Partnership Skills

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, manyrelationship 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
although my wife says that it took her years to mold me into something she could
live with … I think she is joking … 
Oregon

 

Did you know that there’s little financial gain from happy people! There’s lots of money to be made from unhappy people who search for distractions. There’s lots of money to be made by selling anti-depressants and stimulants. Unhappy people spend a lot of money to forget how boring and senseless their lives are!

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 immaturityimpotence & 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 lovealthough it is often the shortest phase of partnership. Love at first sight often indicatestransferences (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!

 

Love can last for lifetime if there is a strong basis for attraction, mutual trust, shared values and a willingness to create happiness together. Infatuation might lead to lasting love – yet more often leads to disappointment and affairs. (People who repeatedly build relationships on infatuation instead of love, may be called love addicts – addicted to the intense emotions associated with romantic fantasies and conflicts.)

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?

 

If someone generally avoids responsibility and commitment,
see Mother’s Prince and/or Daddy’s Princess

3. Conflict and Withdrawal!

Housework can be fun together-time or can become power contests. Who takes out the garbageWho washes these dishesWhat 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.

 

This is part about the differences between infatuation and love – and between immature affairs and mature partnership. I wrote this for people who want to solve relationship problems … for people who want to share lives together.

Wherever I teach, women seem generally more mature than men, and the competition to find mature men can be fierce. Many women seem to settle for immature or irresponsible men so that they can become mothers … and these women often seem quite prepared to leave their men if the men won’t grow up.

4. Evaluate your Partnership!

Partnership conflicts are inevitable! No matter how compatible you are – you will not agree on EVERYTHING! Mature partners must solve real partnership problems! Both partners can choose to resolve conflicts and solve problems – or they can try to avoid conflicts and ignore problems. We help people evaluate partnership and parenthood issues as a basis for responsible decisions.

If you or your partner have sexual issues, see Sexual Solutions

Immature Assumptions Mature Evaluation
You assume that your partner cannot change You support your partner’s development
You assume that your values, fears, transferences, habits etc will not change You explore and evaluate your own values, fears, transferences and habits, etc
You assume that you already know your partner’s values, commitments and limitations You explore and evaluate your partner’s values, commitments and limitations
You distract yourself and avoid discussing your own or your partner’s feelings You stay present, with compassion, commitment and integrity
You assume that your partner is unworthy of further effort on your part You assess whether you and your partner are compatible for a committed relationship

Evaluating compatibility for committed partnership will likely require that you compare beliefs, values, ethics, morals and your relationship skills. Some useful topics are:

  1. How do you show love?
  2. How do you manage money?
  3. What is your educational background?
  4. What bonds do you have to your family?
  5. What are your interests, sports and hobbies?
  6. How motivated are you to improve relationship skills?
  7. What about your physical weight, health and hygiene?
  8. How do you express your feelings … and your thoughts?
  9. What is your attitude to sex? Is sex a pleasure or a duty?
  10. What are your ethics, morals, sense of life, religious behavior?

5. Make Decisions!

Passive aggressive people and immature adults may be unable to end unsuitable relationships. If your relationship is in crisis, can you decide whether or not you want to stay together … and how to stay together? Can you decide to end or change a relationship? Or do you feel stuck?

Irresponsible Responsible
You avoid discussing your needs and desires, or you make demands and threats You discuss your needs and heartfelt desires with your partner in friendly ways
You withhold your thoughts and feelings from your partner, and may share them with someone else! You share your thoughts and feelings with your partner – even the uncomfortable ones
You dictate what your partner should think or feel! You welcome your partner’s perspectives
You withhold the truth and avoid commitment! You are truthful and candid!
You cling to memories of past partners! You clarify your past partnerships
You repeat the patterns of your parents! You explore and resolve bad family habits
You follow toxic role models without question! You seek role models for happy partnership
You hide your relationship deficiencies! You improve your relationship skills!
You want your partner to fulfill your needs! You want your partnership to make sense

  1. Do you have compatible financial, physical and economic situations?
  2. Do you have compatible professional, personal and family expectations?
  3. Are you both responsible for your decisions, behavior and consequences?
  4. Do you have compatible national, social, educational and religious backgrounds?

6. Stay Together or Separate?

You and your partner may not consider separation – or you may stay together while feeling emotionally separated – or one of you may cling to the other. (If you say that you want to protect your marriage – I might ask, “What marriage do you want to protect?“)

Separating requires one decision Partnership requires two decisions
Do you want to make independent life choices? Can you both commit to creating a satisfying, fulfilling partnership?
Do you want to manage life issues independently? Can you both accept conflicts as opportunities to learn and develop?
Do you want to end financial and economic bonds to your partner? Can you both work together to create ongoing contentment and satisfaction?
Do you want your feelings and emotions to be independent of your partner’s behavior? Can you both discuss your feelings and not-so-pleasant emotions?
Do you want to seek another partner? Can you both accept the responsibilities of your partnership roles?

7. Commit to Partnership – or Start Again?

Do you have the essential skills for mature, happy partnership? Do you enjoy partnership – or do you settle for less? Do you hope that happy partnership will magically happen – somehow – effortlessly? Do you repeat a cycle of shallow relationships until you have no more energy – or no more life?

Explore New Relationships

Commit to Partnership

Can you define what you want and what you want to give in a partnership? Can you both discuss your partnership goals and responsibilities, and how to fulfill them?
Can you accept yourself as you are and commit to being true to your own values? Can you discuss your own and each other’s actions, and resolve conflicts quickly?
Can you list what you want to change (in yourself) and create a changework plan? Can you both accept reality as it is, and work together as a team to improve it?
Can you list essential, non-negotiable characteristics of an appropriate partner? Can you both commit to partnership while maintaining your own interests & identities?
Can you consider how you can identify and attract suitable potential partners? Can you both be realistic, independent and cooperative in the evolving relationship?

Ending a potentially wonderful relationship because one person clings to immature behaviors can be distressing. So many people waste their lives waiting for someone else to develop his or her potential … or at least to just grow up!

Contact us to manage your emotions and solve relationship problems.

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