These are the factors that held us together in the middle of awful rows in answer to the query “what kept you together in the worst times?”
1. Finding each other very sexually attractive
This was Eva’s first answer to how we made it through the rough times and it is fundamental to intimate relationships. Clearly this will not be the thing that helps find a way through when the issue is sexual or has a sexual component. But for other issues the core sexual attraction can help make it worth addressing whatever is going on. One of the reasons why this has worked for us is that we both have higher than average sexual energy and are very well suited sexually. This also means keeping yourself looking good for the other.
2. Making solemn vows to face our stuff in any argument, and only later consider whether to stay in the relationship.
This was Jake’s first answer to the question and was the basis of the marriage vows that we made. Our willingness to make such a vow was based on our prior experience of relationships failing because one or both partners refused to face up to their issues – which left the relationship with nowhere to go. We were open to the fact that our relationship might not survive any given row, but the decision about whether to part company would only be made when we had both faced up to the issues that were causing so much hurt and distress. The statement above is effectively a commitment to the long haul and has the same sense as the old marriage vow ‘til death do us part’. However when we married we had both broken marriage vows before, so when it came to remaking the same vows again we had to think very carefully. Also when the same issue arose in a third relationship it became significantly harder to blame the other person – it was clearly time for us to face what it was in ourselves. So we reframed the vows in terms of a commitment to facing up to issues rather than running.
3. Prioritising uncovering the truth over everything else.
There are several dimensions to this. The first is that we both want to know what is really going on more than protecting our image or theories. The second is a reinforcement of the previous item; namely that we wanted the truth more than the relationship. The third is that this reflects a profound belief that it is always better to know the truth than not know. Knowing the truth maybe humiliating, embarrassing and distressing – but it is always better than remaining in ignorance. This belief was continuously reinforced by our involvement with Enlightenment Intensives where the aim is to discover, for oneself, the Absolute Truth (which means Truth not dependent upon any beliefs or ideas). It is also likely that this principle explains why we have been so successful using techniques and processes to resolve arguments.
Another way of expressing this principle is that we both value being real over everything else. In an argument it is all too easy to fall into a trap of maintaining a particular story about what happened, usually a victim story of what the other did to me. The reality is often that having been hurt I now really hate the other person – and voicing this can bring enough reality into the row to break he stories that are being maintained.
4. Remembering the divine in the other person.
In the middle or arguments and rows everything can appear black and bleak. All thoughts of the other person are about the last time they hurt me like this, the last time they were this obstinate and cut off. In fact they are the meanest nastiest person alive and I’ve forgotten why on earth I am with them! What am I doing! If at such times one can step back from the argument and remember the divine other that is over there, hurting and angry in equal measure, then it is possible that one’s energy can shift enough to make a rapprochement possible. The real difficulty is making the step out of the energetic state created by the row – and sometimes this requires being alone for a bit, sometimes being slightly intoxicated can help. It is also helpful to do an exercise where each remembers what they like about the other person and what they do agree on.
More recently we have both come to value enormously the deep contact that we share when we are in harmony – it is a level of divine contact where we experience the divinity in each other. Whenever that harmony is disturbed we lose the contact – and desperately want it back. This yearning for the positive in the relationship is very effective at unwinding the negative states that serve to maintain a row. However this principle is something that has emerged as a result of the maturation of our relationship – it was not there in the beginning.
5. Knowing who we really are.
Quite early in our relationship we both attended an Enlightenment Intensive as participants and had experiences of who we are – at the divine level. This was extremely important because it meant that in subsequent rows we were not totally identified with our trips – we knew who had the trip! It was these experiences that
(a) caused us to prioritise the truth over everything else
(b) lead to the formulation of our vows in terms of a path to God
Jake’s experience resolved his long term worthlessness and Eva’s helped her reduce the effect of her fear of abandonment. But it also meant that in a crisis we could each find a deep place within ourselves that knew that we were OK. For example after about 6 years Eva fell in love with another man, throwing Jake into a crisis. Rather than try to control Eva to be with him he accessed the place where he felt OK and was able to say to her “if you leave this relationship you will be leaving the best thing that ever happened to you”.