Chapter 1: Reaching For Greater Intimacy
Can you believe that you and I are a state of mind?
Lois Wyse, Love Poems for the Very Married (1)
Intimacy is a many-faceted diamond. There are as many satisfying ways of relating as there are constructive relationships. One couple may find satisfaction and intimacy in a comfortable,
companionable marriage. Another couple may find it in a tumultuous balance between intense passion and vigorous battle. Most couples find themselves somewhere along the continuum between these two extremes. Intimacy is not so much a matter of what or how much is shared as it is the degree of mutual need-satisfaction within the relationship. When interaction is destructive, or the partners live parallel, "live-and-let-live" existences, or when either spouse feels the desire for something more in the relationship, a couple may seek change.
A marriage counselor hears couples asking many questions. Some they ask in words; others they express with feelings too painful to trust to words; some they ask in the silent language of the ways they relate to each other. Their questions are filled with searching and hurting and longing; with anger and hoping and hunger. The questions are crucially important to them. Finding
functional answers -- answers they can understand and use -- can make the difference between a stagnant and a satisfying marriage, between a withering and a growing relationship. In a deeply disturbed marriage, finding answers that work is often a life and life or death of the relationship.
Couples in relatively stable but non-growing marriages often ask the same questions, with less desperateness but with the quiet urgency of unmet needs.
If one listens carefully to young couples in the early years of marriage adjustment, some of the questions he hears recurring are these:
How can we learn to get through to each other? We try to talk about our differences, but we end up mad.
How do you get close to another person in more areas than just sex? Sometimes, even when we make love it feels as though we're in different worlds.
How can we work out our differences in habits, and tastes, and values, when each person's way feels right to him?
Why do we fight so much when we really love each other? And without settling anything?
How can I understand her needs when she won't talk? Her feelings get hurt and she clams up. What am I supposed to be -- a mind-reader or something?
Why won't he listen to me? Why aren't my feelings important to him?
How do we get over being single? It's as though we are living alone together much of the time.
Is there something in marriage that goes beyond romance? Something more durable? How do we go about finding it?
How can you keep a person wanting to come home? You sleep in the same bed, breathe the same air, and use the same toothpaste tube month after month. How do you keep a marriage from going stale?
How do we learn to live with each other's differences? Now that we're married there seem to be so many things we don't like about each other.
How can we learn to care more about what really matters to each other -- especially feelings?
What makes a relationship work so that two people not only can get along but even look forward to a long time together? Frankly, if the next thirty years are going to be like the last two, I'd rather not.
If a counselor listens to couples who have been married for fifteen to twenty years, he will hear some of the same questions, but also others:
How do we get reconnected with each other now that the kids are gone? They were the cement that held us together or maybe kept us from seeing that we were far apart.
We seem to dislike each other and to fight more since the children have grown up.
It's not that we're terribly unhappy -- just fed up with nagging and hurting and not relating.
How can we get something more in our relationship? Some depth? We go through the motions of marriage -- have for a long time -- in a kind of empty, shallow way. Sometimes I feel cheated because I know there's more to both of us than we ever give to the other. We're not willing to settle for what we haven't got, any more.
It's when I feel cheated that I think about cheating -- and I don't want to wreck what I've got, even though it lacks a lot.
How do two human beings help each other face the future -- aging and all that? We've both lost our parents in the last four years. It makes us realize that we haven't got forever to make a marriage.
Something tells me the other woman isn't really the basic problem, although that part hurts like the devil. Somehow we've never stopped keeping each other at arm's length. We're kind of marital strangers. How can we get through our wall?
Sex just isn't what it used to be in the early years of our marriage. We still call it "making love" and usually get around to it once a week or so, if one of us isn't too tired or too mad. When I think of the wild fun we used to have in bed, it makes me cry inside. Is there any way to get the fire back in our marriage?
What's the trouble with our love life? We're not romantic adolescents any more, of course, but I wish we could still get that delicious feeling of almost merging, when we have intercourse.
Sex never has been any fun for us. Is there some way to learn at this late date?
He's got a lot of worries on his mind -- his job is a heavy burden at times. But why can't he talk to me about it and let me share some of the load? I try to reach him but it's no good. He says I wouldn't understand. How can I, if he won't talk or let me near him?
Things have built up between us over the years -- hurts, resentments, dead dreams. Now we can hardly see over the barrier. Is there any way to get rid of this? To let the past be past?
These are some of the important questions asked by couples who come for marriage counseling. They have to do with the search for relatedness in marriage. At the beginning of a counseling experience, many couples are too hurt and angry to be able to ask questions which focus on their problems of relating. If counseling is successful, they eventually ask such questions. The ability to ask relationship questions is a sign of hope. Asking the right questions is an essential step toward finding workable answers.
Many couples not in marriage counseling are asking the same searching questions about ways to deepen their relationships. Even those who have relatively effective marriages often are searching for increased richness and depth. Those who have achieved considerable intimacy at one stage of their lives together sometimes find that they must work at developing a new style of closeness as the next stage of marriage approaches. Many couples with relatively healthy marriages are working to make them more so -- more satisfying and fulfilling for themselves and their children. They are working as couples, often with the help of a trained marriage counselor who is equipped to be a "growth facilitator" in relationship. In some cases, they are in marital growth groups — composed of from four to six couples with a trained leader. How- ever they are going about it -- alone or with professional assistance, as a couple or in a group -- they are motivated by a desire to deepen their marriages.
Here are three couples whose struggles to relate may help make the problems of the search for intimacy more vivid:
Bill White and Amy Jones, ages twenty and nineteen respectively, are engaged. They expect to be married in about four months. Bill is a junior, Amy a sophomore at the state teachers' college. They have known each other for about a year and a half, and have dated regularly during the past year. Their engagement was announced at Christmas and the wedding is scheduled for June. They both expect to work during the summer and to continue college in the fall, with some financial help from his parents.
Bill and Amy are very much in love. Physically they "turn each other on" and their dates include extended periods of physical intimacy, stopping just short of intercourse. Emotionally they often feel on the same wavelength. They find themselves resonating to the same music, movies, and people. They love to discuss social problems and their solutions. In short, they already have developed a number of areas of relatedness which will be invaluable in their marriage. They are using the period of their courtship and engagement to lay the foundation for bridges of communication which can serve them throughout their lives together.
But in spite of the progress they have made in establishing a relationship. Bill and Amy have encountered barriers to closeness. Bill is often late for dates and although Amy resents this, she is uneasy about telling him how annoyed it makes her. Instead, she smolders and withdraws in a way that Bill describes as "aloof." Sue tends to be pushy at times -- for example, making plans involving both of them without checking first to make sure Bill is in agreement. Bill is hypersensitive to aggressiveness in women, and reacts by being late or "forgetting" about the activity that she has planned unilaterally. His tardiness or memory gap triggers Amy's aloofness, which makes Bill feel rejected and angry. He expresses this by increased tardiness or forgetting. Both know when the tension between them is escalating and the distance increasing. Eventually the loneliness is too much for one of them and a shift toward reconciliation begins. They "make up," but with little understanding of what has actually been going on between them, or of the roots of this interpersonal drama.
Bill and Amy have hang-ups in a number of areas in which they cannot communicate effectively. One concerns their feelings about being financially dependent on his parents. Bill consciously feels comfortable about this, but he responds defensively when Amy expresses her feelings about the importance of a husband supporting his family as soon as possible. It is as though his adequacy as a male is being attacked by her image of the husband's role; consequently he does not even hear the second part of her statement, the "as soon as possible." Another touchy area is religion. Amy comes from a conventionally religious family. For her, involvement in a church organization is a meaningful part of family life. Bill's background, in contrast, causes him to feel that the essence of religion is ethics and the intelligent person can do better without the institutional expressions of religion, with all their pettiness and irrelevancies. Efforts to "talk through" to some common ground of mutual understanding have ended in a collision with the roadblock of strong, partially buried feelings on both sides.
Bill and Amy have much going for them so far as their prospects for building a strong, mutually fulfilling marriage are concerned. Even without help, they will probably have a better-than-average relationship. But there are blocks in their communication pattern which could
grow into walls through the years. Because of their basic desire for the best possible marriage relationship, and their partial awareness of the barriers to it, they decide to join a discovery group for engaged couples sponsored by the clinically trained college chaplain. Their ounce-of-prevention philosophy could have taken them to a counselor for premarital relationship counseling. Either approach would be a good investment in their future happiness.
Carl and Joan Green have been married for about three years. He is twenty-six; she is almost twenty-four. Both are employed -- Carl as an engineer, Joan as a medical secretary. Both handle their work with competence. They argue occasionally about how long they should wait to begin their family. Joan worked to help put her husband through his last year of a five-year engineering course. Now that he has been out for two years, she feels that it's time to have a baby. Carl wants another two years without the responsibilities of a child, to improve their financial situation. When they argue about this, Joan accuses him of being more concerned about money than about her happiness. He responds by accusing her of being "irresponsible" in her attitudes toward finances and unaware of how a man feels about such things.
Carl and Joan have resentments, annoyances, and hurt feelings in other areas, too. He feels that she nags him unnecessarily about hanging up his clothes and taking out the trash. Joan sees him as "not holding up his end" of the chores around the apartment, particularly in the light of her full-time job.
The Greens have problems in the area of sex. At times, when Carl makes advances, Joan turns over and says she is too tired. He feels rejected and needles her about her faults. Joan wishes that he would be more tender and interested in her when he hasn't got his mind on sex. He wishes that she would show more pleasure in the physical side of their marriage and take the initiative in sex play occasionally.
In spite of their areas of conflict, the Greens' young marriage is satisfying many of their needs as persons. Yet, both Carl and Joan want a great deal more from their relationship than they are currently getting. Underneath their relatively successful coping with most of the new demands of married life, there is a longing for more closeness. As Joan puts it, "Our times of touching are so seldom and so fleeting." Of course, they are very busy. But even when they have time to try to get inside each other's worlds, they seem to run into an invisible wall. The barrier is higher at some times than at others. On rare occasions, it is low enough to let them share in ways that satisfy their
heart-hungers. But more often, when one reaches out to the other, he bruises his outstretched feelings against the wall. The response to this pain is a retreat into frustrated isolation, or an angry attack, either of which increases the sense of distance.
The marriage of Joan and Carl is hurting but it is not on the rocks. They are suffering from problems of relating which are common among couples in the early years of marriage. Their desire for a deeper relationship is strong. If they make the grade to creative intimacy during the early, formative years of their marriage, they will have the basic pattern for a lifetime of growth and mutual satisfaction.
Young adults in general are deeply involved in the quest for greater intimacy in their relationships. The quest is the life task of this stage of growth. Joan and Carl have two significant assets in their quest. They have a shared desire to develop a deeper relationship, and a willingness to work at realizing this desire. Furthermore, they have known moments of genuine connectedness, however brief; thus they have a clear understanding of their goal. If they can learn how to lower the "wall" which limits closeness and communication in their relationship, their marriage will deepen through the years. But if they do not learn how to lower the wall, it will gain height and impenetrability and increase the distance between them. Unless they can learn ways to multiply their experiences of successful communication, each failure will add another rock to the wall.
Bart and Sarah Brown have just celebrated their twenty-second wedding anniversary. Both are forty-three. Two of their three children are now away from home. Their son is in the army in a distant state. One daughter is finishing her first year at a college one hundred miles from home, and a second daughter is a junior in high school. Already, Sarah and Bart are experiencing feelings of bereavement because of the near-empty nest. They have invested much of their emotional energy for twenty-two years in their children. This has been particularly true for Sarah. Their child-centered marriage is losing its center.
Bart and Sarah have been aware of growing distance in their relationship. As Sarah put it in a couples' sharing group, "Before the children came, we had something going; but then we both got so wrapped up in other things we didn't work at our marriage, at least not very often." The "other things" to which she referred were Bart's preoccupation with building his law practice and her heavy investment of herself in the children. Periodically, through their late twenties and thirties, Sarah had expressed a desire for more time together and more communication about non-surface things. They discussed this and agreed it was a good idea, but little change resulted. Bart's satisfaction from his professional successes made him less sensitive to the growing distance between them. But he too has known that something vital has been missing and, in a vague sort of way, has wished that it weren't.
The wall in the Browns' marriage has grown higher and deep communication has become more difficult through the years as they have neglected their relationship. Because their lines of communication are in bad repair, they lack the basic tool of conflict resolution. Thus, hurts and petty annoyances accumulate, and the pressure of unmet personality needs produces smoldering anger. After a while, the anger, and the painful loneliness and hunger which produced it, are
transformed to apathy. Their sex life reflects this apathy. It consists of less and less frequent intercourse, with little passion and no romance. The deep loneliness in their marriage has been masked from their friends, and to some degree, from themselves, by their "successful" involvement in child-rearing, vocational, church, community, and social activities. The only obvious clue to the possible presence of a chasm between them is the emotional disturbance of their younger daughter who is currently failing in school, in spite of above-average intelligence. Otherwise, the Browns give the casual observer the picture of a "successful marriage."
One Sunday, Bart and Sarah heard their minister describe marriages in which "two people are lonely together because they have not continued to work at their relationship." The minister declared, "It's more than simply doing things together, although that's important. It's being together both physically and emotionally, sharing in each other's worlds of feelings, hopes, anxieties, and dreams, that keeps in good repair the bridge that joins two persons. It's this that makes love grow and flower." Both Sarah and Bart felt inner twinges as they listened and met themselves in the minister's words. Later, over their after-dinner coffee, Sarah got the courage to describe her feelings during the sermon to Bart. He was tempted to dodge behind a denial, but instead he decided to admit that he had had some of the same feelings and that he knew the shoe fitted their marriage. In this way, the door was opened to discussion of their mutual need for more of each other and what they might do to recapture and perhaps even increase the closeness of their early years together.
The awareness of the need for marital enrichment and deepening can dawn on a couple at any age or stage of marriage. Experiences in marriage counseling and marital growth groups indicate that the struggle for increased relatedness may become intense at any time in a marriage. But there seem to be three periods when the search for intimacy is most likely to be active and urgent. The first occurs during the engagement period when the couple is getting acquainted on a deeper level and is experimenting with patterns of closeness and distance. The second is the period of major learning following the honeymoon and usually lasting for from two to five years. This is the time of the meshing of two divergent personalities and sets of needs which were brought to the marriage, and of acquiring the new roles of marital partners. Experimenting with patterns of closeness and distance continues, and, it is hoped, mutually satisfying patterns of relating are evolved through the give-and-take of living together. The third period often occurs during the middle years -- the forties and fifties --when the exodus of the children confronts the couple with their own relationship, in the context of their feelings about aging.
These crucial periods could be described as the three crises of intimacy. Each of the couples -- Bill and Amy, Carl and Joan, Bart and Sarah -- represents one of these periods. The nature and intensity of each crisis is influenced by the way in which the earlier search for intimacy was handled. If the degree of meaningful closeness achieved during the engagement period was inadequate, from the standpoint of either partner's needs, the second crisis will be more painful and the necessity for growth more crucial. Similarly, if a couple achieves a relatively high degree of relatedness during the premarital period and early years of marriage, it is likely that they will
continue to deepen their marriage through the years and will take the adjustment of the middle years as the opportunity to discover new facets of intimacy. For a relationship is never stagnant; a live relationship is a changing one. If a husband and wife are not growing together they probably are growing apart. New experiences of intimacy are a continual challenge. Few couples, if any, ever grow beyond the need for alertness to the hazards of a neglected relationship, and awareness of the invitation to adventure in a thriving one.
In Chinese, the word for "crisis" has two characters -- one meaning danger and the other opportunity. Crises of intimacy in marriage have both aspects, whenever they occur. The danger in the post-honeymoon period, for instance, is that failure to achieve an adequate degree of healthy intimacy may leave the couple unprepared for coping with the demands of parenting. As Erik Erikson observes, the achievement of intimacy in young adulthood provides essential equipment for handling the life task of the next period, generativity.(2) The opportunity of the young adult intimacy crisis, on the other hand, is that of laying a foundation of mutuality upon which a life of satisfying sharing can be built.
The danger of the intimacy crisis of the middle years is that failure consigns the couple to facing the years of loss in a condition of creeping loneliness and alienation, and fear. The opportunity is that of another chance to develop a more meaningful marriage, another chance to achieve deeper trust -- trust in a marriage which will allow them to use their longevity creatively and cope constructively with the anxiety of aging and death.
Couples like Bill and Amy, Carl and Joan, Bart and Sarah can achieve greater depth in their marriages providing: (a) both decide they want more depth in their marriage, (b) both are committed to working persistently toward that goal, and (c) both are willing to draw on whatever outside resources -- books, growth groups, counselors, etc. -- are needed to lower their walls. The vast majority of married couples can, on their own, achieve more satisfying relatedness, providing they are willing to pay the price of self-investment and mutual effort over an extended period.
Couples who have achieved some degree of psychological intimacy can increase it by working at marriage in some of the ways described in this book. The growth-in-intimacy process can be accelerated by joining with a small group of like-minded couples under a leader trained in group marital enrichment, or by obtaining guidance from a trained minister or marriage counselor. Couples who have always had severe trouble getting through to each other or whose communication lines have been neglected for many years find it essential to obtain expert assistance. They will still need to work persistently on their own, but self-help methods alone rarely suffice if the wall is high and thick.
Though most couples have the capacity for a deeper relationship than they have yet achieved, the
realization of this capacity is rarely easy. Quite the contrary is true. Time and courage are required and a willingness to express one's own feelings and to understand the other's. Such mutual openness demands of each partner a lowering of defenses, an honesty in recognizing his own responsibility for the relationship. There is a "latent marriage" hidden within each actual marriage relationship; but to bring the latent potentialities of the marriage into actuality takes sweat and struggle by the couple.
THE WILL TO RELATE
There is in the heart of every human being, a powerful longing for a meaningful relationship with at least one other person. For some, the longing is a conscious awareness; for others it remains unconscious, felt only as loneliness or an absence of meaning in life. This hunger is a part of being human with deep roots in man's long infancy and childhood. Personality is formed and deformed in relationships; a person needs others in order to be a person.(3)
The inescapable need for relationships produces a striving in man which could be described as the will to relate. It is more fundamental than the striving which Sigmund Freud called the "will to pleasure," or that Alfred Adler described as the "will to power," or what Viktor Frankl terms the "will to meaning." These strivings or desires can be met only in relationships. Pleasure, power, and meaning come into full realization for human beings only in interpersonal relationships. The will to relate is man's most basic striving, upon the fulfillment of which other satisfactions depend. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger declares: "The establishment or re-establishment of relationship with fellow human beings is the basic architecture of normal life. . . . To live, we say, is to love, and vice versa."(4)
In various forms and many degrees, relationship-hunger is all about us in our society, as well as within us. In its milder forms it produces loneliness and unhappiness; in more severe forms, it causes the personality distortions of emotional malnutrition; in extreme and protracted forms, it produces relational-starvation and the eventual death of creativity and coping, as seen in mental illness.
The dynamics or driving forces behind the will to relate seem to include both a push and a pull. The push is provided by the need to move away from anxiety and loneliness, the pull by the need to move toward sources of interpersonal satisfactions of personality needs.
One thrust in the dynamics of the will to relate is the desire to satisfy such universal human hungers as the hunger for affection, recognition, caring, esteem, dependency, and sexual satisfaction.(5) The hungers of the heart can be satisfied only in relationships. As sociologist Otto Pollak has put the matter, "Humans are open systems which must exchange input and output with others in order to live."(6) Close relationships provide the opportunity for mutual feeding of the hungers of the heart. The husband, off alone on an afternoon's fishing expedition, thinks of
how he will describe to his wife the huge fish that got away. Even the solitary dimension of the human psyche is essentially interpersonal. Joys and sorrows are incomplete until they are shared.
Another expression of the will to relate is the striving inherent in every person to realize his potential. The drive toward self-actualization is deep within every living organism, including man. Because the realization of man's potentialities cannot occur apart from relationships, the inner drive toward self-fulfillment motivates a person to relate. The striving toward self-actualization is the chief ally of every teacher and learner, every counselor and counselee. It is the indispensable resource in any effort to improve a marriage relationship. The growth drive is present in every person, although in some it seems deeply buried. If it can be activated, it will help to provide the motive power for the process of learning new, more satisfying ways of relating. The inner drive toward self-fulfillment and growth is directly linked with the striving to find satisfactions for the basic hungers of the personality. Only as these hungers are met can growth occur. Self- actualization depends on satisfaction of one's basic interpersonal needs, and thus on the quality of one's relationships with significant others.
Feelings of anxiety often stimulate the will to relate. In his studies of gregariousness, Stanley Schachter described to his subjects a frightening experiment and then asked them whether they would prefer to be "together" with others during the experiment, "alone," or "don't care." Nearly two thirds of those with high anxiety chose to be with others, whereas two thirds of the low-anxiety group indicated that they did not care whether they were alone or together. Both groups, with a few exceptions, rejected the choice of being "alone." Significantly, his subjects generally said they preferred to be with others during a frightening experiment whether they were prohibited from talking, allowed to talk only about irrelevancies, or free to discuss whatever they chose. Apparently, the mere physical presence of others was seen as anxiety-reducing. Schachter concludes: "It is clear that affiliative desires increase with anxiety."(7) The drive behind the will to relate in all of us is partly the desire to reduce the pain of anxiety by being near to other human beings.
The depth and intensity of the will to relate can be appreciated most fully by looking at the various dimensions of loneliness. We often think of loneliness as preventable or as the result of unfortunate circumstances which must be endured temporarily until supportive relationships can be re-established. Much loneliness is in these two categories. But there is a deeper dimension of loneliness which makes it a pervasive factor in the background, if not the foreground, of everyone's life. In his book The Hills Beyond, Thomas Wolfe declared: "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."(8)
Reports of war prisoners, castaways, and hermits all point to the intense suffering of prolonged isolation from human contacts. Such isolation produces rising anxiety and often profound disturbances. The pain increases to a certain tilt point and then, in many cases, decreases sharply. But the pain is frequently replaced by apathy, withdrawal, and detachment, which in extreme cases resembles schizophrenia. Reports describe a tendency to think, dream, and occasionally even hallucinate about people!(9) Viktor Frankl's imaginary conversation with his wife, which helped to keep him going during his death-camp experience, is an example.
The awful, aching loneliness of those in such extreme circumstances is cut from the same cloth as the garden-variety loneliness that all of us experience. Recall, for a moment, the ache and emptiness of some lonely period in your life. By recapturing the feelings of such an hour, the pain and fear of loneliness which help to motivate the drive to relate become vivid.
Quite apart from preventable and temporary loneliness, there is man's existential loneliness -- the loneliness that is inherent in the very nature of human existence. Understanding this is basic to understanding man's reaching out to his fellows and his attempts to form relationships. Man's dilemma is this: at the very moment he tries to escape from loneliness by relating, he is haunted by the dim awareness that he is essentially and inescapably alone. There is an important truth in John Donne's familiar "No man is an island" -- our lives are intertwined in a vast network of relationships. But it is also true that, in another sense, every man is an island. Every person is an island of consciousness. He must relate to other islands of consciousness. Yet, in the final analysis, he is utterly alone within his world. No one can ever really know how he sees the
sunset, feels a toothache, enjoys or does not enjoy sex, loves or does not love his wife, how he experiences the color blue, or how he really feels about death. Even the most intimate and empathic friend or spouse can only surmise by inference from his own feelings, how the other really experiences life. In a moving book entitled Loneliness, Clark E. Moustakas states:
The vastness of life itself produces the emotional climate of existential loneliness, the mystery of a new dawn, the endless stretches of sea and sky, the immense impact of air, and time and space, the un-fathomable workings of the universe. The constant, everlasting weather of man's life is not love but loneliness. Love is the rare and precious flower but loneliness pervades each new day and each new night.(10)
Man's existential loneliness is a fact. But how an individual responds to it determines whether its impact will be destructive or creative. Frantic activism; endless superficial socializing; leech-like pseudo-mutuality (discussed in chapters 2 and 3); losing identity in group conformity;(11) use of drugs; compulsive work — all these are responses to existential loneliness.
These unconstructive responses to existential loneliness result from feelings of panic. Originally these feelings were the product of lack of adequate experiences of emotional intimacy with loving, protective adults in early childhood. The responses derived from these early experiences of loneliness continue the pattern of lonely living in adult life by cutting the person off from depth relationships. Whether the lonely person responds by losing his identity in the anonymous herd, clinging frighteningly to others, or deadens the inner ache with drugs, overeating or compulsive work, the price he pays is the increasing loneliness of superficial relationships. The loneliness cycle tends to become self-perpetuating, separating the person more and more from the major resource for coping with existential loneliness -- a depth relationship with at least one other human being!
In contrast, the person who has known enough genuine intimacy in his early, need-satisfying relationships to feel some "basic trust" in his relationships can recognize, confront, and accept the essential loneliness of human existence. When this occurs, existential loneliness provides a foundation for healthy intimacy, Moustakas calls this "exercising one's loneliness." He writes:
Every lonely man experiences deep joy and gladness, rapture and awe in the presence of a human voice . . . the miracle of a silent eye, the quiet touch of a human hand, the ecstasy of standing face to face, of walking shoulder to shoulder with one's fellow man.(12)
Awareness of aloneness makes more precious the moments of intimacy which with increasing frequency punctuate a growing relationship -- moments when one feels as though he does not see the other "through a glass darkly, but face to face." Moustakas puts it this way:
Loneliness enables one to return to life with others with renewed hope and vitality, with a fuller dedication, with a deeper desire to come to a healthy resolution of problems and issues involving others, with possibility and hope for a rich, true life with others.(13)
Awareness of one's ultimate aloneness stimulates the healthy desire for constructive bridge-building between personal islands of consciousness. A powerful thrust in the will to relate is the realization that the most effective way of confronting and using one's essential loneliness creatively is by relating to another human being in depth.
MARRIAGE AND THE WILL TO RELATE
A good marriage offers the most favorable opportunities in our culture for fulfilling the will to relate. Gibson Winter declares, "Marriage is intended to be an intimate relationship. This is the one opportunity for sharing one's whole life with another person."(14) Because marriage is potentially the most totally intimate of human relationships, it is both the most difficult relationship, on the one hand, and the most rewarding, on the other. It is the place where most adults have the opportunity to lessen their loneliness, satisfy their heart-hungers, and participate in the wonderfully creative process of self-other fulfillment.
The importance of achieving intimacy in marriage is enhanced by the scarcity of depth relationships outside the family. The slope of the psychosocial continent on which we live is away from close relationships; hence the gravitational pull is toward passing without really meeting -- like ships in the night. The minister who told his psychotherapist, "My life is characterized by a plethora of contacts and a poverty of relationships," was describing most of us. Many factors in our society militate against depth relationships -- the frenzied pace of our lives; the frantic pressures to get ahead which encourage using rather than relating to people; the constant mobility of many families which contributes to a rootlessness and noninvolvement in community life; the anonymity of megalopolis where people do not know the names of even those in adjoining apartments. Furthermore, a majority of males in industrialized societies is involved in some form of bureaucracy -- a corporation, a union, the government, the military, a church's political machinery, a large university, etc. and bureaucracies tend to be inherently depersonalizing, creating manipulative 1-It relationships.(15) Basically, it requires time and face-to-face, non-manipulative interaction for deepening relationships to grow. For most of us both of these are in short supply outside the family. From his long experience in working with emotionally disturbed children, Bruno Bettelheim declares, "The more we live in a mass society, the more important are intimate relationships."(16)
The importance of achieving an intimate marriage is further increased by the power of the partner in monogamous relationships. Marital partners become the key resource persons for supplying the basic foods of the spirit. Each spouse has considerable power to nourish or to starve the other's personality. The covenant of marriage is a commitment to the mutual responsibility for fulfilling the deep personality needs of the other -- "to love and to cherish" by so doing. It is not that one is responsible for "making my mate happy." No one can make another person happy. But when two people commit themselves to a kind of relationship which necessarily excludes many other sources of personality-feeding, they have an obligation to do all within their power to provide the interpersonal food the other needs. In taking our marriage vows, we agree to become key resource persons to each other. We can fulfill this mutual-nurturing function only by developing a relation- ship deep enough to provide channels for satisfying personality hungers. As Gibson Winter says, "Intimacy is the crucial need in marriage today. It is, consequently, the focus of marital difficulty."(17)
The nurturing of one's partner is much more than an obligation derived from the marriage covenant. It is also an open door of opportunity to participate in the creative process by which the God-given potentialities of two human beings are progressively fulfilled; it is a way of satisfying one of the fundamental needs of every person -- the need to give as well as to receive love.
Alone, a man marks time and becomes very set in his ways. In the demanding confrontation which marriage constitutes, he must ever go beyond himself, develop, grow into maturity. When marriage is reduced to mere symbiosis of two persons essentially hidden from one another, peaceful though such life may sometimes be, it has completely missed its goal. Then it is not solely the marriage which has failed but both husband and wife. They have failed in their calling as a man and a woman. To fail to understand one's spouse is to fail to understand oneself. It is also a failure to grow and to fulfill one's possibilities.(18)
Here one encounters the fundamental principle of reciprocity in relationships -- it is in the process of interaction, of giving and receiving, that one's basic needs are satisfied.
Modern marriage, with its robust emphasis on companionship, communication, and equality, offers unprecedented possibilities for the growth of depth relationships. But the democratic model of marriage also offers more opportunities for conflict and progressive alienation. It puts more demands on the partners than did the older patriarchal model. Roles are changing rapidly and in ways that are threatening to husbands and to wives. The increased communication, mutual sharing, and openness which are at the heart of the new model mean that both partners are asked to give more of themselves to the relationship. There is little place to hide. Inadequacies
in our abilities to relate cannot be hidden in relationships which put a premium on transparency. Even the normal need for "distancing" at certain times may be misinterpreted by the spouse as rejection. Such are the dilemma and the challenge of modern marriage. The same factors -- openness, equality, communication, companionship -- which create new potentialities for conflict also present us with the opportunity to develop relationships of unprecedented depth and mutual fulfillment. Eric Berne describes what we regard as the goal of modern marriage:
For certain fortunate people there is something which transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness; something that rises above the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games, and that is intimacy. But all three of these may be frightening and even perilous to the un- prepared.(1)
Discuss with each other your reactions to the ideas in Chapter 1. Which ones appeal to you and which do you object to? Set aside thirty minutes to an hour for this, preferably at a time when your chances of not being interrupted are best.
You may find it helpful to jot down the main questions and issues that each of you picked up from the first chapter, including points at which you disagree with the author or with each other. Concentrate on listening to each other and on making sure you understand what your mate is saying. If you are not certain, "check out" the meaning by saying, "Let's see if I am getting what you are saying. . . ." or "Do you see it this way . . . ?"
Discuss the things each of you likes about your marriage as it is now. Then talk about the kind of relationship you want to have in a year, in five years, in ten years. It will help if you can begin to understand the goals each of you has in mind. Some understanding of what you want will help you move toward it.
You may find it useful to discuss the problems in the relationships of the three couples described in this chapter, comparing them with your own and with other couples you know.
1. Wyse, Love Poems for the Very Married (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1967), p. 29.
2. For a discussion of intimacy and generativity see Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and Society (New York: W. W. Norton, 1963), pp. 263- 268.
3. In their illuminating study of "Pseudo-Mutuality in the Family Relations of Schizophrenics," Lyman C. Wynne, et al state: "Movement into relation with other human beings is a fundamental principle or 'need’ of human existence. To relate this in psychoanalytic terminology, man is inherently object-related." In N. W. Bell and E. F. Vogel (eds.), A Modern Introduction to
the Family (New York: The Free Press, 1960), p. 574.
4. Menninger, Karl, The Vital Balance (New York: The Viking Press, 1963), p. 295. E. Bentley states this same truth when he writes, "The essence of humanity is to be found in the quicksilver of relationships rather than in the dead weight of isolated being." Quoted by Helene Papanek in "Group Psychotherapy with Married Couples," Current Psychiatric Therapies, ed. Jules Masserman (New York: Grune and Stratton, 1965), p. 157. From the perspective of depth psychology, Erich Fromm stresses the same truth in pointing out that the need for love and relatedness are among man's fundamental needs. (The Sane Society [New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1955], p. 124.) A century ago, William R. Alger authored a volume containing
penetrating insights concerning the universal human need for relationships. It was entitled The Genius of Solitude, with the subtitle. The Solitudes of Nature and Man or The Loneliness of Human Life. Alger observed: "Every man obscurely feels, though scarcely any man distinctly understands, the intimacy and vastness of his connections with his race. It is true that the real world of the soul is an invisible place, removed from the rush and chatter of crowds. . . . Yet the most influential element even of this secluded world and this hidden life, is the element which
consists of the ideas and feelings we habitually cherish in relation to our fellow-beings" (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1867), p. vii.
5. In his experimental studies of the sources of gregariousness, psychologist Stanley Schachter
states: "People, in and of themselves, represent goals for one another; that is, people do have needs which can be satisfied only in interpersonal relations. Approval, support, friendship, prestige . . ." (The Psychology of Affiliation [Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1959], p. 2).
6. Pollak, lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Spring, 1967.
7. Schachter, op. cit., p. 19. It is noteworthy that Schachter found that the later the subject's birth
position, the less likely she would choose "together" (p. 61). Affiliative tendencies were significantly correlated with anxiety mainly in the cases of firstborn and only children.
8. Quoted by Clark E. Moustakas, Loneliness (Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall, 1961), p. 33. Sensitive persons have always been aware that life, even at best, is a lonely journey. There is a contemporary ring about William Alger's words penned a century ago: "Alas, how widely yawns the moat that girds the human soul! Each one knows its own bitterness, its own joy, its own terrors and hopes; and no foreigner can ever really touch, but only more or less nearly approach, and exchange signals, like distant ships in a storm" (Alger, op. cit., p. 34).
9. Schachter, op. cit., pp. 7-8.
10. Moustakas, Loneliness, pp. 33-34.
11. As Erich Fromm showed in Escape from Freedom (New York: Rinehart and Co., 1941), loneliness is so painful that men will do almost anything to avoid it, including losing their freedom by fleeing into a totalitarian religious or political system.
12. Moustakas, op. cit., p. 55.
13. Ibid., p. 102.
14. Winter, Love and Conflict (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1958), p. 71.
15. Lecture by Otto Pollak, University of Pennsylvania, Spring, 1968.
16. Bettelheim, lecture in Los Angeles, 1962.
17. Winter, op. cit., pp. 69-70.
18. Paul Tournier, To Understand Each Other (Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1962), pp. 30ff.
19. Berne, Games People Play (New York: Grove Press, 1964), p. 184.