“and we never really fight” – my friend concluded the description of her allegedly perfect marriage, awaiting for my enthusiastic response. I smiled, attempting for the smile on my face to cover up a question on my mind, which was-“and do you ever really f*** ?” Relationships without ever fighting, or f***ing for that matter, are little Fun. These 3 F-words seem to run together in relationships. There is one important principle I learned about relationships in my Beverly Hills and Valencia based marriage counseling and couples counseling practice. Couples, who experience their togetherness with intensity, tend to find intensity not only in the moment of harmony, but also in their occasional moments of disagreement. After a closer look, all of the 3 F’s are fueled by the same powerful energy that is responsible for keeping the hearth of the relationship fired up, warm, and inviting. We tend to call this energy Passion.
Passion is the gravity field, pulling us closer to each other, pushing us to connect spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and of course, physically. Passion is the mending glue that helps us repair the occasional ruptures in the fabric of our intimate connections. Without passion our relationships tend to resemble friendships at best and formal commitments at worst. Passion is the life force itself, streaming live through us.
In marriage counseling and couples counseling the outcome many times depends on whether this fire is alive or can be reignited within the couple. Couples counseling being the focus of my practice in Beverly Hills and Valencia, I have the opportunity to observe this magnetic force of passion helping couples restore their relationships to a total health within miraculously short time.
I love my spouse very much, and there are days when I would feel absolutely happy to stay cuddled up in bed together until the next dawn, before my early am trek into Valencia and later back into Beverly Hills. We have been together for quite some time and know each other well. However, in the beginning of our relationships, when the fabric of intimacy between us was still thin and foundation of our love – fragile, there were occasional days when I would wake up in our bed, and the warm, buzzing, delicious feeling in me would be absent. Instead, there was a sense of objective distance. At times it felt as if I was falling out of love, and this used to scare and confuse me.
How is it possible that I loved this person so much just recently, and all of a sudden the feeling is not there? How can I have a change of heart so unpredictably? Does it mean that my relationships are in danger? Does it mean I am incapable of building a long-term loving relationship, just because my love tends to change its course so rapidly? Do we need marriage counseling, or is it me, who is in need of psychotherapy? My mind would race in search of an explanation, which was nowhere to be found. I would observe other couples attempting to discover “the secret” for happy marriage. Do other couples know something that has escaped me so far? At these times I would flex all of my mind muscles, bringing everything I know about marriage counseling and couples counseling, psychotherapy, NLP (neurolinguistic programming) and hypnosis to the forefront of my mind with determination to find the answers.
Luckily, my panic would not last for long. Very soon I would find myself sharing a moment of connection and intimacy with my partner, and all the feelings we had between us would rush back with freshness and intensity, bringing tremendous relief and joy. After few of these emotional rollercoasters, which I tried to hide, probably unsuccessfully, from my very perceptive better half, I came to a very simple and profound realization: there is an ebb and flow to all of our emotions, including the emotions of love and passion. There is a rhythm to love.
Big moments of passion are followed by times of calm and relaxed connection. Moments of distance are followed by moments of strong desire and togetherness. The pendulum swings and we are riding the wave, up and down, balancing to maintain a sense of coherent and logical continuum within our relationships, while at times there is none. Using the words of Heraclitus, “Nothing endures but change.”
However, if the emotional ebb and flow are part of our nature, wouldn’t this in and of itself make things more predictable? Wouldn’t it, possibly, provide us with the key to making wonderful moments in our relationships even better, while helping us to weather an occasional storm? Could we, understanding the rhythm of our togetherness and connection, be reassured even during the low tides? And if so, what is it that couples need to know about the pendulum swing? How can we learn to dance to the rhythm of love?
As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I love Richard David Bach’s saying – “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.” In couples counseling I make sure to remind my clients of this simple truth. Many couples in couples counseling and marriage counseling wish for their loving relationships to have comfortable, nurturing, and joyful constancy. Many of us occasionally also enjoy excitement and thrill, however, excitement that comes from stormy relationships is rarely fun, and this is one of the reasons couples show up for couples counseling.
The mere awareness of the emotional pendulum and it’s rather predictable rhythm is not enough. Finding a way to create a safe haven within our relationships and marriages would mean avoiding the extremes of the pendulum swing. With my Beverly Hills and Valencia clients we discuss the pendulum principle often. The further pendulum swings to one extreme and away from the point of a balanced center, the further it will swing back to the other extreme. This is just physics, isn’t it? In a couple the central point of balance is the place of connection and intimacy, where both partners are able to find the optimal balance of meeting the needs of their relationships as well as their own needs in a harmonious way.
My good friend, who is also a psychologist and psychotherapist in Valencia area, pointed out that the balanced center in intimate relationships would always be a place of intimate connection and togetherness, balanced by a sense of autonomy and clearly-defined sense of self. This is the space within our intimate relationships where we are able to clearly understand the needs of our partner along with our own needs, and the needs of the relationships. This is a place of loving and appropriate boundaries. Don Miguel Ruiz in his book “The Four Agreements” described it as “always doing your best.” Doing less than your best would be non-caring, while doing more than your best would be self-depleting. Doing your best is the zone of centered balance in the pendulum.
Away from the center, one extreme would be increasing emotional distance from the partner. Psychologist would say that the couple is disengaged. The other extreme would be over-engagement in a form of domineering, controlling attitude, sense of losing yourself in the relationship, or pushing aside your own needs to fulfill the needs of your partner. Using psychologist and psychotherapist lingo we could say that the couple is enmeshed, co-dependent, etc. Using the metaphor of the pendulum, the more we become over-engaged at one time, the more dis-engaged we might find ourselves later on. The time frame of the pendulum swing may vary, since different relationships and individuals have different rhythm, however, the principle is always in effect.
So what do couples need to know in order to find and maintain the harmony of centeredness in their intimate connection? What does it take to balance our needs with the needs of our partners and help our relationships flourish and thrive? What would be necessary for us to harness the pendulum principle and make it work in our favor? Surprisingly, the answer is quite simple. It will take only two things, two ingredients, two Keys to mastery: Awareness and Intent.
The Key of Awareness requires us to pay attention to the flow of our relationship in the moment. It asks us to turn on our “Intimeter” and gage the state of our intimacy and connection with our partner on a moment-by-moment basis. Psychologist would call it an insight. This Key of Awareness is important for us not only in psychotherapy, but also in our day to day togetherness. It allows us to know where we are on the trajectory of the Pendulum, in what direction our relationship pendulum is moving, and what pole it is approaching.
The Key of Awareness also opens us up for a deeper connection with our partner, since it requires us to open all of our perceptive senses and focus part of our attention on our intimacy. Although the Key of Awareness is self-explanatory for most, sometimes people ask “Well, and how do I do that? How do I become aware? Does it take psychotherapy to make it happen?” The second key provides the answer.
The second key is the Key of Intent. Intent is infinitely more than just wishing and wanting. Intent is an imperative command to our Mind to focus all of its resources on a task that we decided is important for us in the moment. In psychotherapy we use affirmations, visualization, and other techniques to harness the power of intent. Intent combines a specific goal, with the desire of its attainment, and the will of taking action to produce the results.
In relationships having the intent of maintaining harmonious and loving connection is a powerful tool. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything has always done so by having a clear and powerful intent of success. The intent of success in relationship would be the intent of love and harmony, intent to maintain connection and intimacy, intent for playfulness and humor to be part of the relationships, intent of fueling the passion and intent of seeing the beauty in each other.
So having said that, how does it actually work? How can we get tangible results in our relationships by using the Keys of Awareness and Intent? The answer is within you. You have both of the keys. Through using the Key of Awareness and by turning on your Intimeter you will be able to easily gage times in which your relationships is drifting out of the balance zone. Your own feelings and behaviors in relationship, as well as those of your partner, are a clear indication of it. This is where the second key comes into play. Having the Intent of maintaining love, intimacy and connection in your relationship will help you find the best and most suitable ways to act and bring your relationship back into the place of harmony and togetherness.
The action required is dependent on the situation. No psychotherapist can give you a one-fit-all solution that will work for everyone all the time. Sometimes compromise might be the best possible solution, while some other times clarifying your boundaries and saying “no” could be the step toward greater intimacy. Sometimes an expression of affection will bring the relationship vessel back into the safe heaven, and on other occasion an open, honest, and direct conversation is required to bring back the harmony. Whatever the situation is, having the intent of restoring loving connection will be your compass in helping you find the best course of action.
The principle of Pendulum is forever in effect in our relationships, and an expectation of constant bliss is rather naive. Having temporary tensions and disagreements is a natural and necessary part of intimate relationships. This being said, mastering the Pendulum principle through Awareness and Intent is a lifelong journey toward deeper understanding of ourselves, our loved ones, and the nature of human experience. After all, love and life both are a journey and not a destination.
Dr. Harel Papikian
9300 Wilshire Blvd. #306
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
25350 Magic Mountain Parkway #170
Valencia, CA 91355