All relationships require care and attention to make sure that they succeed.
It’s not enough just to spend time with your partner, even though we talk about “quality time“, and there’s a real meaning to that statement.
In fact, the way I define quality time is the kind of time that people spend together which results in deeper intimacy and mutual understanding.
You may wonder what intimacy actually is, but essentially I think it’s about trust. When you feel intimate and safe with somebody, it’s essentially because you trust them at a deep level.
In other words, you’re not frightened of exposing your failings, your weaknesses, and perhaps even your deepest shame to them, because you know that they will treat it with respect.
If you think of any relationship as involving four people, you have a good metaphor: the two people who are the adults in the relationship, and the two people who are invisible in the relationship (their inner children).
The inner child is our delicate sensitive part, which carries all kinds of wounds and issues from childhood. And which can be hurt very easily with a careless word.
It’s this lack of care for the inner child which reduces intimacy and trust between individuals and makes relationships fail.
In any event, even if people hide their inner child from each other, the potential for wounding is still huge, because the inner child is such a sensitive organism.
It’s quite realistic to think of the inner child is a delicate sensitive part of any individual which has to be respected just as you (ought to) respect a real-life child.
In fact, perhaps even more so, because the inner child in each of us is already deeply wounded, and bears the scars of all kinds of experiences in childhood which were inflicted upon him or her.
Having said that, you might think that this is not a good basis for a relationship! Surely, if two people carry such sensitive parts, then it’s inevitable there will be conflict and hurt between them?
And indeed it is. So the cure, or at least the salve, for this is to strengthen what we would call (in Jungian psychology), the Sovereign part of the individual – the mature adult, in other words.
It’s the mature adult who has to be able to carry the wounds of the inner child. And it has to be able to carry the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (or misfortune Shakespeare didn’t say).
Joking aside, it’s certainly clear to me that any relationship which succeeds is basically doing so because the people in involved in it are respectful of each other’s inner child.
They are also careful not to wound each other, and respectful of the sensitivities which their partner brings to the relationship.
When you think about this, it becomes clear that a relationship which succeeds involves far more than the conventional criteria of things like reflective listening, paying attention to each other, spending time together, and enjoying good sex.
It isn’t so much that those things are not necessary, because they obviously are.
What is critical is the fact that the foundation of the relationship is underpinned by respect for each other’s delicate, sensitive inner children.
Now you may think this is a tall order, and you would probably be right. From the very start of any relationship, when a couple are trying to find a way to fall in love, and to make sure they work together in a harmonious and respectful way, the potential for wounding and hurt is considerable.
When a man wants a woman to fall in love with him, or a woman wants a man to fall in love with her, it’s necessary for them to bear in mind that this narcissistic viewpoint (i.e of what they want) is just one aspect of the relationship of male- female love.
Indeed, in terms of the relationship, it would probably be fairer to look at it from the point of view of what your partner wants out of it than what you want out of it – such consideration would bring a deeper level of intimacy to any relationship.
But that aside, what can we say about the way in which men and women fall in love? Obviously in the first instance it’s based mostly on physical attraction, but this rapidly gives way to the psychological aspects of a developing relationship.
The emotional aspects of a couple getting together are essentially all about finding ways to negotiate each other’s emotional wounds and not hurt each other’s inner children.
The pain of failing to do so can be considerable, because it reactivates the unresolved hurts of childhood, when one partner accidentally (or intentionally) sets out to wound another.
These are indeed the things that need to be negotiated, or it’s certain that the path of love will never run smooth!
There are plenty of places, fortunately, on the Internet, where you can find good advice and information about how you can fall in love and maintain a loving relationship.
These are highly recommended, because, frankly, without them it can be rather difficult to know how to proceed.
Suffice it to say that if you treat your partner with respect, and you do your own personal development work, you stand a much better chance of engaging in a long-term relationship than if you leave all these things to chance…. which is unfortunately, what most people do. Which is of course why so many relationships fail.