1. When something goes wrong between us we have equal responsibility – both for its cause and for sorting it out. We refer to this as the 50:50 rule.
It only applies in relationships between adults seeking intimacy together. It does not apply between an adult and child, nor between a teacher and student. In these cases the individual with the greater power or/and awareness has the greater responsibility. So if someone is claiming to be more aware or evolved or anything equivalent then they are also taking on more than 50% of the share of responsibility for whatever goes wrong and resolving it. For more explanation read this.
2. An argument or altercation between us is not resolved if either person feels that their reality has not been accepted and become part of a ‘bigger picture’ of what has been going on.
This is a crucial element of determining when an argument has been completely resolved. And if arguments are not completely resolved then there will be a ‘stack-up’ – a growing number of issues that are brought into play in attempting to sort out the current argument. When we achieve a ‘bigger picture’ we both see how our previous understanding was only partial and how it interlocked into the other person’s partial understanding in a way that created the argument. Each of our partial realities is thereby acknowledged and seen to both have some validity and be incomplete or even incorrect (usually in the presumptions about the other person).
3. It is impossible to change anyone other than yourself, and all attempts to do so will reduce the intimacy and closeness in the relationship.
This is particularly important for people who have been therapists or involved in therapy because they might imagine that (a) the difficulties in the relationship are caused by the other person’s lack of awareness or experience (see the 50:50 rule above!) and (b) that they have the ability to see clearly what the other needs to do to improve the relationship. It is true that it is easier to see faults and defects in others than in oneself, but beating people up with their faults simply makes it far more difficult for them to do anything about it. We have found it is far more helpful for us to discover our faults for ourselves and to decide, for ourselves, to do something about it.
4. Each of us is only critical of characteristics in other people that we have not yet fully accepted in ourselves.
This is an extremely powerful tool for self-diagnosis and self-awareness. It has a counter, namely: one only admires characteristics in others that one has not yet fully owned in oneself. These are simply statements of the principles of how projections work. We have found that projections are rife and destructive in close relationships. A key word in the above descriptions is “fully”. Fully accepting a negative trait means not admitting it in some theoretical sense but genuinely owning it and being able to see when that trait is operating – ideally quickly enough to be able to own it in the present moment. There is an exercise dealing with this issue here.
5.Use techniques and processes to help in difficult times; and agree the processes before things get bad.
We have used a wide range of tools and techniques for sorting out our issues. All the tools have been really helpful – partly because we both wanted to sort things out and had agreed on the tools to try well before the shit hit the fan. It is never a good idea to try to force your partner to use a tool – especially if you like it and they do not – the tool becomes part of the fight instead of a way of resolving it. We have described the key tools we have found most useful in the Tools section of this website.
6. To go deeply into a new relationship requires each person to face and resolve the issues that they failed to get through in all their previous adult relationships.
When a relationship breaks up it causes severe hurt to each person and they will each close their heart on the unresolved issue. To open their heart in a new relationship it is this historical hurt that has to be felt so that the core issue can be resolved. Doing this together in the new relationship feels extremely scary – “I do not want to be hurt like that ever again” – however it is also incredibly healing and bonding – and necessary.
7. Sexual difficulties are a reflection of difficulties in, or lack of intimacy in, the relationship; addressing the difficulties and increasing the intimacy is the best way to resolve the sexual issue.
This is an important principle because it is easy to confuse the symptom (sexual disharmony) with the cause (lack of intimacy). We have found over and over again that the more honesty, intimacy and closeness there is in the relationship then the more we enjoy each other sexually. Our sex lives are now better than they have ever been.
8. Intimate relationships need, and are enhanced by, quality time alone together.
This was particularly important for us when we had busy professional lives and were bringing up four children. A relationship can tick over under these conditions, but eventually it suffers. We found that when we did eventually get time together we experienced a few days arguing, shedding stress and dealing with the issues that had stacked up. It was only after about 3 days together that we were able to develop and enhance our relationship together. Our first long holiday together without the children showed us just how important quality time alone was for an intimate relationship. This is the strongest advice we give to our busy friends – spend more quality time together alone.
9. We have learned that whenever one of us makes a significant step in their personal growth then the other person has to make an equivalent step to maintain our intimate relationship.
It took us a while to spot this pattern, but once we understood it we were able to accept what was occurring between us more simply. This is another way of saying “it takes two to tango”. When one partner ceases to participate in a particular dance then their partner has to cease as well – and learn the steps of the new dance. This is beneficial to the relationship because it means that we can keep each other moving along in our personal development.