For the best relationship ever, start with a clean slate. Wipe away the black marks and start fresh, aiming, once again, for consummate love. Only this time, do it with consummate love in clear view. Know what you’re going for, and you have a better shot at it.
According to Robert J. Sternberg, a psychologist and psychometrician of Cornell University, perfect love is a high level of intimacy, passion, and commitment.
• Intimacy: Psychological knowledge shared, and connection based on that knowledge
• Passion: Erotic attraction
• Commitment: The decision that a person loves another person and the commitment to maintain that love
It’s difficult to experience a high level of any one of the three if you focus on how you’ve been wronged or short-changed; and each one works to strengthen or weaken the others (see diagram below). Wiping the slate clean, on the other hand, allows you to immediately enjoy what you have and develop more of it.
I realize that a clean slate isn’t exactly something you can order online or have somebody else deliver; but relationships are about giving what you have. So give YOURSELF a clean slate. When you wipe yours clean, you wipe his clean, too! If you thought he was alone in the relationship fumbles, take a closer look. Be honest about your role. Then forgive yourself. Having trouble with that part? Learn from your “mistakes,” and resolve to apply what you’ve learned. Knowing that you’re not about to make the same blunder is a key to forgiving yourself. And forgiving him is a byproduct of forgiving you!
Now, you can start fresh together, without any misconception of love. According to Sternberg, there are eight types of “love,” and only one of them is perfect. Don’t be fooled by the other seven. They’ll bring to mind romantic escapes and intellectualized commitments of your past; but look at what you have now. If you’re honest with yourself, then you’ll know exactly what you need more of.
To get more intimacy, stop talking about the weather, and begin to talk nakedly about your deep feelings and dreams. What are you afraid to say out loud — in the context of work, the kids, money, retirement, sex, fitness? Talk more, do more together, touch more. You don’t have to like the same things to try on each other’s interests and gain a better understanding of what intrigues and stimulates. You grow intimacy by learning more about each other, which leads to placing more value on each other.
You can’t feel loved without feeling truly known and valued; and you want to feel loved to the core. So, let your guard down to reveal all of you. No secrets.
Intimacy will lead to passion, but don’t get stuck thinking that passion is synonymous with craving. Love isn’t really about need; it’s about desire. Be present with each other. Feel the kiss without leaping to, “I’m too tired.” Enjoy what is, without being preoccupied with what comes next … and what comes next just might surprise you. Passion is like magic. It can’t be forced; it just happens when you let it.
When you have intimacy and passion, commitment follows. You don’t have to be talked into staying with what satisfies your desire to be known and touched in deep places.
So, start fresh … and then hold nothing back.