Posted 22nd June 2020
What makes a relationship work or not?To ask for information or to arrange an appointment,
please call Kenneth Demsky, PhD on 020 7435 6116
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This question is a very modern one, since early definitions of committed relationships scarcely acknowledged the factors we consider most important today: whether two people are compatible for emotional and physical intimacy. In past centuries, the institution of marriage was a legal and religious pillar of the Establishment because it provided some regulation of family lineage and the transmission of property. It was not until the Romantic era, which began around 1800, that the significance of a dyadic relationship was re-conceptualised as the union of hearts and bodies.
Within a couple, compatibility in physical intimacy requires a foundation of emotional intimacy. The emotional and the physical bonds are presumed to strengthen and reinforce each other. This is the difference between making love on the one hand and hooking up or getting off on the other; the latter may be based on a minimum of rapport; it is an expression of an instinctive part of human nature, our animalistic side seeking expression. When it comes to sexual behaviours, whatever works for the two individuals within a couple is considered ‘right’ for them. There are no metrics suggesting minimum or maximum frequency of any particular sexual act, as long as the sex drives of both parties are mostly satisfied.
Assuming there are no sexual dysfunctions stemming from physiological or psychological problems, the two people can build on this foundation the closeness and safety that fosters emotional intimacy. As the saying goes, “Love is required but not sufficient” to make a relationship work. Respect for the other person as separate from you creates the boundaries that allow both of you to thrive whilst sharing so much of yourselves with another person.
One problem in relationships is that, whilst opposites can attract, they can also be challenging to live with long-term unless one knows how to compromise and stretch oneself. A 1997 Broadway musical was titled, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”, which is a good warning against expecting your partner to be different after commitment from how that person has been throughout dating.
There are aspects of self-development which are not achieved without having the experience of being in a committed dyadic connection (just as parenting offers the opportunity to grow as a human being). Knowing how to be intimate with someone else and yet being true to yourself requires self-awareness, maturity and a willingness to grow.
Posted 22nd June 2020