About… The Nature of Love and Relationships
Generally Acceptable Relationship Guidelines for the New Era
I was facing a crisis fifteen years ago when my marriage was breaking down and I couldn’t do anything about it. For many years, my wife and I made the best of the bad situation while our kids were growing up and we felt the need to keep the family together. We sacrificed ourselves, while the initial love that had brought us together kept fading away.
Out of desperation, I began my research about relationships. I read more books every day and I did extensive analyses based on my academic background in human behaviour and relationships. Along with detailed studies of many other relationships, I thought I could find some solutions to save my marriage. The situation was depressing because I believed that both my wife and I were reasonably good human beings and we were not looking for adventures outside our marriage. We were financially successful and had fulfilling careers. We were educated and raised in progressive environments, both in terms of family and society. We tried to communicate our concerns intelligently and we met marriage counsellors too. On top of all this, we still sort of cared for each other and our sex was relatively good in terms of temperament and needs. So what the heck was the problem?
My research continued for fifteen years, while I was forced to look deeper and deeper into the roots of the problems. It became clear that dealing with the symptoms of relationship conundrums would only delay the separation. Nonetheless, my wife and I tried many suggestions that marriage counsellors and relationship books provided. In the end, still our marriage failed and we separated when our kids grew up and left us. But, by then, at least I was convinced that there was nothing more I could have done to save our relationship. I realized that relationship problems nowadays are too complex to be remedied easily. The only problem was that my wife and I were not prepared to face the reality of relationships in the new era and the high possibility of their failure.
I had assumed that my wife and I could learn to agree on a kind of relationship model that fitted our personalities. This happens in many relationships automatically when partners learn to accept and tolerate each other somehow. I only hoped that we could go one step further and agree on the issues we should handle personally, like making our own investments and not being accountable to each other about them. Or about the amount of time we spent on our hobbies, careers, friends, or travelling alone. There was really no point for us to constantly argue about the conflicts that could not be resolved. I really believed that it was possible to achieve this objective, if only we agreed on the relationship model suitable for us and accepted some reasonable compromises. I tried hard to implement such a model based on the main principles that we both valued. We tried it for about eight years anyway out of necessity, because we were forced into that kind of a rather passive relationship. But, at the end, she wasn’t satisfied with the reduced level of expectations in our relationship. She was still attached to her all-or-nothing ideology, which eventually resulted in our separation because we couldn’t change our personalities to the liking of the other person.
I don’t blame my wife for her inability to lower her expectations from our relationship. It was hard for her to do so when everybody else is expecting more from their relationships and themselves. This is a difficult thing to do as will be explained in this book. To mention only one of the hundreds of hurdles, the hoopla around positive thinking in recent decades has caused disturbing consequences on our perception of life. We have lost touch with the harsh reality of life and believe that we deserve to have all the best of everything, including a flawless, loving relationship. We have all become too idealistic.
I was successful in lowering my expectations only after many years of meditation and self-awareness. Only then I learned that lowering my expectations was the best way to enjoy my marriage. I also believed in the value of living in a contained relationship to none at all. My sincere realization made the process of adjusting my needs easier. During this process, I also learned to be more humble, content, and forgiving—although not submissive. Even my wife noticed the difference in my attitude and admitted to my drastic improvement in terms of behaving and communicating. But even then, I had to maintain some level of pride, principles, and independence in order to respect myself, too, which meant I couldn’t submit to my wife’s desires and lifestyle preferences. So we split in the end despite my efforts to save our marriage by becoming a better human being, in the best way I could figure it out.
Anyway, the results of my long, systematic research are put together in this book for everybody’s benefit. Unfortunately, the conclusions are not what most of us like to see, i.e. quick fixes for relationships. However, they might open our eyes and help us change our mindsets gradually. They could benefit us in the long run in a rather unconventional manner.
We must start by studying the obvious trends. The increasing number of divorces and endless family conflicts reflect the hectic environment of relationships. These facts also demonstrate that the existing schemes to deal with the agonizing hurdles of relationships are failing. Basically, we are ignoring the real sources of relationship problems while focusing on symptoms. So, this book is designed to analyse the roots of relationship problems in the new era. It intends to explain the high complexity of relationships in modern societies. It is also going to offer radical solutions compatible with our newer social values and expanding personal needs. To get to the roots of the problems, however, it is necessary to discuss the issues head on rather than beating around the bush to make the book appealing to everybody. So, I hope you forgive my blunt and pessimistic viewpoints once you realize my good intentions. This book is written only for the purpose of exploring the true causes of so many relationship breakdowns. I definitely have no intention to judge our social values or take side with one gender. I believe we must learn to adapt ourselves to the new realities one way or another, sooner or later. We simply cannot wait for a miracle to reverse the deteriorating trends in relationships. We must somehow help ourselves before we get hurt too much and cause more social distress for all.
This book doesn’t intend to provide relationship tips, though the readers could gather many pointers from various discussions throughout the book. One purpose of the book is to suggest a framework that could assist couples assess their relationships more realistically. Nowadays, too many relationships are ruined due to partners’ subjective assessments and hasty decisions. Thus, the ultimate goal of this book is to bring objectivity back into relationships. Yet it would be unrealistic to expect tangible changes in couples’ mindsets and relationship approaches in the near future. So, the best this book hopes to achieve is to help people merely appreciate the need for changing their mindsets about relationships. In a sense, one could say that this is a futuristic book in the way its suggestions would most likely take many years to materialize, probably sometime in the 22nd century, but hopefully sooner. This outlook sounds too pessimistic. People might argue that this prediction shows no faith in society to overcome relationship problems. On the other hand, another group might find even the 22nd century an optimistic projection for reversing the deteriorating trends in relationships. Their arguments might sound quite logical indeed. They could suggest that it is too naïve to believe that people would give up their alluring lifestyles and values to rectify their relationship issues. The changes require a lot of patience and an ability to forgive our partners’ flaws time and again. Developing such a humble mentality to accommodate our selfish partners sounds too unrealistic. People are normally too obsessed with their immediate personal needs and egos to feel sympathetic toward others.
Another major hurdle is that people trust each other less every day due to bad personal experiences and rampant socio-economic corruption in modern societies. Deep down, we trust each other less, but expect more love, respect, and honesty from our relationships. What a weird mentality. We are too naïve and selfish to see this obvious conflict. We simply don’t pause to appreciate that these contradictory feelings (i.e. love and mistrust) cannot be easily reconciled in relationships. That is, people’s expression of love cannot be sincere while they must always be cautious about the viability of their relationships and stay vigilant to prevent future disappointments. We simply cannot afford any longer to put our guards down nowadays and assume that relationships are safe the way they used to be a few decades ago. The question, then, is whether people’s trust in relationships can be somehow restored, or whether we need a framework to help couples live together in some harmony with minimal clashes, despite their general mistrust? What kinds of relationship models might best fit human nature and our newer social values?
Nonetheless, people resist any suggestion about the need for a relationship framework and a new set of principles. They can offer a variety of legitimate reasons why this would not work. Two main reasons they might offer would be the impracticality of: 1) creating a universal relationship framework, and 2) making people pursue its guidelines by controlling their ego and temper. There are all those personal urges (inner forces) and many social demands (outer forces) that prevent this revolution from happening.
Yet I strongly believe in the need for a relationship framework and a set of principles to bring objectivity back into relationships. The simple reason is that everybody would eventually realize that relationship decisions must become less arbitrary and emotional. And the only way to achieve this is to introduce some simple principles that everybody can accept as practical social norms. This would help them assess their relationships according to reliable criteria instead of personal whims. Also, couples need some principles to make their communications more manageable instead of arguing or retaliating all the time. As mentioned before, this dream might not materialize until the next century anyway. Yet we will benefit from studying and implementing some of these ideas now, at least in terms of understanding our options about relationships. If we agree that the existing relationship environment is not functional, what other options might be out there? The most logical option, in my opinion, is the one described in this book. It is developed step by step by analysing the purposes and properties of a ‘relationship framework’ and assessing its usefulness.
Obviously, relationships are not similar in terms of nature and properties. Couples’ unique personalities lead to a large variety of relationship types. But perhaps it is still possible for all of them to work from within a similar framework to maximize relationships’ effectiveness. The framework could be logical and flexible enough to accommodate all reasonable types of relationships. The question is whether developing such a flexible framework and its corresponding principles is feasible. This book suggests that it is possible and necessary. The book actually proposes the main properties and structure of this framework.
Discussing relationships in this book has required substantial analyses of human psychology. Basically, relationships must be viewed as a challenging partnership between two individuals with unique (and peculiar) mentalities. In a sense, our discussions about relationships apply to any kind of encounter between any two human beings—same genders or not. Thus the book would be of interest to individuals who like to explore human personality and/or relationships. But it is also useful for scholars and marriage counsellors. They could critique the ideas put forward in this book, suggest more complete designs or explanations, and apply some of these techniques in their practices at least by the turn of the 22nd century.
Relationships are studied mainly in the behavioural science, as it reflects the encounters of two individuals with different psychological profiles and needs. This is a major area of psychology that requires greater attention and further research, since relationships comprise the foundation of family and personal life. But the health of relationships is enormously important for our socio-economic welfare too. Therefore, relationships must be studied in social sciences more seriously as well. Obviously, the findings must be explained in simple words for common use purposes. I have decided to use some diagrams, however, when I felt they would assist the readers grasp some concepts better.
Trying to be scientific about relationships might appear rather absurd. But, considering the rising trend in relationship problems, the need for some form of analytical review is quite obvious. As societies become more modern and complex, we must become more conscious and rigid about our relationship needs. In recent decades, people have relied too often on their chaotic perceptions and interpretations to define their relationship needs, and they have measured the health of their relationships rather arbitrarily. It would be too risky to pursue the same approaches. The increasing complexity of relationships cannot be interpreted and treated loosely anymore. We need a more scientific understanding and a platform to explain our relationships.
There are many suggestions about relationships and human psychology in this book. They are based on direct observations, experiments, and personal experiences of the author. Nonetheless, the readers are reminded that these assertions should be viewed as working hypotheses and not ultimate theories. First of all, it is difficult to turn human behaviour and personality into pure science. Second, there are always exceptions to the rules. Nonetheless, if these suggestions sound practical and useful, we can gradually implement and refine them in order to alleviate our relationship issues. On the other hand, the author hopes that most of the hypotheses presented in this book would stand the test of time and gradually used as basic theories of relationships.
In all, the readers will find many of the ideas and discussions in this book most plausible and also verifiable by their own experiences and thoughts. Remember that even Freud and Einstein have been wrong about some of their theories. Yet their theories have made us think and find better alternatives while studying those original hypotheses. We are not looking for absolute solutions because there is none. But we can strive to find plausible approaches to make relationships more objective, endurable, and enjoyable.
For example, saying that ‘humans are cruel’ is a hypothesis that cannot be proven in this book. Though, it might be possible to prove this hypothesis if we took on a major research and wrote another book. Nevertheless, there are also many humans who are not cruel, but rather quite compassionate. But the general hypothesis is that humans have become too arrogant and cruel in the process of adapting to our highly competitive socio-economic settings. They have become ruthless and egotistical even if they were not instinctually. In all, often a general concept is developed solely to study trends and explain the possible causes of individuals’ behaviour. For the purpose of this book, the proposed concepts are my best judgments based on simple evidences surrounding us and in line with the existing theories as much as possible. Still, if you don’t agree with some of them, that is fine too.
It is stressed again that the ideas and hypotheses offered in this book are developed by the author for the sole purpose of clarifying the hurdles in relationships and to achieve the sacred objectives enumerated in this book. They are expressed in the simplest forms in order to maximize their usefulness to the general public. If similar theories by other scholars are printed somewhere prior to this publication, then, of course, they should get all the credit that they duly deserve.
This book is not going to solve relationship problems. It will, however, help couples appreciate some basic facts about their own personalities as well as their relationships. Then they should decide whether they can find ways of relating to one another effectively or whether separation feels like a better alternative to them. Even these preliminary steps could help reduce marital hassles and breakdowns a little. Meanwhile, we look forward to the eventual implementation of the radical suggestions offered in this book. If there are even a few good points coming out of this book for couples, I consider my efforts a major accomplishment. I always welcome your comments and advice.
Tom Omidi, Ph.D.