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Seana and Maurice

Introducing Sanity to Love
by Seana McGee and Maurice Taylor

"Celebrating Women of Courage and Vision" is the theme of Women’s History Month this March.

Love's journey is not static; it's a process that consists of three distinct and absolutely predictable phases.  Couples either progress through these or, like so many of our ill-prepared traditional foremothers and -fathers, get stuck somewhere in the middle.  The New Couple calls these stages of love "intoxication," "power struggle" and "co-creativity."

The intoxication stage, which lasts roughly two weeks to two years, is a high and memorable time for most partners.  These are our days of wine and roses, when the mere prospect of seeing, or hearing the voice of our beloved, is capable of producing a thrill.  For many of us, it is the only time we let ourselves lapse into a fantasy of being in and feeling unconditional and perfect love.  The ultimate anesthetic, this first stage of romantic love has the power, at least temporarily, to blot out the pain of our insecurities and imperfections -- hence its bittersweet name. 

Nevertheless, the intoxication stage of relationship ends; and it's supposed to end, as night replaces day, though few of us accept this fact.  Instead, we confuse what is really an ephemeral state with true love -- and blame ourselves or our partner for its dissolution.  That's why it's impossible to over-emphasize the need for couples to expect the passing of this period, to prepare for the onset of the second stage, and to be assured that much greater things are in store.

Traditionally, the second stage of relationship -- power struggle -- has gotten a bad rap, characterized as either a war zone or an occupied territory.  It has been so confounding for so long that this period of partnership has come to be seen as synonymous with romantic commitment itself.  And yet, of course, it isn't. The power struggle is just a phase – something we all go through, like adolescence or "the terrible two's."  The problem in previous generation was that most couples didn't have the luxury of the education or tools to "resolve" this touchy phase of relationship.  That meant it went on  -- as it still does for many of us -- till death or divorce.

On its surface, the power struggle is just that -- the point in a relationship when, no matter how much each of us would like to deny it, those dreaded conflicts start to emerge.  Unfortunately but predictably, the euphoria of oneness and complete acceptance erodes, we "get used to" each other, and dissatisfaction seeps into a crucible that might once have seemed impenetrable.  Often, to the embarrassment of both of us, we regress into two pouty, competitive children, each one evidencing unfair or simply unbearable behaviors, and putting forth, openly or surreptitiously, our unconscious, irrational agendas of "Me first," "I want, I want," "Leave me alone" or "Please don't leave me at all."  If our tiffs are noisy, we're most likely headed for firefights; if the disagreements are quiet enough that they can be ignored, freezeouts lie ahead.

Either way, Beloved has become Beloved Enemy.  No longer our precious salve, our partner now seems the salt in our wounds.  Though to the unenlightened among us, this second stage may seem like a dirty trick, this isn't the case.  For whether we know it or not, the power struggle has surprisingly little to do with our mate.  Rather, it's predominantly a flashback, a further act within the incomplete drama of our younger years, which has found in our adult relationship a second stage upon which to enact itself.  Once we recognize and learn from this fact, the power struggle can become the most healing and empowering period in our adult lives, enriching our significant relationships.

Certainly, the passage of time alone never transports any of us out of the middle stage of relationship.  Still, this stage can be brought to a conclusive and beneficial end.  In fact, the bulk of The New Couple is dedicated to teaching partners how to do this -- how to move on, as soon as possible, to wondrous co-creativity.  The way out is always through, which in this case means committing to The Ten New Laws of Love -- that is, to the "work of relationship."  New Couples are specifically asked to learn a basic relationship skill set and undertake two ongoing processes.  The skills are these:  emotional literacy, which includes emotional awareness and fluency; deep listening; anger management; conflict resolution; and negotiation.  The processes are individuation, which involves becoming emotional peers with the members of our family-of-origin and resolving transference, a kind of ghost-busting, which entails interrupting our unconscious tendency to try to work out with our partners unresolved early relationships with our primary caregivers.

Together, The New Couple skills and processes are the nuts and bolts of The New Couple system.  A sure formula for keeping our precious chemistry alive, they also help us avoid creating relationships that either replicate traditional marriages or are knee-jerk reactions to them.  And while becoming a New Couple is not an overnight affair, the skills and processes required can be easily and successfully learned over time.  Furthermore, they don't require a perfect performance, just a genuine commitment.  Apollo 11, the first successful lunar landing, was on course only three percent of the time -- and it made it safely both ways!

The work of relationship is never entirely over -- for all couples are works in progress.  Still, it gets much easier -- and soon the "wow of relationship," which we experience when our initial chemistries actually endure, is on its way.  And, as those of us who commit to The Ten New Laws of Love notice, the power struggle does yield to co-creativity -- which, most emphatically, is not a mythic state.  Almost imperceptibly, as day replaces night, and sometimes even before we expect it, interdependence becomes reflexive and a greater peace prevails between us -- yet never at the price of passion.  Emotional intimacy is our way of life together, our ability to love and honor ourselves expands, and our individual missions are firmly on the march.

If we've chosen parenthood, one of the major benefits of our intention to cross into this last stretch of the relationship journey is the trickle-down effect that co-creativity has on our children.  Although it's still not adequately recognized, functional couples make functional parents.  The most powerful parenting technique we can use -- and the most positive gift we can offer our children -- is the role-model of genuine partnership -- a union in which each partner not only loves and respects but openly champions the other.

As we move out of the power struggle and tap the potential of our couple, our mutual focus shifts away from problems and avoidances in our relationship and turns toward further exciting adventures and greater purpose.  (If ever the world needed every partner's solid and heartfelt contribution, it's now!)  No matter the glitches and backslides, when we commit to pole-vaulting out of the power struggle with the help of The Ten New Laws of Love, a soft landing in co-creativity is just ahead.  As we create a life we love with the love of our life, we're able finally to celebrate both our priceless individuality and a stellar connection.

The New Laws of Love

In our day, a truly successful relationship seems well-nigh miraculous, especially to those of us who fear that we're condemned to remain forever rudderless when it comes to long-term love. Yet human beings don't yearn for anything that isn't possible. As a very wise person once said, miracles don't really exist; they're simply phenomena ruled by laws of nature that our scientists have yet to discover. Well over a decade ago, when we started as psychotherapists teaching, training and counseling couples as a team -- which was also just about the moment we met -- we were already convinced that such natural laws must also exist for love, that there must be a way for everybody to have emotionally and sexually deep connections that last. And we embarked on a singular quest to find those laws, hoping to introduce sanity to love.

To tell the truth, our resolve wasn't only work-related; it wasn't only for our clients that we began our search for the most cutting-edge information and the most effective, enduring-results-producing techniques (though serving couples was, and still is, our joint mission in life). We were also, quite frankly, mad about each other, which made us bound and determined to do everything in our power not let the gift of our own precious love fade away. Our commitment to the healer-heal-thyself ethic -- which says that if one talks the talk, one had better walk the walk -- also became immediately relevant: no sooner did we two therapists (ourselves veterans of several failed relationships) fall in love with each other than we had huge problems with each other! Thus, inspired both by professional research and ethics, and by the passion between us, we became adamant about figuring out this thing called committed monogamous relationship and discovering the laws that govern it.

Our research was underpinned by our eclectic theoretical orientation -- a hybrid of humanistic, depth, self and transpersonal psychologies, systems theory and the recovery model -- and based on our separate and mutual clinical experiences working with couples, parents and single persons in community counseling centers, schools and hospitals in the United States and in private practice in Asia, as well as on our own relationship. In fact, over the first two years together, we dated, broke up twice, got engaged, then married. Along the way, we sampled a variety of couple counselors, relationship experts and workshops. In short, as though it were a carburetor from yesteryear, we repeatedly took our own relationship apart into a million pieces and meticulously put it back together again. While the value of the techniques and processes we sampled -- their power to crack open our hearts, blow our minds and set our spirits free as individuals -- was unquestionable, and though many of these approaches deepened our intimacy as a couple as well, none offered the cogent relationship tenants we were seeking.

A New Model of Love
It was clear to us that these laws would have to be part of an overall vision -- a sparkling new model of love that not only honored our more sophisticated requirements for relationships, but also boldly replaced the traditional. After all, though it's been oft-repeated that relationship is a journey, not a destination, it's neither fair nor viable to ask lovers today to head out for parts unknown using a map -- or a model -- that's fifty-plus years old! Above all, this replacement would have to be strong enough to keep us all from defaulting back into the trance of the traditional model of relationship.

As the larger picture came into focus, the exact dimensions of this model -- what would later become the laws -- vividly revealed themselves in the negative: in other words, we noticed certain facets of relationship the neglect of which consistently got couples (our own included) into trouble. Conversely, we also noticed that a respect for these facets seemed to keep couples healthy. Though ignoring one facet alone was often enough to do a couple in (and respecting one alone was never enough to save them), partners were usually tripped up by a cluster of them.

Though they wore many faces, these standard couple conundrums always boiled down to some variation of the following:

  1. Lack of a passionate initial connection
  2. Unwillingness or inability to prioritize the health of the relationship due to self-destructive behaviors
  3. Inability to deal with emotions due to emotional illiteracy
  4. Inability to listen from the heart
  5. Entrenched unfairness
  6. Inability to make peace and restore broken trust
  7. Lack of a method for resolving conflict
  8. Undiscovered or unmanifested life purpose for one or both partners
  9. Emotional or financial dependencies
  10. Unwillingness to embrace healing and education for the relationship.

To our delight, we realized that each of these problems was linked to a binding principle. In those principles lay the essence of what we sought -- the natural laws of love. And since none had been specifically articulated in previous generations, we call them the Ten "New" Laws of Love. Here they are:

Chemistry: The First New Law of Love
Chemistry is the magic, the special energies that signal partners possess the raw material for success. Chemistry is not optional because it provides the synergy couples need to get through the rapids of relationship -- and keep them high on course to their grandest goals.

Priority: The Second New Law of Love
Priority is a couple's commitment to keep the health of their relationship front and central. It asks partners to begin to psychologically "leave the nest" of their first families -- and to address any compulsions and addictions, including codependence -- in order to be fully available to their second family.

Emotional Integrity: The Third New Law of Love
Emotional Integrity asks partners to create an "emotional safe zone" with each other. They do this by taking responsibility for their feelings -- especially by learning the difference between "acting them out" and expressing them healthily. This law also guides partners in identifying and healing blind spots and "buttons" that cause disharmony in all relationships.

Deep Listening: The Fourth New Law of Love
Deep Listening is the greatest act of love -- and a skill. It is partners' ability to hear each other's words, and the feelings underneath, with compassion and empathy.

Equality: The Fifth New Law of Love
Equality is about fairness and respect. It involves acknowledging power imbalances in the relationship and helps partners see through the tyranny of unnegotiated -- and often antiquated -- roles, responsibilities and unconscious expectations.

Peacemaking: The Sixth New Law of Love
Peacemaking is a couple's commitment to maintain their emotional safe zone through the use of anger management and conflict resolution tools and New Couple agreements.

Self-Love: The Seventh New Law of Love
Relationship landmines are precise gauges of pockets of low self-love and unfinished emotional business from childhood. This law teaches partners how to do the crucial deep diving and fall back in love with everyone.

Mission in Life: The Eighth New Law of Love
This law teaches that true love cannot be sustained until both parties are on some level engaged in his or her own true work. Mission in Life is partners' commitment to the fulfillment of their own and the other's life purpose. Intimates are either a mission's most powerful support or its most formidable saboteur.

Walking: The Ninth New Law of Love
Walking involves addressing the primary insecurities that plague all partners, because emotional and financial dependencies can mean slow death -- of respect, trust and passion. When intimates are willing and able to leave the relationship if need be, it's their best insurance that they won't!

Transformational Education: The Tenth New Law of Love
Transformational Education is the fail-safe mechanism of the Ten New Laws of Love. It represents partners' commitment to do whatever learning and healing is necessary if they get stuck on any of the first nine laws because New Couples agree: If it’s a problem for one of us, it’s a problem for both of us!

As for our own couple, the laws plainly function as a sacred scaffolding -- stabilizing and enriching our relationship just as they do that of the couples we serve. Having befriended our fair share of dragons -- which, of course, we expected -- we can't imagine where we'd be without these laws to fall back on. To their credit, we're still very much each other's absolute best friend in the entire world, and our life continues to be an exciting reflection of both our individual and joint dreams made manifest. Because these laws have repeatedly proved their effectiveness over the years -- serving as a hologram of couple health for ourselves, our clients, workshop participants, and all types of audiences -- we were inspired to write The New Couple.

We wish you joy and success in the creation of your New Couple!

From The New Couple: Why the Old Rules Don’t Work and What Does by Maurice Taylor and Seana McGee C Copyright 2000. Reprinted with permission of HarperSanFrancisco.

Internationally known relationship experts Seana McGee, M.A., and Maurice Taylor, M.A., a married couple, are authors of the ground-breaking relationship book The New Couple: Why the Old Rules Don't Work and What Does. Founding directors of NewCouple, Int'l., a transformational education organization for couples and singles, the couple has been counseling and teaching together as a team virtually since the moment they met more than twelve years ago.

Maurice and Seana weave into their teachings wisdom gleaned from their professional experience with couples and singles from more than fifty world cultures on two continents and their own ever-passionate marriage. Recently they’ve joined the prestigious faculty of Deepak Chopra's multi-media group, MyPotential, Inc.


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