The Paths of The Healthy Couple: A Practical Approach
By TOI Team April 17, 2022 Update on : April 17, 2022
Today’s topic is the spiritual paths of the healthy couple. It is obvious that a budding couple is an inexhaustible source of energy for both members. And this is precisely for the reason that new bonds are created. If one does not seek to impose one’s own lifestyle, we find ourselves necessarily enriched by that of the other.
Those who previously had sexual problems, discover the body of the other and rediscover their own, without the need for the slightest aphrodisiac or the care of a sexologist.
Those who were depressed are happy again and the world seems to have no boundaries.
Some think that this state stops in the first months of the relationship when you fall in love. On the contrary, I believe that a stable couple can retain the same quality of emotion provided that they spare the source of so much happiness.
Even if everyone takes their own route, there are fifteen paths that I feel entitled to recommend:
The path of healthy selfishness
Put distance between your couple and your family. Our grandparents were above all looking for stability in their union. The family was busy finding quiet, well-to-do men for their daughters who didn’t drink, who worked, and, even better, who believed in God.
Today we ask our spouse above all to be attractive, at least on an intellectual level, and we always appreciate a certain amount of the unexpected. The fear of boredom has discredited the criteria inspired by the principle of order in favor of the need for a certain disorder.
Routine is not the only trap that lies in waiting for lasting unions. As we have seen, the couple must also defend itself against the opposing needs of the individuals who compose it and of the family that it has become. It is also necessary to protect oneself from the requirements stemming from the original family nuclei. And many are those who should, in my opinion, give free rein to the healthiest of individualisms.
You have to be constantly attentive to your own requirements, especially when three generations live together. It is then the grandparents who hold the real power within this tribal model. Spouses find themselves tyrannized both by their parents and by their children.
In Antoinette’s family, two grandparents, three children, and five grandchildren seemed to live together perfectly. She must have pointed to me when her matriarchal construct crumbled. And never would have imagined it. She had been a perfect wife, despite her husband Louis’ passion for beautiful women. She had been a mother of integrity, even if her sons were a little too attached to her.
She told herself that, all things considered, and would also have been a grandmother worthy of the task, as demonstrated by the Sunday meetings that her three sons imposed on their respective wives and their numerous offspring. Abd indeed received perfectly, Antoinette, and if two of her daughters-in-law had decided to divorce. I do not think it was her fault.
I think the fault lies with his sons, who were unable to draw a precise line of demarcation between the original families and the new family nuclei. Clan life does not suit everyone, and even if it gave them an undoubted social advancement, the two women preferred to abandon this large Lyon family for a situation that was perhaps more humble but certainly less confused.
The path of rationality
Try to find them all the same, and not just for yourself. It is just as important to understand the theoretical framework in which your relationship fits. The emotional needs of life together are already confusing enough; don’t add institutional type misunderstandings to it, even if that makes you lose a little bit of the romanticism you hold so dear.
According to Jurg Willi, unhappy couples are those in which the obligations of morality and the law dominate. I personally think that these criteria must serve as safeguards: these legal and religious barriers must be erected in times of crisis.
They play a protective role, but they should not cancel the psychological dimension, which is the one with which the couple is really confronted. In other words, the couple is “privatized”: it defines itself from within. Read also about the Top 10 Most Eye-Catching Female Celebrities.
The path of humility
moderate your expectations. It is true that there are also couples who no longer get along for lack of enthusiasm, or because the choice of partner was guided by resignation. But these are isolated cases. The majority of couples are in crisis because what they expected from each other and from their union was disproportionate.
As with the education of children, it is advisable to set ambitious but attainable goals. Setting the bar too high can cause the same damage as a lack of ambition. You can’t climb Mont Blanc if you don’t even know how to climb the nearby hill. You cannot cycle a hundred kilometers an hour; it is better to buy a motorbike.
No, I’m not advising changing partners. Nor to falsify the report by continual concessions. It is rather a question of overcoming one of the major obstacles to the formation of the couple, what Jean Lemaire, the great French expert in marriage counseling, defines as “the phase of idealization”.
Indeed the couple cannot meet the needs of the family alone, they must also take into account their own emotional needs. And he can only do that if they are not excessive. When you move from the state of love to love, it is therefore fundamental to redefine mutual expectations: it is not necessary to abandon your personal ambitions, you just have to bring them closer to the reality of the other.
The way of generosity
Remember to nurture your love. For many, the couple is like a nest in which it is natural to be nourished. As for feeding yourself, that’s another story! Having this vision of the relationship between the two only prolongs the experience of childhood: the only difference is that then, it was the mother who provided for the needs.
In the eyes of psychologists, it is one of the manifestations of “magical thinking”. Indeed it is natural that the child considers that the food of his parents is always at his disposal, and it does not matter whether it is in the form of milk or affection.
It is only later that he will discover that he, too, can feed his mother: when, for the first time, he will exchange a smile with his parents, which will be the prelude to a long season of ‘ affective exchanges. The transition from the magic of a soothing world to the reality of reciprocal emotional dependence usually occurs at the age of a few months, and for many is a difficult lesson to learn.
The couple is a structure just as fragile as the world of the newborn and must be periodically nourished, to allow the spouses to flourish. Otherwise, we risk finding ourselves in the situation of Sabrina, who, during our first meeting, did not stop crying. Thirty-three years old, separated from her husband for three years, she continues to accuse him rather than look within herself where the true explanation of their failure lies.
He is a journalist: the crisis occurred after barely a year of marriage when they stopped making love and he spent his time looking for an adulterous encounter on a dating site. Her husband’s work schedule, which slept during the day and worked at night, aggravated the situation. But that’s not why Sabrina left him.
She will discover the real reason for this decision after several sessions, when she will have succeeded in evoking the relationship she had with her youngest sister, a beautiful young girl, in the face of whom she has always felt an inferiority complex. Sabrina didn’t think she could please too, and above all, she felt misunderstood. She thought almost magically that her husband would understand her without asking questions.
In fact, she hoped that her marriage would heal old wounds.
The mathematical path
1 + 1 =3. The mathematical laws we learned at school cannot be applied to effective reality. Let’s take the case of couples who live in perfect symbiosis: we must write about them that 1+1 is always equal to 1. For them, intimacy becomes fusion and they lose the notion of individual limits, not only at the moment of orgasm but every moment of the day.
What is the result of the same operation in the case of a durable couple? It’s easy: 1 + 1 = 3. The couple is indeed a system that transcends the sum of the two individuals that compose it: two lovers are able to achieve things that they could not even imagine if they were alone. . But for the magic of the mathematics of the heart to be accomplished, it is necessary to alternate spaces of autonomy and moments of sharing: it is precisely when this balance is cracked that misunderstandings are born and that the future of the couple is at stake. .
A couple that calls into question individual autonomy certainly runs risks, but it must not think that it is lost: the stratagems that the mind imagines in order to compensate for the lack of harmony are inexhaustible. Some invent a common enemy: a relative or the inhabitants of the village in which they have settled.
Others share a great ideal, which ranges from socialist thought to charitable action. But it is enough then that the common enemy disappears, or that the political objectives pale for the couple to suddenly find themselves confronted with an intrinsic conflictual relationship, for which they are not prepared. When the enemy settles at home, it is much more difficult to fight.
In some cases, the mathematics of love can play another trick. For Jean-Marie and Gilberte, for example, 1 + 1 equals 0, and they understood this when they called me for help just six months after their wedding. He is forty years old, she thirty-seven: they have been lovers in the past when they were both in the grip of rather turbulent relationships.
For Gilberte, her first husband was more like a big brother. Intellectual and fascinating, yes, but more interested in politics and money than in women. As for her, she adored handsome thugs, especially in bed, through one-night stands. This is why she decided to divorce while remaining very attached to her ex-husband, whom she continues to use as a lifeline.
Jean-Marie, meanwhile, likes to seduce. But to women, he still prefers sailing, which he passionately practices whenever he has free time, and which he discusses with his friends. It is worth pointing out that he left his previous wife. On the occasion of his divorce, I saw him engage in a serious process of personal maturation, of which I believed I had confirmation when he announced to me that he intended to marry Gilberte.
When you come out of a painful marital crisis, it is indeed difficult to fall back into the trap of idealization. We usually make a safer choice. But this was not the case: my patients were too busy with themselves to be able to care about the other.
When I had them both in front of me, I asked them what they liked to do without each other. Their responses were immediate: “sailing and working,” he told me. “Music and travel,” she echoed. It was when I asked them what their common interests were that the room was filled with an awkward silence as if there were no us to refer to. They reported very satisfying sexuality and the pleasure of spending time with children from their previous marriages. Faced with these arguments, the reasons of the heart do not count.
It is not enough to look each other in the eye or to sacrifice one’s own interests to the needs of the other to ensure the durability of the couple. Neither passion nor renunciation allows the relationship to flourish; on the other hand, a rich private life combined with important common interests allowed him to develop.
The way to complexity
Centripetal feelings and centrifugal emotions. Just as, in the ocean, the waves on the surface coexist with deeper currents, the occasional emotions of the couple coexist with the feelings on which the relationship is truly built. These represent the background of the union and are usually centripetal. This is the case of Esteem, more commonly associated with friendship and which, therefore, is not considered one of the key elements of the romantic relationship.
Some people are only infatuated with scoundrels, which shows that you can fall in love without esteem. What lasting love cannot do. To be lasting, the union needs virtues as discreet as modesty, the importance of which the philosopher Jankélévitch underlined3. Francesco Alberoni says that modesty avoids envy. In any case, it makes it easier to live together and protects against the toughest confrontations.
The couple, however, needs strong sensations such as passion and the unexpected. We will call them centrifugal feelings because they help to get out of the daily routine. Those who manage to unleash these little storms in the calm waters of habit are often even forgiven for their infidelities. This is what happens to Gaspard, known as ” the zebra», who, in the homonymous novel by Alexandre Jardin, fights tirelessly against the monotony of his life as a couple.
It is for this purpose that he becomes Benjamin, one of his wife’s students. Benjamin is able to do anything to seduce his teacher: he sends her bouquets of flowers, anonymous letters, and messages that become more and more erotic. He ends up inviting her to a brothel, where she arrives, wild with passion for this imaginary lover who turns out to be only her husband.
Gaspard’s creativity will not even be hampered by his death from leukemia; he will even manage, from his grave, to maintain the love of his wife, thanks to a series of pre-recorded messages. Read more about the World’s top 10 highest-paid actresses.
The path of loyalty
Monogamy by choice. When a love affair begins, with few exceptions, being faithful is as easy as drinking a glass of water. All energies are concentrated on the partner and Ton is annoyed at the very idea that someone can interrupt this idyll. Things change when you go from being in love to being in love. All scenarios are then possible, but we can, for convenience, summarize them in four points:
We remain faithful by conviction but the imagination is nourished outside the official report.
One of the couple, if not both, is seriously tempted by the idea of an extramarital affair. Boredom and the need to escape end up diminishing attraction and giving rise to a dilemma. Is it better to have passive fidelity or active infidelity?
According to Italian polls, 40% of people who have experienced temptation have gone from desire to action. The reaction of the spouse varies according to the cultural background of origin. While Americans can divorce for infidelity, Latinos generally seek a new agreement in order to continue living together.
Finally, there are those who remain faithful without asking questions, because they are able to renew the common interests necessary to maintain lively sexuality. To remain faithful you have to want to, and active fidelity galvanizes the couple in a way that few aphrodisiacs know how to do.
Moreover, adultery is a luxury that few people can afford: it is, therefore, imprudent to advise it for psychological purposes. It is true that cultural differences remain: if the Anglo-Saxons statistically prefer to divorce and remarry, the Latins – at least the men – defend the model of the archipelago, with the main island, islets, and a few scattered rocks. .
The way of dialogue
The ability to negotiate. It is precise because the couple can no longer rely today on clear ideological and social references that it is absolutely necessary to leave the dialogue open. Good communication helps him to face the problems posed by geographical mobility and changes in status.
Dialogue is much more useful than any premarital contract. This does not mean that the future will be rosy, but, in times of crisis, learning to argue without destroying each other at least increases the chances that the couple has to last.
By following a misunderstood romantic model, people accustomed to negotiating in their work think that the duty to compromise with one’s spouse is superfluous in the couple. This phenomenon is, however, more common among Latins than among Americans, who assiduously practice negotiation, both in their business and at home. It’s about the choice of the pizza we will order, the TV program we will watch, etc.
The Italians, strong experts in negotiations with the unions, are less daring when they find themselves in the household. No doubt they are deluded by the illusion that the agreement in their couple speaks for itself. They are wrong. Read more about much-talked-about scandals of top 10 celebrities.
The path of the reed
Learn to be flexible. Adapting does not mean bending to the demands of the other, nor making a virtue of necessity. But rather implementing one’s faculties of receptivity whenever possible.
It is no coincidence that it is precisely the flexibility that all the winning companies operating on the market have converted. In our complex society, a strategy of this nature succeeds where the fairest principles fail. La Fontaine had already taught us this in the fable of the oak and the reed.
The path to parity
Establish horizontal reports rather than vertical ones. The couple is governed by perfectly vertical power relations only in the myth of Pygmalion or in the collusions described by Jurg Willi. On the contrary, the conjugal bond of the healthy couple is based on the principle of otherness. Reciprocity, tolerance, and coexistence are not only the basis of life in society but also of “two-person democracy”. It is obvious that even the most equal couple also knows the hierarchy.
If it corresponds to a good distribution of roles, it does not in any way represent a threat. On the other hand, couples whose balance of power is used to mask the impotence of one of the partners run risks.
For example, the drinking man beats his wife because he does not know how to live sober and in no case because she is at fault. In affective life, there is sometimes a conflict between love and eroticism. If in love that lasts, “horizontality” is a guarantee of duration, in eroticism, fantasies feed on “verticality”, whether in submission or in domination.
The way to intimacy
Sexuality is one of the five dimensions that intimacy can assume, the extent of which is spiritual, intellectual, affective, bodily, and sexual. This is why it is fundamental that the quantitative criteria used to evaluate sexuality should not be extended to intimacy. In short, it is not compulsory for the couple to experience these five dimensions, whereas three of them are usually sufficient for a lifetime.
For the couple to last, does sexual intimacy necessarily have to exist? We have not yet been able to answer this question. According to Italian polls, one of these three scenarios is found among long-time couples. Sexuality that has stood the test of time, sexuality now deprived of eroticism that is based only on habit, or a renunciation of sexuality accompanied by increased tenderness and the existence of parallel ties.
When the desire is lacking, one might at first sight wish for tenderness to increase. But an American study reveals that, when only tenderness remains, conflicts multiply. This demonstrates that the importance of sex is not controversial.
The path of complementarity
Use 2/3-1/3 mixture. According to communication expert Paul Watzlawick, couples can be divided into “symmetrical” and “complementary 10”. The first are those whose members both behave in the same way, whether positive or negative. In these conditions the competition is strong and we can compare the situations that arise to the whirlwinds of water: in moments of the agreement we go up, in times of crisis, on the other hand, we go down. .
The atmosphere that reigns in couples governed by the principle of complementarity is different and, in general, better, provided that the relationship does not maintain conflict. Everything is fine as long as the complementarity does not cancel out the individualities. A quiet individual seeks a more dynamic partner who completes him.
Things are very different when complementarity becomes excessive. Let us imagine for example that all the functions of rationality are entrusted to one and that the other supervises only the passional and instinctive aspects.
The therapists would then advise the couple to apply the 2/3-1/3 formula. The more rational partner is asked if he is willing to give up at least a third of his beliefs and the other if he wishes to become a third more rational while keeping his passionate and unpredictable character.
In general, it is effective: from the moment when he does not lose his majority position, one would say in financial language, the human being is ready to make some concessions. In the present case, the demonstration of the theorem is extremely simple. If each of the two is willing to grant the other a third of their character, the couple can always base their coexistence on a common territory equal to two-thirds of the common life. .
The way of struggle
Discover the warrior behind your couple. Those who have faced great difficulties together are more likely than others to stay together. It is not uncommon for poverty and exceptional situations such as the difficulty of caring for a sick child or the life of an emigrant to truly cement the union.
In short, the fact of having faced a common enemy together can represent for the couple an elixir of long life. Experienced marriage counselors even believe that a couple who has not experienced or overcome a crisis remains fragile, even if they appear from the outside like a dyke resistant to winds and tides.
The way of stone
Build something with your partner. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “love is not looking at each other, it is looking together in the same direction”. Having sweet common memories is only useful if you have a project that you want to achieve as a couple.
The recipe of the author of The Little Prince applies to many unions contrary to what some people think. Indeed we often consider the couple as a ball and chain, without taking into account the incredible energy that can arouse the commitment to a common project. The purchase of a house, a dream vacation, a weekend of sports practice, or in Salzburg to listen to Mozart are programs for two that your couple will benefit from.
The way of the game
Consider common life with irony. Sometimes you meet people who are extremely funny when you see them alone and who, in a relationship, is so tense that their whole sense of humor disappears. So what’s going on? The conflicts present in this union have undoubtedly become much more radical and, by investing the aspects of common life. They have eliminated an essential ingredient in life as a couple. The ability to put things into perspective.
Indeed, irony is not a gift of nature. Only those who are able to overcome primary processes, which are dominated by rage and paranoia, can smile and evolve towards situations that allow joking about their own neuroses. Woody Allen does nothing but laughs at his own psychological struggles,
Sometimes the irony of one or the other makes the atmosphere of the couple less heavy. Consider, then, that some therapists use laughter as a healing tool. According to Parisian psychiatrist Henry Rubinstein. An hour of laughter even benefits the endocrine and muscular systems. But attention to irony does not mean sarcasm. This one implies intrinsic wickedness whereas the couple only needs to play with itself in order to maintain in him this bit of adolescence which will prevent him from aging.