Friday, January 24, 2014

Staying Together: Shared Mythology

My experiences with clients and review statistical data suggest that it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay in long-term relationships. Couples and polyamorous families, regardless of sexual orientation, are finding it more difficult to stay together. It is challenging times. Particularly in Western society, the cultural rituals that help people stay together are no longer appropriate for diverse populations and erotic ways of being. In addition, many of the institutions that helped people stay together are losing their power. It is becoming more and more difficult to balance the needs of work, family, and self.  As things become more and more expensive and as the “good life” is flaunted in our face by the media, creating wealth becomes more important than family and self. Our erotic worlds are neglected.

As a result increased environmental and personal stressors, real and imagined, we do not live holistically: our bodies, our spirits, our emotions, and personal experiences are ignored. We concentrate on our individual mental knowledge to push us ahead. The pressure from the world drives us to seek answers for ourselves, creating individual mythologies or ways of being. We head in different directions than our lovers and loved ones. Staying together means creating shared mythology (mental knowledge, emotional knowledge, somatic knowledge, spiritual knowledge, and knowledge from past experiences). Forming a shared mythology means knowing when it is time to create a new way of being together and communicating what you need and desire for the present and future.

I coached a polyamorous family of two women and two men. Some of members of the family were bisexual, some heterosexual. Some did not date outside of the family; some did. When they came together, they shared the same vision for what they desired, but as time passed, children came, jobs changed, and each individual experienced personal success and failures. With the passing of time comes change. We change as individuals: for example, our bodies change affecting our entire personal mythologies, how we view the world. Our loved ones change too; moreover, the environment around us changes. As a result, our shared erotic mythologies no longer work because they come in conflict with individual changing needs. While working with these extraordinary individuals, I assisted each one in realizing how each of their mythologies had changed. The conflicts they were having as a family came from the friction of change. Most people in long-term relationships fail to make adjustments as their individual mythologies change. They just end the relationships. As humans, many of us see change as right and wrong, so we look at each other with anger, blame, and hurt clouding our vision, instead of seeing change as a natural part of living.

Individuals dedicated to staying together must speak and listen. The purpose of speaking is show yourself. The purpose of listening is gain understanding of others and empathy for others. You cannot gain empathy without speaking your truth; additionally, you will not share common mythology with loved ones if you do not listen. You cannot control others, but you can be responsible for your speaking and listening. This dialog, this honest open exchange will be difficult at times. Listening is not always easy, and we cannot always speak our truths because we may not have the words or consciously know our truth ourselves. However, the communication is necessary nonetheless. Through communication and sustained action you will be able to envision, create, and transition to a shared mythology.

It is difficult for us to accept change. It is easier to blame our mates or lovers for being wrong than it is for us to admit that we have changed, our situation has changed. Many of our conflicts represent our changing mythologies. It is critical for individuals who wish to maintain their long-term relationships to check in with each other and create mythologies that direct them towards each other and balance the needs of each of them and needs of the relationship. 

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