Partnership Skills for Intimate Couples
Mature & Immature Love © Martyn Carruthers
I wanted to map the consequences of mature love and immature infatuation – the path of healthy partnership vs shallow affairs. Do you want to better understand your relationship habits and fulfill your dreams of happy partnership.
Many couples start partnerships based on fantasies, with high expectations and limited partnership skills (let alone parenthood skills). They may wake up a few months or a few years later … perhaps with children and debts … wondering what happened to love.
Perhaps we are playing a game
A game called we are not playing a game
If I ask about the rules our game
I break the rules of our game
(the game called we are not playing a game)
And you punish me
We help people understand their expectations and fantasies in ways that they can discover both themselves and each other. This opens possibilities for partnerships based on honesty and maturity. We help couples achieve their dreams of happiness.
Is your Partnership Healthy? See Solving Couple Conflicts
Relationship Problems are Normal
When I was a teenager, I thought that happy partnership was mostly luck. Like so many people, I learned about relationships from watching my parents, TV shows, movies and by listening to the lyrics of popular songs. It wasn’t at all clear to me then that happy partnership requires supportive beliefs, shared values, teamwork and many, many relationship skills.
As many people appear to lack mature partnership and parenting skills, over half of the couples you know will likely suffer partnership breakdown. Many people you know will separate and divorce more than once, or stay together bonded by guilt. Few couples that you know will live happy ever after.
My wife and I have been happy together for 40 years … I am often told how lucky I am
Observe how couples and families are portrayed on television … listen carefully to modern love songs … check the divorce statistics … explore what you and your family accept as normal! Those few mature couples who enjoy lasting happy partnership have worked hard to develop and maintain their joyful harmony – in a society where it may be normal for immature partners to barely tolerate each other.
Sometimes, a partner says, “Our partnership is fine”
while the other is preparing to leave.
Partnership Requires Maturity!
One step to maturity is emotional freedom from your family of origin. If an adult is overly concerned about pleasing a parent, that person may have problems sharing love with a partner. If an adult feels closer to a family member than to a partner (especially an opposite-sex parent, child or a sibling) – he or she may be enmeshed in emotional incest. (Consequences of emotional incest include immaturity, impotence & frigidity, and affairs).
In the following tables are some of the consequences of immature infatuation and of mature love. I also compare immature and mature partnership skills. Healthy partnership skills requires a mature attitude that’s easy to claim but hard to fake – you expose your maturity with your every sentence and your every action.
1. Infatuation or Love?
Infatuation may last from a few days to a few years and may be called true love although it is often the shortest phase of partnership. Love at first sight often indicates transferences (one or both partners do not see the other as real people – rather as idealized images based on their histories and needs). For more, see Soul Mates.
|Steps to Infatuation||Steps to Love|
|You meet someone with whom you might fulfill your romantic fantasies||You meet someone who you find interesting, mature and attractive|
|You hope that this person can rescue you||You check if you are both available|
|You don’t want to change anything||You feel inspired to develop yourself|
|You will do anything to prolong your good feelings of being with this person||You explore your shared goals, history, ethics, expectations, morals and values|
|Your life feels intensely romantic||You enjoy exploring each other’s realities|
|You hope that all your needs and desires can be fulfilled effortlessly||You together consider and discuss ways to fulfill both of your needs and desires|
|You believe that your good feelings will last forever||You do things together to build trust and to see each other in many contexts, even stressful|
|You break rules to maintain good feelings||You discuss the rules of your relationship|
|You believe that you can communicate telepathically – without words||You discuss many topics candidly and you compare your heartfelt beliefs and values|
|You evade important issues and tell lies to avoid spoiling your nice feelings||You tell raw truth to increase intimacy|
|You ignore important parts of your life (friends, family, work, savings, etc)||You share important parts of your life, including the darker times|
|THIS is your One True Love – your Soul Mate – no other partner is possible!||You know there are many potential partners for you and this person seems like a good choice|
|You’re in love!|
2. Disenchantment or Responsibilities?
Infatuation usually reaches a peak and then diminishes. Reality intrudes when people must make ordinary, practical decisions … when immature fantasies may start to feel unrealistic. Mature love will continue to grow as people plan, assign and fulfill daily life responsibilities together.
Maturity and responsibility are choices – they are not gifts that can be given.
|You feel disenchanted||You accept responsibility|
|Your fantasy is replaced by daily life||Your daily life is the reward of your work|
|Romance is replaced by boredom or conflict||Love grows as responsibilities are shared|
|Something wonderful is slowly dying||Something wonderful is slowly emerging|
|You may feel that you are being cheated||You may feel that you are being rewarded|
|Your partner cannot fulfill your dreams||You clarify your dreams of partnership|
|You blame anything and anybody
… except perhaps yourself
|You take credit for your efforts – and responsibility for your mistakes|
|You are very aware of other potential partners||Other potential partners exist … so what?|
3. Conflict and Withdrawal!
Housework can be fun together-time or can become power contests. Who takes out the garbage? Who washes these dishes? What exactly does clean mean? Unless resolved, many people, after a threshold of suffering, withdraw or react childishly. They may consider separation or affairs. Yet mature partners use those same conflicts to improve their happiness together!
|Conflicts LOSE energy||Conflicts GAIN energy|
|You argue and fight over small issues||You find fun ways to manage small issues|
|You feel emotionally unavailable – dissociated||You find nice ways to be in your body|
|You become withdrawn or aggressive||You find interesting ways to recharge|
|You fear loneliness or uncertainty||You know that you are friendly and competent|
|You long for lost intimacy and passion||You explore ways to increase intimacy|
|Sexual intimacy decreases or stops and flirting or affairs seem more interesting||Sexual intimacy ebbs and flows, and you learn to ride the tide and go with the flow|
We coach people to build healthy relationships.
We help people solve partnership problems.
Continued in Partnership Skills 2 … Evaluate and Decide