About… The Nature of Love and Relationships
Generally Acceptable Relationship Guidelines for the New Era
This book is not about finding love or a companion. Rather, its objective is to clarify the true nature of love and relationships, so that we may come to terms with ourselves at a personal level for a more tranquil life. Once we learn to live without expecting love and relationships bringing us that elusive happiness, we might begin to enjoy our relationships too. The discussions in this book demonstrate the wide range of relationship obstacles that infect love and partners’ ability to relate. In particular, Chapter Seven focuses on the nature of relationships in the new era and explains why a new relationship framework is needed.
The sad fact is that most relationships in modern societies lead to separation or couples’ incessant suffering in highly complex environments. The sense of failure to find our soul mate, despite our lifelong search and struggles, causes deep psychological scars and stress. This in turn curtails our ability to deal with our socio-economic responsibilities, and so on and so forth. A vicious cycle destroys our lives and people around us. It appears that the harder we struggle to fulfil our professional and emotional needs, the deeper we fall into despair and loneliness. Why? Why are we so incapable or unwilling to help each other suffer less?
During the last few decades, psychologists and marriage counsellors have been busy finding solutions for troubled relationships. They have written books and developed awareness methods to enhance love and communication between partners. They have offered solutions through expensive seminars and private sessions. Unfortunately, their efforts have not worked, judging by the increasing percentage of separations and the rising frustration of both married and single individuals.
Experts suggest all kinds of solutions and still relationships keep failing more than ever. The mere fact that there are so many incongruent solutions (all these variations) reflects that scholars have not developed dependable and uniform solutions. They have not even agreed upon a reliable framework to focus their research on and improve its potentials gradually. On the contrary, they keep suggesting new ideas every day. This shows that relationship studies are in disarray.
The effect of marriage counselling is tentative at best, too, especially when solutions focus on role-playing. Couples are encouraged to play phony roles and express passion or compassion to save their relationships. Obviously, role-playing is an artificial activity that causes more frustration in the end if partners are not intellectually (and emotionally) convinced about the authenticity of their own (or their partner’s) feelings and words. Sometimes the argument in favour of role-playing is that partners have passion and compassion, but lack the communication skills to express them. It is assumed that role-playing can help them develop the skill for expressing their feelings. But usually this is not true. The reason people cannot express their feelings is often not due to a lack of communication skill. Usually the problem lies deep in the psyche of individuals; so deep indeed that even detailed psychotherapy might not reach the roots of the problems. Some of these psychological hurdles are discussed later. These barriers simply cripple couples to perceive and overcome their personal and relationship flaws. In these circumstances, couples feel the humiliation of role-playing. They resent the idea of behaving in certain ways just to stop their partners from nagging. All along, they are not truly committed to resolve their personal or relationship defects. Sometimes they turn into passive partners just to minimize the quarrels, and then suffer the burden of their hidden anxiety. In all, role-playing is a mentally fatiguing activity. The struggle to stay focused and playact properly might indeed add to the problems of relationships rather than solving them. Soon a small event triggers partners’ inner conflicts and frustration. Or they get tired of playing those superficial roles.
The bottom line is that role-playing methods have not shown any substantial outcome. Divorces, anxiety, mistrust, and suspicions are increasing every day. The artificial quick fixes have failed to help us, because we have not tackled the increasing problems of relationships as a deep-rooted pandemic yet. So now it is time for a more comprehensive approach to study the nature of relationship problems. We must study the needs of our new society and scrutinize all the emerging facts.
A fundamental fact is that couples’ personal needs, and their expectations from relationships, have increased drastically as societies have become modern and satiated with progressive philosophies. Accordingly, relationship solutions must be found by first examining the changes in society. Then we must learn how these changes have affected relationships. Finally, we must find radical mechanisms that best correspond with the new needs of individuals. Basically, we must study what has changed in society, how they are affecting relationships, and why radical changes are needed. Some suggestions about the nature of these radical changes will also be offered in this book.
A prominent, emerging trend is that we value our freedom and identity a lot nowadays. We are giving the highest level of emphasis to our personal need for independence (and self-worth) more than ever in human history. There are many reasons for this development. But the main reason is that women are finally given equal rights. Due to their efforts, everybody is now more aware of their personal needs for independence and identity. This major premise, i.e. the need for independence, should then be our best guide in developing the new principles of relationships.
The second development is that nowadays people are constantly playing various roles and games to portray an appealing personality, mask their idiosyncrasies, adapt to social values and demands, and manipulate (control) others. People are losing touch with their true identities more every day because of the roles and games they are forced to play to stay popular and be accepted in society. For one thing, they like to exaggerate their self-worth to themselves and others in order to prove their identity. Under this circumstance, they are not as authentic as they could be in their encounters. They have indeed become too phony compared with their true nature. This debilitating condition creates all kinds of problems for people in terms of finding the right companion, communicating, and perceiving their partners. It obviously sabotages their passionate struggle to find their identity as well. The situation gets worse when counsellors make couples play still another category of roles to solve their relationship conflicts. These new roles create even more confusion for them in terms of who they are and how they should be relating to their partners. Their own roles and games are at least familiar to them and partially justified emotionally and intellectually. But new roles often cause more anxiety, as they contradict both their existing roles and true nature.
The inconsistency of the above two emerging trends, i.e. people’s strive for independence (identity) and their tendency to play phony roles to be popular, creates inner conflicts for them, because the more they try to prove their identity, the more they lose it and the phonier they become.
The third major new trend in society is that couples’ personal needs supersede their relationship needs. Nowadays, we all expect our relationships to be functional (maybe even ideal), according to our subjective criteria, and also assist us in achieving our personal goals. If a relationship cannot fulfil these high expectations, we want out. We are no longer willing to tolerate mediocre relationships. We are now more important than our relationships. Some readers may wonder whether this has not been the case before. No, our old values inherently placed the needs of relationships ahead of individuals, according to tradition and religion. But we are now past those outmoded systems. Now individuals wish to be more important than their relationships. We keep insisting that life is too short and we live only once. So we wish to take advantage of life as much as possible before it is too late. In a nutshell, we can say that in the older times the emphasis was put on ‘survival,’ whereas nowadays the emphasis is placed on ‘happiness.’
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are happier people than past generations. Rather, we just like to think (and pretend) we are happier. We want to show our resolve to find the elusive happiness. Why? There are three major reasons for our incessant quest for happiness: First, we have been brainwashed to believe that happiness is out there and we can easily find it by satisfying our artificial needs for wealth, power, and love. So we keep struggling to satisfy these artificial needs with no end in sight or real happiness in our hearts. In effect we are losing touch with reality every day by introducing more artificial needs in our lives and then failing to feel the expected happiness thereupon. Second, we have been learning and propagating a lot of philosophy about life and happiness in recent decades. We like to talk a lot about happiness and prove our ability and conviction to build a happy life. All these exaggerated ideas about positive thinking, living in the now, and similar philosophies are screwing our ability to perceive reality. Third, the increasing depression and suffering in society make us more eager to find happiness, and we become more susceptible to all these philosophical gimmicks too. As societies grow, we suffer more and thus seek relief (happiness) more obsessively. Actually, the above noted three reasons are interrelated. They have evolved to support (and also incite) one another: That is, we try to avoid (deny) reality by making up all kinds of philosophies in order to mitigate our suffering.
This is our new mentality. And we cannot change it. So, our challenge is to develop relationship principles that fit this new reality (perceptions). The old premise to depend on partners’ romantic vows to love and cherish each other forever regardless of health and wealth is no longer helping them. Our daily experiences confirm that it is not working anymore. So let’s be honest about these facts. Those good (or bad) old days are far gone.
Another major task in this book is to recommend methods and a relationship framework that might bring objectivity back into relationships. In recent decades, old values and relationship guidelines have been eradicated without new ones replacing them. We have only developed more unrealistic expectations for our relationships every year. And we make subjective judgments about the health of our relationships merely based on our personal perceptions and needs. To avoid these misleading approaches, we need a simple set of relationship guidelines that makes sense to everybody and fits our new social reality.
In line with the above stated objectives, this book is intended to demonstrate the following dozen facts:
A: We need to upgrade our mindset
1.Both our initial optimism about relationships (when we start one) and subsequent retaliations (when it fails) are destructive.
2.Our perspective of relationships is too naïve, unrealistic, and incompatible with the format of modern society. Basically, we must learn to lower our expectations from relationships in order to attend to our increasing personal needs independently.
3.We must prepare ourselves, both emotionally and financially, to deal with the high possibility of failure in our marriages and relationships.
4.We must appreciate that only by conscious efforts and major personal sacrifices a relationship can be sustained on a long-term basis. Our present mindset (personal priorities) and social values make the job of prolonging our relationships extremely difficult, if not impossible altogether.
B. We must understand human limitations
5.The complexity of human cognition and behaviour, driven by a variety of personal needs, traits, and perceptions, causes all kinds of relationship problems.
6.The underlying causes of relationship failures remain beyond partners’ control. In other words, partners cannot help the situation. They are helpless due to human’s psychological defects and genetic built.
7.Our faultfinding attitude toward our partners is a futile exercise. Also our efforts to change others (our partners) are absurd, especially when the matter is pursued through retaliation and intimidation.
C. We urgently need new solutions and guidelines
8.Dynamic relationship principles are needed to reflect the realities of the modern world.
9.New guidelines are needed to facilitate individuals’ strive to be independent, assertive, proactive, and make the best use of their lives.
10.Revolutionary social mechanisms and norms are needed to help us manage our relationships and possibly reduce the chances of failure.
11.Revolutionary laws must be devised to make separations easy.
12.Revolutionary social mechanisms and education are needed to prepare couples for the psychological effects of relationships, especially separation.
Traditionally, we have viewed relationships as a manageable, sweet arrangement that can satisfy many of our personal needs, including companionship. But, nowadays, the likelihood of any relationship failing is much higher than succeeding. This is an obvious observation judging by the percentage of divorces and the turmoil of dragging relationships. This means that, as logical people, we should make major adjustments in our mentality to suddenly view relationships as a temporary arrangement, unless we are smart and lucky enough to make it work on a long-term basis. That is, couples must be able to prove that they deserve to stay in their relationships. Now couples should carry a high burden of proof (by demonstrating their aptitude) for prolonging their relationships past the initial romance and as partners’ patience begin to falter.
Naturally, this condition (to view relationships as a temporary arrangement) appears like a major setback in terms of relationships’ success. The readers might ask, “How could this seemingly negative mindset lead to the success of relationships?” This is a good point that will be clarified later in this book. Of course, making such a harsh mental adjustment—to view relationships as a temporary arrangement—would be difficult for people. So it will take time to get there. But, at the end, this mental adjustment is necessary for so many reasons that are discussed in the book. One objective is to make people more conscious and careful about the true nature of relationships in the new era. They should become more realistic and view relationships with open eyes and minds—not by the way they feel and hope for. Most people are actually doing this already, though in an incomplete way. They furtively assess the financial prospects of their relationships, but don’t wish to admit its importance or express it openly. They don’t want to be accused of being calculating and unromantic when they are starting a relationship. Nonetheless, we must act according to the statistics and vivid experiences around us. They all indicate that marriage is a temporary arrangement unless partners are lucky and conscious about the real needs of relationships. We must now admit this fact openly and prepare ourselves for it (both financially and emotionally). In all, the concept might appear too radical, if not vulgar, and it may turn off many readers already. But by the time we reach the end of this book, the readers may feel more supportive of this and other radical points offered in Chapter Eleven. But please don’t jump to Chapter Eleven before reading the discussions and analyses in the earlier chapters. They explain the need for introducing radical solutions.
Obviously, it is unromantic and depressing to start our relationships on a seemingly wrong foot, with a seemingly negative attitude. But being realistic at the outset may save us nervous breakdowns and separation hassles. The challenges of separation seem inevitable for a majority of relationships and it pays off to be prepared for them. Learning about the deep roots of relationship failures would also help us realize that they are basically the symptoms of social changes that we have not adapted ourselves to. So partners’ retaliation out of spite cannot correct anything. Retaliating to make our partners change is not going to work either. It merely reflects our own utmost immaturity and wishful thinking.
As noted before, one objective of this book is to pinpoint the high vulnerability of relationships in modern societies. Low longevity is one of its obvious vulnerabilities. Yet, with a more realistic perception about the most likely outcome of relationships, we would have a more rational state of mind when things start going wrong and react more constructively. On the other hand, this heightened awareness might actually provide enough incentives and sincere efforts by us to save our relationships. Learning about the inherent causes of relationship problems might help those who are smart and humble to adopt a constructive role for managing their relationships. Adopting some relationship principles, as suggested in this book, is also for the same purpose, i.e. to make couples relate more effectively.
Knowing about the complexity of human behaviour and its adverse effects on their relationships is the only remedy left to save couples. We should reconsider our view of relationships, redefine our expectations realistically, and be prepared for the worst scenario, i.e., separation.
This book has three parts. Part I will explain the causes of relationship problems. Part II will offer some plausible solutions to keep relationships manageable. It will explain why we need a ‘relationship framework’ and a variety of radical solutions. These steps are necessary since our existing methods of solving relationship problems have failed. Part III will provide an outline of all the main points addressed in the previous chapters, plus some final observations about relationships.
Each chapter in Part I is devoted to a specific dimension of the human psyche in the way they drive our thoughts and actions, as follows:
Chapter One will explore the types of human needs and explain how they impact people as an individual and in their relationships. This will also help later when ‘personal needs’ of partners are compared with the ‘relationship needs’ in order to pinpoint the sources of conflicts.
Chapter Two will provide a list of personal inner forces such as instincts, and outer forces like culture and family. The role of these forces in personal behaviour and in relationships will be explained.
Chapter Three will attempt to dissect the personality components of a person. A simple personality model will show how people’s three aspects of personality interact and result in the way they conceive things and others. These aspects of human personality influence our thoughts and actions. They make us behave in certain detrimental ways that affect us personally and hurt our partners too.
Chapter Four will focus on our perceptions of ourselves and others, especially our partners. It will show the complexity of perceptions in general. And it will show the high degree of misperceptions, which lead to relationship problems.
Chapter Five will discuss the role of mental consciousness in the effectiveness of partners’ communication.
Chapter Six will discuss the nature of love and the effects of human hormones on love and relationships.
Chapter Seven will discuss the nature of relationships in the new era. What does it really take to build and enjoy good relationships?
Part II will study the concept and components of relationships. It will suggest a relationship framework and a list of principles that can benefit couples in the new era. The following topics are covered:
Chapter Eight will review relationship expectations with the aim of identifying the ones that are realistic in the new era.
Chapter Nine will review relationships as an independent entity with specific needs. A relationship framework is developed as well.
Chapter Ten will propose a tentative set of Generally Acceptable Relationship Principles (GARP). The objectives of GARP and how they could be propagated in societies are discussed in this chapter.
Chapter Eleven will recommend some radical changes that might help us view and implement the needs of relationships in modern societies. It is argued that a major overhaul of social mechanisms is required to accommodate the newer relationship needs.
Chapter Twelve will discuss the concept of ‘need urgency’ and compares it with the personal needs hierarchy of Maslow. Even though we usually follow the needs hierarchy to fulfil our personal needs, need urgency plays a higher role in relationships. This is because our need for a companion could in essence be considered a basic need rather than a social need per se.
Chapter Thirteen will review the factors and methods of measuring partners’ compatibility in the new era. The old process of measuring compatibility cannot be applied to our new relationship framework as suggested in this book.
Part III has three chapters. The final observations about relationships and gender differences are discussed in this part. Then the highlights and main issues raised throughout the book are outlined for the readers’ convenience and future reference. These chapters cover the following topics:
Chapter Fourteen will provide the author’s rudimentary account of why relationships’ deteriorating trends might not reverse until 2115. The facts and conclusions of this book are outlined here to support the author’s pessimism about the lengthy struggle ahead.
Chapter Fifteen will provide a list of major personality differences between the genders. It will be shown how these differences and priorities hinder the process of reconciliation in relationships.
Chapter Sixteen will provide the highlights of Chapters One through Thirteen in a recap format for ease of reference.
Three Cautionary Points
1. The discussions and analyses presented in this book are straightforward and easy to follow. Yet some parts of the book might appear a little technical for some readers. This group of readers may refer to Part III where most of the facts, analyses, and conclusions are presented in an outlined form. In this manner, the reader will understand the objectives and messages of this book rather quickly. Then he/she can read the related discussions in the chapters at leisure and in any order he/she wishes. Of course, understanding the process and logic used to develop the ideas in each chapter is interesting and the readers would definitely benefit from them. As the concepts are built up in the sequential order of the chapters, following the details in the order presented is recommended. Yet, in case some chapters are read out of the sequence, the essence of the discussions would not be missed. One point to note is that the simpler books that focus on quick fixes cannot really help us much. It is like building a house without a foundation. The matters of love and relationships are becoming really complex nowadays, somewhat more complex than the laws of physics!
2. All references like ‘we’, ‘people’, ‘men’, or ‘women’, throughout the book, don’t mean everybody, but rather a significant portion of them.
3. The analyses and suggestions in this book may come across to some readers as naïve or maybe even offensive on a few occasions. But the only purpose of this book is to improve the state of our relationships. These solutions and approaches are probably not going to see the light of day soon anyway. But it is the author’s belief that we must take serious actions now. We must start viewing relationships as a major determinant of social welfare more than what society sees it presently. With this kind of mindset, discussing ideas like the ones offered in this book can begin to prepare society and couples for a major overhaul.
The author believes that the changes might happen around the years 2115 to 2150. This is of course a ballpark, imaginary date. But the author’s pessimism stems from the fact that we resist change, due to humans’ personality flaws noted in this book. We are comfortable with who we are. We believe in the purity of our personalities, as we feel quite proud of ourselves the way we are. Indeed, we are too attached to our convictions, despite all the evidences about the ways they are turning us into dogmatic, arrogant, and greedy individuals. Furthermore, we are in denial regarding the depth of relationship problems in the new era. We imagine they would go away automatically without us making any adjustments in our perceptions and behaviour. So, it would probably take more than a century until we finally appreciate the need for drastic changes, mostly in terms of revamping our mindsets. Yet there might be a miracle. We might suddenly view our relationships in a proper light and make the needed adjustments sooner.
Nonetheless, studying relationships is the most urgent matter facing civilization in the author’s opinion. This book is hopefully one of many attempts to understand ourselves and our relationships.