Famed therapists Hal and Sidra Stone show readers how to turn their relationships into true "joint ventures" - ones in which partners balance their need for relationship with their need for individuality, relinquish judgment and criticism, improve their decision-making and communication abilities, celebrate their sensuality and sexuality, and include children in their lives without sacrificing their own relationship. The Stones' greatest contribution has been revealing the many selves that make up our personalities. In this book, they show how those selves impact our relationships, and they offer both general concepts and specific tips that will help couples of all kinds succeed.
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A New Kind of Relationship
By Hal Stone, Sidra L. Stone, Gina Misiroglu
New World LibraryCopyright © 2000 Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra L. Stone, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
RELATIONSHIP AS A JOINT VENTURE
Each of us has our own special basket that contains the magic of who we are and what we hold most precious in life. When we first meet and fall in love we get a glimpse into, and a feeling for, the interior world of our partner. We inhale the fragrance and magic of the other's essential being. Then come the problems of life and one day, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, the magic is gone.
We would like to begin this book by telling you the story of "The Star Maiden." We read this wonderful Bushman tale in Sir Laurens van der Post's book The Heart of the Hunter and it is one of our favorite stories. We feel that it provides a beautifully haunting introduction to this book and to our picture of partnering as a "joint venture" relationship.
Once upon a time there was a Bushman who raised cows on a farm in the Kalahari Desert. His life was serene and simple but lonely. One morning when he went out to milk his cows, he saw that they had already been milked. He couldn't imagine who had done this. The next morning when he came out he found again that the cows had been milked during the night.
The next night the Bushman resolved to hide in a shed near the cows in order to discover who had been milking them. As midnight approached he saw a remarkable sight. Climbing down from heaven on a ladder that extended between the stars and the earth was a multitude of Star Maidens. Their beauty took his breath away. Each Star Maiden carried a bucket and as she touched down onto his land, she began to milk his cows. The Star Maidens milked the cows all night long and as the dawn approached they began their trip back to the stars, ascending the ladder one by one. The farmer could not bear to see them leave. Just as the last Star Maiden approached the ladder, he darted out from his hiding place, took her by the hand, and begged her to become his wife. Surprising though it was, the magical Star Maiden was happy to marry the simple farmer.
When they returned to the farmhouse, the Star Maiden told him the following: "I am delighted to marry you and I promise you that your farm will prosper. I have only one condition that I must set. I have here a basket. You must promise me never to open this basket. If you do open it, then I will be forced to leave you." The farmer promised that he would do as she wished. The Star Maiden put her basket down in a corner of the room, and so their life together began.
As his new wife promised, the farmer's farm and crops prospered and he became one of the most successful farmers in the whole area. His wife went out into the fields to work every day and everything that she touched seemed blessed by the gods. He was a very happy man and, as the years passed, he became happier yet with his good fortune, for he loved and appreciated the Star Maiden.
One afternoon when his wife was out in the fields and he was at home looking for something, he found the basket she had put away many years before. Though he remembered the injunction of his wife, he didn't take it seriously any longer so he picked up the basket, put it on the table, and opened it up. To his surprise he found it empty. He found this very amusing and had a good laugh over the fact that it was empty. He remembered well the seriousness with which she had warned him about not opening her treasure.
A short time later the Star Maiden returned from the field. As she entered the room she knew immediately what had happened. She spoke to her husband with the following words: "A long time ago I warned you never to open up this basket because it was very special to me. I told you also that I would have to leave if you did open it. Well, you violated your oath and this evening I am going to be leaving you. I want you to understand the reason for this. I am not leaving you because you opened up this basket without my permission. That would have been all right after all these years. I am leaving you because when you opened the basket you found nothing in it. That is why I can no longer be with you."
And so it was that as night came the Star Maiden, with great sadness, climbed the ladder back to her home in the sky, not because the farmer had broken his vow, but because he had looked into her most precious possession and could see nothing there. This basket contained the Star Maiden's essence. When he looked into her basket, he had looked into the depths of her soul, at the magic she had brought with her to this earth from her home in the stars. He had looked, but he had seen nothing. He was blind to her magic, and the Star Maiden could no longer stay with him.
Isn't this really how it is so often in relationship? Each of us has our own special basket that contains the magic of who we are and what we hold most precious in life. When we first meet and fall in love we get a glimpse into, and a feeling for, the interior world of our partner and we inhale the fragrance and magic of the other's essential being. Then come the problems of life. We feel pressured to succeed, to make more money, to push harder. We have children who begin to carry the magic and we have less and less of it with one another. One day, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, the magic is gone. When we look into the basket, it is empty and we feel hurt, disappointed, and bewildered. The relationship is over even though we may live with one another for the remainder of our lives.
Despite many claims to the contrary, this magic does not have to disappear. Keeping the magic requires some effort, however. We must be willing to learn the lessons that relationship has to teach us. We must also be willing to take time to nourish the connection that exists between our partners and ourselves. All this is possible. This book is about keeping the magic — and the excitement — alive in your relationship.
Believe it or not, it is possible to keep this magic alive. We have built our lives together upon this belief, and are living proof that a relationship can more than endure over time, it can blossom. But you need to give it the right kind of attention, and you need a certain willingness to commit to the unfolding of your relationship and to the idea of using it as a teacher. The following pages outline some of the fundamental truths that are necessary to successful partnerships, as well as the core principles of fulfilling relationships. They are born out of years of our working with couples, and constitute what we believe to be the very building blocks of an emotionally healthy, sexually fulfilling harmony. You'll find that these ideas are interwoven at various levels throughout the book; they provide both the framework for the book and the framework for thriving relationships.
LOVE AND THE MUTUAL EXPLORATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS
As you can tell from the story of "The Star Maiden," we are a pair of incurable romantics. But we have discovered that romance is not enough. So, we use the term joint venture to describe a new kind of relationship in which two people come together for not only love, romance, and sexual chemistry, but also partnership, personal growth, and spiritual evolution. Love alone cannot make a relationship work because the forces that can destroy love are too powerful and, for most of us, too unconscious. Mutual exploration, learning, and personal growth without love cannot do the job either, because love is the oil, the elixir, that soothes everything and makes it all worthwhile.
So, what does this mean? It means that, according to the first principle of partnership, you must have both love and a commitment to the mutual exploration of consciousness in order to convert your relationship to a partnering model. We cannot tell you how many times in our earlier years together that we reached a point where we both feared our love was dead. We felt utterly defeated and saddened and frustrated that the end had come. Then we did some work with each other. Hal may have shared negative reactions he had been harboring toward Sidra that he hadn't been aware of. Sidra may have realized that they both were overworked or that she was giving too much energy to her family. Or a dream may have come that clarified what had been going on unconsciously. Suddenly the love returned, in full force and even more powerful than before, because we had mastered a new experience. After we saw this happen hundreds of times in our clients and ourselves, we realized the power of this combination of love and mutual exploration. This is why we scoff at people who insist that passion and romance must die with marriage and children. Romance dies because people don't have any kind of systematic way to deal with the host of things that impact marriage in a negative way. That is why the exploration of consciousness is a process that must go on forever.
We are not suggesting that all partners will be together forever. It often happens that the process of relationship can lead people to separate. What we can say is that the vast majority of relationships end because people don't know how to handle the negativity and the sense of being overwhelmed that so easily invades primary relationships.
PARTNERING VERSUS HIERARCHICAL RELATIONSHIP
The second basic principle of partnering is that there is a fundamental equality between the partners. This kind of partnering is nonhierarchical. Each partner may have strengths and weaknesses in relationship to the other (for instance, one may be good with the big picture and the other may be good with the details), but these differences are seen as a way to augment and help support each other. Achieving this fundamental equality is more easily said than done because such a shift requires us to examine our basic power motives in our dealings with people. As each of us came to our relationship accustomed to being the person in charge, we can assure you that the ability to come to this equality with each other was not easy, but the rewards have been well worth the effort.
Most relationships exist in a hierarchical form. What this means is that people either adopt a role of wielding power over someone weaker or of being submissive to someone who is more powerful. This classical hierarchical relationship is what creates the "bonding patterns" that have contributed so much to our understanding of relationships. In its simplest form, bonding patterns is a term that describes the parent-child interactions we learned as children that automatically govern our relationships until we become aware of them. These bonding patterns can be positive or negative. (For more discussion of bonding patterns, see chapter 3.)
Hierarchical relationships are often related to family and cultural training that establishes rules about how we should behave in relationship. (For more discussion of hierarchical relationships, see Sidra's book, The Shadow King: The Invisible Force That Holds Women Back.) For more and more couples, however, this traditional hierarchical structure no longer works.
Most of us yearn for a more equal partnership and a deeper and more fulfilling kind of relationship. To achieve this, however, we must address our traditional hierarchical training. Most of us need to spend a good deal of time learning to recognize how these ideas and behavior patterns live within us and color our system of relationships. When we recognize and understand these, we have the freedom to accept or reject them as we see fit.
Once we have tasted partnering, particularly in primary relationship, we simply cannot have any other kind of connection. Partnering moves us into a relationship that is truly a joint venture, a venture that takes us into spiritual realms even as it helps us to deal with the myriad practical details of everyday living. A joint venture relationship can exist whether the partners are of the same sex or opposite sexes. Partnering is partnering and the same psychic laws apply to all of us.
In the business world, if two very different people start a business as a joint venture, they are equal partners. The success or failure of the business will depend to a great extent on their ability to function as equal partners. The same thing is true in partnering relationships of all kinds. Although many of us would prefer this joint venture kind of connection in our business and personal relationships, life has a way of messing things up and what begins as a very positive system of interactions between equals can easily turn into murkiness and negativity or outright war.
It is one thing to want a true partnering in our relationships. It is another thing to know how to get it and keep it. This takes work and learning and an attitude toward relationship that is radically different from anything that has been available in the past. In the following chapters we talk about how your partnering can go sour so easily. You'll learn why this happens, what this is all about, and what you can do about it.
PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESSFUL PARTNERING
The skills we must learn for successful partnering require us to explore areas of knowledge and experience that may be completely new to us. Some of this knowledge is based on what our minds can handle. Some learning has to do with the development of a knowing heart. Other insights are based on — what to our minds are nonexistent — matters of the spirit. Still other knowledge comes from our physical bodies. Once we enter into the adventure of real partnering, we begin to explore all of these areas because each has its own secrets and these secrets impact our interactions with other people. Let's look at some of the learning that a joint venture relationship requires of us.
Discovering the Reality of the Many Selves and How They Interact
You can learn about relationship from many wonderful teachers, writers, and therapists. When it comes to learning about the psychology of selves and their interaction in relationship, however, our work is the primary source.
From our perspective there is nothing that is more important, more vital, more helpful, or more essential than the realization that we have within us a group of selves that regulates our lives and directs our actions, even though we think that our choices come from free will.
Put another way: Without the knowledge of one's inner selves there is little possibility for truly rewarding and successful relationships. Why is this so? It is so because a relationship is not something that exists between two people. Any relationship involves a multitude of selves in each person that interact with similar or opposite selves in the other. We have to learn who in us is interacting with our partner at any particular time.
As a man, I (Hal) discovered that I had been leading a life that was dominated by a particular self that had to do with being responsible. This often forced me to do things that I really did not want to do. When we are identified with a particular self we have no choice about our behavior. It is automatic. And when we do things automatically it is not healthy for us or for our partners, because often we become resentful without consciously recognizing it at the time. We can change this, however. In order to do so, we must learn to recognize the selves that run our lives and separate from them. Then we can choose to use their expertise in a conscious way. For instance, when the responsible father within Hal happily and automatically wants to give up an enjoyable afternoon at the gym in order to help Sidra around the house, Hal takes some time to see what the more self-nurturing parts of him would have to say about this. Then, instead of automatically staying home — and later resenting this decision — he is able to consider the alternative of not helping her. Hal has a real choice; his responsible father self does not.
Balancing the Process of Primary Relationship with Individual Choice and Freedom
To surrender in partnering does not mean surrendering to your partner or to another person. It means to surrender to the process of relationship that develops when two people commit to one another. This process of relationship becomes the third party. Incidentally, this surrender is not necessarily a commitment to either monogamy or non-monogamy. Neither is it a guarantee that the relationship will remain forever intact. It is simply the recognition that the process of the relationship is a third and separate entity that has a life of its own.
Excerpted from Partnering by Hal Stone, Sidra L. Stone, Gina Misiroglu. Copyright © 2000 Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra L. Stone, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
SECTION 1 A New Way of Looking at Partnering,
Chapter 1 Relationship As a Joint Venture,
Chapter 2 But I Thought I Was Married to Just One Person! Our "Selves" in Relationship,
Chapter 3 Mapmaking for Partners: Understanding the Patterns in Your Relationship,
Chapter 4 Vulnerability: The Key to Intimacy and Beyond,
Chapter 5 The Magic of Linkage: Energetic Connection As a Healing Force,
SECTION 2 Enhancing Relationship,
Chapter 6 Passionate Partnering: Sexuality and Sensuality beyond the Bedroom,
Chapter 7 Partnering As a Business Venture: Learning to Share the Details of Life,
Chapter 8 Partnering and Parenting: A Couple's Guide to Romance,
Chapter 9 Top Ten Challenges to Relationship: Keeping Your Love Alive Amid Life's Routines,
Chapter 10 Partners on the Path: Spirituality and Partnering,
Afterword The Star Maiden's Basket,
The Star Maiden's Basket,
About the Authors,
Books and Tapes by Hal Stone and Sidra Stone,