What makes your relationship good? Not when you compare it to others, but when you look at it as one of the three structures of your relational identity?
It is difficult for many in the United States to look at Relationship today and say for them what it is about their main relationship that nourishes, satisfies, or continues to be cultivated as it stands on its own, and that’s really too bad because relationships don’t coast, nor do they maintain themselves. If I had to venture a reason for why this is the case, I would point to aspects of heterosexuality and the main cultural paradigm that make “love” and “marriage” and “baby carriage” go together in the same mind-numbing way that reality television goes with what has come to pass as "newsworthy journalism"—through the repetition of a lower bar of normal that becomes expected and never analyzed or critiqued.
The truth of the matter is that no one ever achieved excellence without first putting in some amount of consideration and effort, even if you were the fictional character, Forest Gump. There is a thought and a choice point at every single turn of every single thought, and there is capacity for infinite human thought. It happens in every decision of every day, whether you are conscious of it or not. The trick, I would say, is to begin to become more conscious of these daily choices.
When a person steps into becoming more self-aware and more intentional about discernment in both taking action and simply observing action, it is much more difficult to get an emotional reaction to what may simply be an empty syllogistic bubble of bait. And unfortunately, couples get into bad habits. They may have had the bad habits from the start, or they may fall into cutting corners with their self-awareness and their intent. In either instance, easing into one another demands still the higher cognition of reflection and self-correction or reflection and negotiating a new normal, without simply letting things slide into a new normal unconsciously.
It stands to reason that consciousness lends itself to better decision-making and judicial ability. It gives the autonomic system room to breathe and look around rather than react. The endocrine and pituitary system don’t have to be waiting on high alert for a fight because the mind is engaged in a reasoning act, which requires tuning into your own frequency and the frequencies of those around you in order to distill what it is the words spoken and actions taken that convey meaning are deconstructed to a level of understanding that you can no longer parse mean.
This is certainly the case in our daily interaction with our primary partner, whether your term of endearment is your beloved or you have denigrated down to referring to one another as the “old battle axe” or “ball and chain.” It is worse, of course, to have spiraled down so far with one another that you have gotten to the point where you refer to one another as nothing, which this is the case for so many people, and it calls into question, for me anyway, what is the good life, and what is this representation a semblance of?
If you read my blog or heard me speak, you’ve heard me refer to the trinity of any relationship: Self, Other, and the Relationship, Itself. The yoking is partially about identity, and partially about servitude, but it is really more about the delicate footwork that goes toward working together toward some end, each as an individual part of a bigger whole. That bigger whole becomes the economic principles of Relationship, which beget family, offspring, values, and property.
It is really impossible to meet someone and yoke so far into one another that your own personal identities can no longer be found, the amalgam being some new metal that may or may not be fused together in a way that is solid and wears well over time. Even when couples do coupledom well, they have maintained the pieces of themselves that add to the overall effect of the relational sum of parts, and when they do coupledom poorly, the enmeshment and stench seeps through every pore of each individual as well as the aspects of the relationship, even as the lack of self-awareness and core self identity latched themselves onto Other at the start.
To view Relationship as the abdication of Self leaves little to cultivate within the context of building something new. After all, what is a relationship but a structure unto itself, built on the foundation of Self and Other? It requires a steady and conscious core identity with reasoning faculty and vision. It certainly requires insight and clear communication. And it requires it of Self and Other, each as Self and Other, in order to build something lasting, solid, and beautiful—a compound alloy that has both strength and beauty.
Learning how to build the foundation of Self, how to bridge knowing Other, and which tools and how to use them to begin to create a new healthy entity from Self and Other are the skills we are frequently not taught, and why learning them is important on many levels. What makes your relationship good, then, is whatever the two—Self and Other, as each other, with one another—decide makes it good. It is not by cookie cutter. It is not by nursery rhyme. It is not by telepathy or titillating magazine headline (How to get your man to do anything…). It is certainly not a Frank Sinatra song.