Principle U Marriage: How Center Aged Can Navigate The 5 Ranges of Love
Public Domain via WikiPedia 5 Levels of Love: Are You Stuck in Level 3?
My parents' marriage began to break up in middle age. After he turned forty, my father became increasingly depressed when he couldn't make a living doing the job he loved. He had a "nervous breakdown" and was admitted to a mental hospital. My mother was forced to take a job outside of the home, and I became a key child long before the term was invented.
Midlife wasn't just a problem for my family. It's a problem for everyone. Dr. David Blanchflower, Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, conducted a monumental research study on data from 500,000 people in 132 countries. In each case, he found that "people's happiness rose and fell in a U-shaped curve and that it bottomed out at ages 47 and 49".
The consistency of this result surprised him. "The expectation was that I probably wouldn't find that this slump in happiness was the same everywhere. But we found it to be present everywhere in America, Germany, Thailand and Pakistan," he says. With a few exceptions, other research has done the same pattern uncovered – where happiness is generally high in young adulthood, slowly decreasing until it bottomed out in the late 1940s, and then rising again. In his book The Happiness Curve, author Jonathan Rauch writes: “The Happiness Curve wouldn't appear in as many records and locations as in monkeys if it wasn't hardwired to some degree. "
Blanchflower speculates that individuals' loss of happiness may have to do with "getting real" – finding their dreams for themselves will not materialize, which can be a tough reality test. As we will see in a moment, "getting real" is part of my own U-shaped curve that is central to the 5 stages of love.
The U is also a focus of the work of systems researcher Dr. Otto Scharmer. In his book The Essentials of Theory U, he says:
“We live in a moment of profound possibilities and disruptions. A moment marked by the withering away of an old way of thinking and organizational logic. And one that is characterized by the emergence of a new consciousness and a new way of activating generative social fields. "
Dr. Scharmer further describes the shift he and his colleague at the Presencing Institute, Kelvy Bird, are seeing, which is shown in the image below.
Dr. Scharmer says:
“If we picture ourselves on the left side of the picture, we can see a world that is dissolving and dying (the structures of the past); On the right we see the new mental and social structures that are emerging now. The challenge is figuring out how to cross the abyss that separates the two: how to move from here to there.
Scharmer describes three main differences that society is faced with today.
(1) The ecological divide: unprecedented environmental degradation – resulting in the loss of nature.
(2) The social divide: obscene levels of inequality and fragmentation – resulting in the loss of society.
(3) The spiritual gap: Increasing levels of burnout and depression – leading to loss of meaning and self-loss.
Because of my work with families, I would add a fourth divide.
(4) The couple shares: Increased stress and conflict in our closest relationships, especially midlife, lead to broken marriages, when the couple is enjoying life most.
The 5 stages of love and why too many relationships break down in stage 3
When I grew up watching movies about love and romance, I found it all very easy. One day when the time was right you looked through a crowded room and your eyes locked on your soul mate and you would see them staring at you with the same wonder and excitement. When violins are playing in the background, they float across the room into each other's arms. Nature would take its course, you would soon be married, build a wonderful life together, have children, and you would all live happily.
Like most adults, it didn't work out that way for me. It took many years of confusion and heartbreak, as well as two failed marriages and broken families, before I found out my simple view of love and marriage – Level 1 – was falling in love. Level 2, become a couple. Level 3, living happily ever after – was seriously flawed.
Here's a different take on love and marriage from my bestseller The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationship and Why the Best is Yet to Come.
Imagine Otto Scharmer's work on Theory U and imagine these 5 levels as arranged along the letter U.
In the old model, we are taught to believe that Level 1, “falling in love,” is the most passionate and exciting time in a relationship. In Phase 2 we believe that we can give up some of the initial passion and ecstasy for a deeper bond that comes from creating a life together. We expect Level 3 to be the reward and joy of "living happily forever." Instead, we often encounter conflict, distancing and disenchantment. We lose faith in the person we're with, and marriages often break down at this point.
I offer a different understanding of the 5 levels of love:
Level 1: falling in love
Falling in love feels so good like taking a drug high. We actually do drugs. It feels so wonderful because we are full of hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen. Falling in love is nature's trick in getting people to choose a partner so that our species will move on. Falling in love also feels great because we are projecting all of our hopes and dreams onto our loved one. We imagine them granting our wishes, giving us all the things we weren't given as children, fulfilling all promises that our previous relationships didn't keep. We are sure that we will stay in love forever. And because we're obsessed with "love hormones", we don't know about them. What we consider to be the best and brightest times in our relationship is actually an illusion.
Few of us want to hear what playwright George Bernard Shaw has to say about this stage.
“When two people are influenced by the most violent, insane, delusional, and ephemeral passions, they must swear that they will continually remain in this excited, abnormal, and exhausting state until death do them part. ”
Level 2: Becoming a couple
Many of us reach the second stage but still crave the crazy, hormonally motivated, passionate love of the first stage. In the second stage, our love deepens and we bond as a couple. This is a time when we have children and raise them. When we are through the parenting phase or have no more children, it is the time when our couple bond deepens and develops. It is a time of togetherness and joy. But our joyful life is built on a foundation that is not real. It's not real love, it's the illusion of love.
In this phase, we experience fewer head over heels "in love" feelings. We feel more connected to our partner. We feel warm and cozy. Most people will have children at this stage and are surprised how difficult it is to have time for ourselves, our partner, the children, our friends, and our work. Often we lose touch with ourselves and have less time as a couple.
Stage 3: disillusionment
Nobody told us about level 3 in the understanding of love and marriage. In Stage 3, my first two marriages broke down, and for too many relationships, this is the beginning of the end. This is a time when things feel bad. It can come on slowly or feel like a switch has been thrown and everything goes wrong overnight. We wonder what happened to the person we married. It can appear at any age, but is most common in midlife.
We get more irritable and angry or hurt and withdrawn. We may stay busy at work or with family, but dissatisfaction increases. We wonder where the person we once loved went to. He seems to have gone from Mr. Nice to Mr. Mean. She has transformed from the Queen of Ball to the Wicked Witch of the West.
There are two reactions people have to the pain and discomfort of disenchantment. One answer is to turn away from the relationship and get out. The other answer is to move into the relationship, go deeper, and open up. Otto Scharmer names the first answer absence and the other answer presence.
Presencing is the door at the bottom of the U through which we can get to Level 4, Real Lasting Love. Stage 3 is not the beginning of the end, as many fear, but the truly transformative stage to become real with our relationship and heal our past wounds.
There is an old saying, "If you're going through hell, don't stop." This seems to be the case at this stage of life. The positive side of level 3 is that the heat burns away many of our illusions about ourselves and our partner. There are also many traumatic memories of abuse, neglect, or abandonment that we experienced as children. As we work through Stage 3, we can heal our current problems, but also our past traumas, which are often at the core of many of our current conflicts.
Level 4: Creating real, lasting love
One of the gifts of facing Stage 3 calamity is that we can reach the core of what is causing the pain and conflict. I've found that 90% of the conflicts in our current relationships have their roots in the past. Healing the past enables us to heal our present. As we let go of our illusions about our partner, we begin to see them as flawed people like us who do the best to love and be loved.
When we can open up to one another, we become more real to ourselves and to one another. I remember the words of Margery Williams in the classic children's book The Velveteen Rabbit: "Real is not what you're made of," said the Skin Horse. "It's one thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real."
"Does it hurt?" Asked the rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the main horse, because he was always honest. "If you're real, you don't mind getting hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, as if one were being wound up," he asked, "or piece by piece?"
"It doesn't all happen at once," said the skin horse. & # 39; You will. It takes a long time. This is why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, have sharp edges, or who require careful care. In general, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved and your eyes are falling out and you loosening in the joints and being very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you're real you can't be ugly except for people who don't understand. "
There is nothing more satisfying than being with a partner who sees and loves you for who you are. They understand that your hurtful behavior is not because you are mean and loveless, but because you were wounded in the past and the past still lives within you. If we understand and accept our partner better, we can learn to love each other more and more deeply.
Level 5: Using the power of two to change the world
Nobody needs to remind us that the world is not doing so well. There are ongoing wars and conflicts. Racial violence seems to be everywhere. The coronavirus is still with us. We wonder if humans can survive. I wondered if we couldn't even find peace between two people who love each other. What chance do we have of creating a world that can work for all of its peoples?
But now I'm looking at the downside of that question. If we can learn to overcome our differences and find real, lasting love in our relationships, perhaps we can work together to find real, lasting love in the world.
The energy released when couples come through the presence portal at the bottom of the U and embrace the power of love can really change the world. If you are a midlife couple or are expecting one day, I invite you to join me on MenAlive.com and support our mission to help men and women live fully, deeply love and make a difference in the world close. If you'd like to read more articles like this, visit my weekly blog here.
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