mating game these days?
While you may be relieved to loosen the restraints of tradition and strict gender roles (I know I am), now we’re all in a situation of having to "make it up as we go." It can be downright mystifying.
Out-dated, old-school concepts about love and sex promote limiting beliefs and expectations, which inevitably lead to disappointment. But what do you replace it with?
It's time to consider a new paradigm for modern lovers: how to create a unique relationship that fits who you are rather than what you think you and your lover ought to be.
A lot of people find themselves stuck in limiting old-school beliefs about love and relationships, perhaps with the nagging feeling, "Is that all there is?"
The notion of romantic love was invented during the troubadour period (1100-1350.) The troubadours spread the notion of chivalry and courtly love through songs and stories taken from court to court, detailing the dramatic lengths and suffering lovers would go through to be together.
You + Me = We
These tales had all the juiciness of the forbidden fruit, and since the love interest was out of reach most of the time, it was easy to project all your fantasies onto the potential lover.
Interestingly, this tradition of romantic love is carried on through our modern entertainment as well – love stories, romances and romantic comedies are all about the things keeping the lovers apart and the story ends as soon as they get together.
Perhaps because it seems so hard to "find the right one" and actually get together, once found, the lover looks like a hard-won possession that must be held at all costs, (and they BETTER be worth all the trouble!)
(Limiting) beliefs or expectations about romantic love
"You complete me.”
"I'm nothing without you."
“Enchant me. If the enchantment wears off, it's your fault."
“You have to fulfill my needs, and if not, I won't love you anymore." (or) "It means you don't love me."
"If you (insert all that apply: won't change, are disloyal, displease me,) it means you don't love me."
"I have to know where you are and what you're doing at all times."
"If you do anything I don't approve of, it's over."
Loyalty is highly prized among lovers and is often confused with unconditional love. What we call loyalty can be an excuse for making unreasonable demands.
“If you love me, you’ll do as I say.”
In other words, "It's MY way or the highway!"
Much of the frustration and pain of modern relationship comes from still seeing ourselves as one half of a whole. We feel incomplete on our own. We only feel whole with another person reflecting love and approval at us, so we are very invested in keeping control of the source of this love.
Another big part of the problem is there are no rules anymore. No one knows what to expect from each other.
These challenges present a wonderful opportunity to create the kind of relationship we want, if we're willing to love ourselves first and also communicate honestly...
A New Paradigm for Modern Lovers
For a more satisfying and fulfilling relationship, we need a new paradigm – a whole new perspective and way of thinking about our relationships with ourselves and others, especially our most intimate others.
Rather than one half of a whole, feeling incomplete without the other half, what about seeing ourselves as unique wholes seeking to share our gift of love and companionship with another, even if it turns out to be for a limited time? What about seeking a partner who is not only attractive to you, but who also shares a compatible vision and mission for their life?
Often, we believe we have to choose between our freedom (individuality, free will) and love. Yet if we can learn to respect one another's free will, we can have both.
First we need to see ourselves as unique, whole and complete. To start identifying with our true authentic selves. To love ourselves enough to feel a healthy sense self-esteem from inside rather than have it depend on others and how they respond to us. Then we can share the wonderful gift of our selves and our unconditional love with another.
Unconditional love is something quite different from loyalty. It means, "I love and appreciate you for who you are, regardless of what you do for me."
It takes understanding that we are all on our own path and our own journey, at our own pace.
It requires that we respect one another’s free will, rather than insisting that, "You must bend to my will to prove your love."
Power struggle is just one phase – you can get through it!
There is naturally a power struggle phase in every relationship – it is getting to know the other person, their boundaries, their blind spots, our own fears. We test each other and see ourselves mirrored back (yikes!)
Unfortunately, many relationships never get out of this power struggle phase. This is what gets so exhausting and eats away at the attraction that brought the couple together in the first place.
However, if we are willing to approach our date, lover, or spouse as a complete individual, with a potential relationship as a separate thing we both want to be part of, we can work through our differences. If we are willing to be changed and allow the other person to change, we can help each other along the way.
You + Me + We = Unlimited Possibility
Creating the relationship you want
Since there are no more rules for relationships and gender roles are much less defined nowadays, we have the opportunity to create something new.
It will take finding out who you are and what you want. And you do that as you go... that is what relationships are for! They're a place to learn and grow in a way you can't do by yourself.
It will also take honest, respectful communication. By being open with your (potential) partner, you could actually create your own brand of relationship - it might not work for anyone else, but it could be just right for you and the unique individual you attract into your life.
Understand that we are both humans helping each other to grow. You can get through the power struggle phase with a healthy sense of respect – for both yourself and your partner. Life is challenging enough without continually challenging each other. If you both agree, you can work toward a mutual goal of becoming a team made up of two individuals who choose to support each other on your unique life journeys.
Whether you need to make adjustments to an unfulfilling relationship or seek the close-to-ideal new love, imagine you're on a path of self-discovery.
This way, you're in a process, seeking mastery rather than perfection in the art of giving and receiving love ... you're on an exciting adventure – that could last a lifetime!