I'm spearheading a revolution in monogamous relationships. I call it the Hot Love Revolution. It's rooted in these 11 key beliefs about people, relationships, and what's possible:
1. I BELIEVE IN PERSONAL EVOLUTION:
The point of human life is to hone our souls - to learn, heal, grow, become something brighter and more tender and transparent and resilient. We're here to have the rough edges knocked off us and to learn to be ever more-potent forces for good and for joy.
2. I BELIEVE IN DESIRE:
Our desires - not the insatiable greed of the ego, but the sweet marching orders written on our hearts by the divine - guide us to the paths of our greatest learning and contribution. Our yearnings are breadcrumbs guiding us to our highest path. It's not even the getting of the desire, but the exploration of it, that stretches and evolves us.
3. (I'm with Bono) I BELIEVE IN LOVE:
The desire to love and be loved is hardwired in human anatomy, and for some people in particular, relationship is the highest form of expression and evolution (for others it's art or leadership or athleticism or something else entirely). Loving with Power is for those who walk - or want to walk - the path of love, those who love love's challenges. As Bruce Cockburn sings, "If you love love, then love loves you, too."
4. I BELIEVE THAT THE HAPPINESS WE FIND IS SELF-MADE:
"You complete me" (Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire) made my sentimental side cry, but I don't really believe it. "You make me want to be a better man" (Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets) is more like it. I spent a long time trying to get my husband to "make me happy," and trying to fix the things about him that "I couldn't be happy" while he did. I also tried really hard to avoid displeasing him and to pursue his approval. Prolonged failure at these pursuits has taught me that there's a different success available: cultivating equanimity, contentment, and even turn-on and aliveness in the face of circumstances (moods? hikes? football games?) I wouldn't have chosen.
5. I BELIEVE OUR CULTURE SAYS WE HAVE TO "QUALIFY" FOR SEXUAL SATISFACTION:
And who qualifies? The young. The beautiful. The powerful. There have been times when I didn't feel like I was one of the people who "get to" have sex and enjoy it. Even when I could pull my leather'n'lace'n'junk together enough to pass muster, trying so hard was in itself a libido-killer, twisting my natural desires and passions into a glossy Cosmopolitan magazine-style ordeal. But I've learned - duh! - all we need to qualify for our desires is to be consenting adults. Yep. Right now, with that cellulite, in that ugly 10 year-old t-shirt.
6. I BELIEVE IN NEUROSIS:
Most of us have a vision of "The One" or "True Love" in our heads, and maybe a memory of a relationship that hit that spot (likely in our late teens or early 20s). And we think that if our current relationships were successful, they'd have less conflict, more effortless understanding, and tons more libido than they do. Bullshit, I say. The love worth going for ('cause it's real, it's possible, and it's still quite a tall order) contains all manner of foul moods, bad behavior, errant urges, and other human failings. "Happily partnered" doesn't mean uninterrupted bliss. It means ongoing courage and forgiveness for ourselves and our partners. Mature human love is defined by the fact that it keeps trying, and it keeps demanding that the relationship nudge each partner daily into more compassion, more turn-on, more truth, and more aliveness.
7. I BELIEVE RELATIONSHIP IS A FLAWLESS MIRROR:
We pick partners who - and we evoke behaviors in our partners to - reflect back to us what we most need to learn. By staying devoted to our own growth (and joy) rather than to controlling, remodeling, or merging with our partners, we can use that mirror to accelerate our evolution, even as we create yummy-ass good times with that partner. I believe relationships with loved ones bring us face-to-face with our souls, and with our personalities. It's an ongoing process of being bitch-slapped by our own stuff, but if we see it as a cosmic game, we can drink in the rewards in both daily satisfaction and life-long growth.
8. I BELIEVE TURNED-ON MONOGAMY IS A CALLING FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE:
Most people say they want the comfort and satisfaction of a long-term partnership. But in the long run, any commitment, especially to a fallible human being, seems almost doomed to failure. Yes, some people stay together for a long time. But precious few relationships reflect an upward trajectory rather than deteriorating into a cozy, numb, or even hostile stasis. I believe the hardships and responsibilities of monogamy and parenthood conspire to crush libido, but they don't have to. I believe in a special brand of couple who are up for the challenge: cultivating fidelity against the odds, AND without shutting down our aliveness and our desires. It's a highwire, baby, and an exhilarating one! ...if you're into that.
9. I BELIEVE THE CONSTRAINTS MAKE THE ART:
Michelangelo's architecture was defined by its constraints. Shakespeare's sonnets are beautiful because they're bound by a tight verse structure. Having parameters always heightens creativity and resourcefulness. Turn-on and "chemistry" are easy when you hardly know someone, when you don't share a mortgage or see one another's laundry. But hoo, baby: procreate with a guy or a gal and make sweet smokin' love? THAT is high art. It's the kind of artist I'm proud to be, and I teach an MFA program in cultivating that kind of "turn-on within constraints" - not only sexually, but in all areas of your life. Allowing domesticity to grind us down to mundane stumps of our formerly-vibrant selves is tempting and common. But it's a shame, and it's unnecessary.
10. I BELIEVE THE MORALISTIC VIEW OF MONOGAMY IS ONLY HALF RIGHT:
While most of the "wisdom" available to people trying to create stable, enduring partnerships comes from religious sources (and often dictates marriage, forbids same-sex unions, and pretends no one has sex before they marry) the advice dispensed seems both ill-suited to many people (for those three reasons and more) and seems to create stability through patriarchy and at the cost of vibrancy and social justice. Where they do get it right, I think, is in recognizing what biology research backs up: when we have sex with someone, we bond with them, and switching from partner to partner tends to mess with our heads because of those bonds (research shows women are more vulnerable to this, with men becoming more and more "bonded" through sex as they age). So "morally" (read: in terms of self-care) investing in one partnership is a good idea. But I don't think that means (in the words of David Putty from Seinfeld) "you're going to hell" if monogamy is not your chosen path.
11. I BELIEVE WE'RE READY TO SHED THE INSIDIOUS PUNISHMENT-REWARD MODEL OF MOTIVATION:
I don't respond well to a perceived threat that I'd better do x or y, lest I earn my partner's ire. Do you? Thought not. Yet in every arena from work to parenting to marriage, we've all drunk the Kool-Aid that tells us to use our approval and disapproval as carrot and stick to motivate ourselves and others to perform well. Withdrawing affection when we don't get what we desire breeds hurt and resentment. Motivation comes from our own sense of autonomy and self-expression, competence and mastery, and connection to people who matter to us. Love isn't about scurrying around trying to earn rewards and avoid punishments - it's about finding ways to expand ourselves in ways that serve both our partners and ourselves. It's my mission (and my discipline at home and at work) to slice through the punishment-reward/approval-disapproval myths and tap into the true reservoirs of drive, inspiration, and vitality that run deep and abundant through the bedrock of our relationships.
12. I BELIEVE WE NEED SHELTER NOW MORE THAN EVER:
Women hold so much, career-wise as well as relationship-wise. Men are asked to be as intelligent and hard-working as ever, but also more sensitive and participatory at home. And people of all ages are bombarded with stimuli and advertising messages. Life is jangled-y. I believe the aspiration to be a soft landing place for one another is a pretty noble one. And it's my intention, in supporting men and women to cultivate an intimacy rich in both comfort and challenge, that our Loving with Power partnerships support each of us to make positive contributions to the world. We have the opportunity to literally MAKE LOVE and take that love out in the form of engaged citizenship and action on behalf of the people and ecosystems who need protection and advocacy. Fueled by love & power, let's do this thing!
Let me know in the comments below: what do you believe, in this arena of love, power, and turn-on? Which of these ideas resonate for you? Which are most challenging?