In the ORSC courses I am often asked, “What makes a good relationship.” I am cautious when I answer because I know full well that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. For example, define “good.” Qualities that make a good relationship for some of my friends would send me screaming into the hills. Does good mean happy? No relationship is happy all the time. My favorite 20th anniversary card was one which said, “Thanks for 13 really great years, 4 so-so, and 3 really shitty ones!” That about sums it up in my book. We take vows “for better and worse,” but we rarely talk about “the worse” parts. As we move through the vicissitudes of our lives together there are going to be periods of great strain, losses and disappointments even in highly successful relationships. For me this is when marriage becomes interesting. I am grateful everyday for the sweet and smooth parts of my relationship, but it is the hard times that really show me my soul.
There is a term in Buddhism called “Guru Principle.” The power of a Guru is that s/he show us our mind and by seeing how our mind works we become aware. The point of Guru Principle is that anything that shows us our minds is acting as a teacher, a Guru to us. And there is no greater Guru than our relationships. Relationship truly shows us the heights and depths of our emotional capacity. Marita holds up a constant mirror to me if I am willing to look at my own mind and heart. Sometimes the view is great and I can see my own loving nature, generous with great sweetness. Other days I see pettiness and engrained resentful narratives.
In my own unscientific experience there are some ground conditions for creating and maintaining relationship . I call these the Five C’s. These are not the only important qualities, but they are part of what can build a sturdy relationship. So take them in the spirit in which they are offered, which is a lens to think about your own relationship. This blog is the first of a series on the 5 C’s which are Chemistry, Commonality, Constructive Conflict, Courtesy and Commitment.
Passion is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Most of us have been in the grip of an intense love at least once in our lives and we all know how it can be a form of temporary insanity. This is sometimes called chemistry, that ineffable, inexplicable, often explosive reaction that occurs between certain people. Part of this is literally chemistry in that the body is awash with hormones, which generally fade after about 2 years. But chemistry isn’t just about sexual passion; it’s about some kind of magnetic force that feels irresistible. Many dating services match people on the basis of common values and interests and this is an important factor which we will talk about in the next C. However, the most carefully constructed set of matches all too often falls apart on the first date because, well, the person just doesn’t smell right.
Chemistry is inexplicable, body-based and important. It is a pull towards union. Strong chemistry acts as a binder holding the couple together through difficult times. It is what makes the relationship feel alive. It is often what keeps couples coming back together through multiple breakups. And although the sexual expression of chemistry may fade, that sense of powerful bonding, of a visceral need for another can remain for a life time. Is chemistry absolutely necessary for a fulfilling relationship? No. It depends on what values are important to you as a couple. Many people, after surviving the nuclear holocaust of a demon love affair, opt for the cooler climate of a friendship-based partnership. And this is a perfectly reasonable choice. And chemistry is not enough to maintain a relationship, as most of us learn in our youth. However passion adds heat, color and intensity to the Third Entity in a way that is vivid and alive.
Passion can take many forms along with sexual passion. Below are some of the forms that I am aware of, but see what other ones live in your relationship.
Passion may show up as a sense of deep engagement with each other. This shows up as a visceral need to connect, communicate to share things together. Sometimes this takes the form of feeling like your spouse is still the person you most enjoy spending time with.
There is often a strong physical bond. Often this is sexual, but even when it’s not, there is a craving “to lay hands on each other,” to touch, hold, snuggle.
Passionate relationships feel alive. There is a certain degree of emotional intensity. This sometimes takes the form of passionate fights as well. You may feel attracted, you may feel repelled but you are rarely bored.