Pursue What Matters
Episode 250: Whole Love
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
We all want deeper, enduring love. But how many of us actually achieve that? today? We’re talking about true intimacy, what it is and how to get it in your life?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:10
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we live in a society with a lot of mixed messages about love and intimacy. You know, maybe that it’s like the rom com movies, that it’s not even possible. So why try that being committed in a loving relationship isn’t even something you should strive for, we’re definitely seeing that more often. So no wonder many are confused and just limping along in their relationships. So I love this. This perspective from Erich Fromm, who has written a lot on on love and intimacy, he says mature love is the union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. In love, the paradox occurs that two beings become one, and yet remain to. So I think that is good exploration of that paradox. And so we are, in the month of February, we’re talking about love, we’re talking about understanding yourself. And today, we’re really talking about this idea of hole love or mature law. And of course, every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas. So leading with clarity, leading with curiosity, and leading and building a community. And today, we’re primarily focused on helping you lead with curiosity. So we’re really focused on helping you to increase self awareness and self leadership that will make you more effective in every area of your life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:08
So let’s jump right in with our first point, which is that whole love is based on the wholeness of both partners. So you got to have two solid foundations to get to get to whole love. So whole love, or true intimacy is a transcendent experience that makes us better than we could be alone. But there’s an apparent dichotomy. In here we’ve got two self self actualizing individuals who are able to maintain their strong individuality, while yet also transcending themselves. And this really allows for a more complete and transcendent love experience. So it sounds pretty good. And it’s really this idea that two parts make a greater hole. This also includes self expansion.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:57
So a great relationship expands the self. So we’re made stronger and more whole, by the characteristics and accomplishments of our partner. So it’s a pretty cool thing. So what is whole love anyway, so whole love, or mature love, or true intimacy is an enduring, loving relationship that is continually and reciprocally, in a state of health, growth and transcendence. So a couple things to pay attention to. It’s an enduring relationship. So it’s not someone you just met last week, it’s a loving relationship, we’ve got a lot of enduring marriages that aren’t very loving. And that’s a real problem. And that is reciprocally, right. So back and forth, both partners are engaged in a state of health, growth and transcendence. So really thinking about growing together and developing, so the self development, but also the development of this greater love this whole lab. So it’s something that we can all strive towards.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:00
So regardless of where you’re at, in your love state, this is something we can all strive toward. And it’s really toward a relationship that is becoming more and more whole over time. Whole love includes the integration, the healthy integration of the need for individuality, and the need for connectedness. And boy, this is always the dialectic in relationships, how do we balance the need for space and individuality? And the need for connectedness? Boy, that’s that’s a good question for philosophers and psychologists. That is this idea of being able to maintain a degree of individuality, detachment and autonomy. Now, detachment that might that might kind of sound negative to you. But really, we think about when we think about detachment in a relationship, we think about this mindfulness, this mindful detachment, this non attachment, non judgment where we can maintain At some equilibrium within ourselves, regardless of what’s happening for our partner, so, you know, it’s the classic thought of, you know, get a life preserver on before you jump in and try and save your partner, that you got to have a strong foundation within yourself in order to contribute productively to a relationship. And so that’s really, I think what they’re talking about with the research around detachment, it’s not necessarily a negative thing here.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:34
Withhold love, there is no fear of losing one’s identity. So it’s you’re not swallowed whole by the relationship. There’s also no role engulfment. And that’s really what we think about when we think about this being swallowed whole. So in which a person’s identity becomes based on the role as a good relationship partner, and this process can cause detachment or separation from other important roles, priorities, and goals in life, which can look like role abandonment, and some I mean, we can see this sometimes classically with the it’s usually female homemaker, who, whose identity is kind of lost in service to the family, whether that’s as a wife, as a mother as a homemaker. And if she’s not careful, some of those other important roles, goals and priorities fall away. And that can be a very rude awakening, as, as that mother moves to an empty nest stage, so right like the the cards all come crashing down. So you know, roll engulfment is more likely to happen when partners are obsessively passionate about their relationship. So this is where we kind of think about this idea of detachment where we can have a sense of equilibrium about the relationship.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:57
So I’m not talking about not having passion in a relationship. But the key here that is not helpful is that obsessive, upset, obsessively passionate about the relationship, right, like we need to have a little bit of non attachment or detachment, that doesn’t mean we’re not attached in our relationship, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care deeply about it, but that we don’t lose ourselves in the relationship. And so instead of being obsessively passionate with whole love, we’re really looking at harmoniously passionate about the relationship. So the relationship feels freely chosen, it makes the partners feel good about who they are as a person. And here’s the other thing, the relationship is in harmony with the rest of the activities in their life. So the relationship is in alignment with values with goals with purposes. And so these relationships show greater personal growth, these folks are more likely to maintain friendships, interests, and activities outside of the romantic relationship. So it’s not the only show in town in terms of social engagement, and connection, we need secure attachment, everywhere we go, and not everywhere we go, but in our most important relationships, and that extends beyond the marriage are your most important relationship. So now let’s talk about this idea of healthy selfishness, which might sound like a misnomer to you, it might feel like that’s not really possible. But when we think about whole love key to maintaining a harmonious relationship, right, and that’s what we want, we want that harmonious passion, but key to maintaining a harmonious relationship is exercising a certain degree of healthy selfishness in the relationship.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:46
So what does that mean? In a nutshell, don’t lose yourself in the relationship. Sometimes we see this fusion of love where people lose their individual identities. And of course, that’s not good. There is a great respect for the self and the other. So you want your partner to grow in their potential as much as you want to grow in your potential. And those aren’t always on the exact same path. I mean, I don’t know how they would be. So when we think about healthy selfishness, we are paying attention to setting good boundaries in the relationship and balancing your needs with the needs of your partner. And so key to that in whole love. Both partners can be interested in helping each other grow in their own direction. And I really love that way of thinking about it. And you know, I think about my relationship with my guy friend. And, you know, we’ve done a lot of schooling and we’ve had a lot of growth paths across our marriage. And I think one of the things that has been most helpful is that supporting one another in growing in our own direction, right, like we’ve had different paths Finding a way to support one another and recognizing that, that at many times in the marriage has required quite a bit of sacrifice, collaboration working together negotiation. But that is a real that builds a really solid foundation of, of trust and connectedness. So when we think about supporting one another, and growing in their own direction, it can sometimes require not needing each other, right.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:29
So being able to be okay, even if your partner isn’t there. And of course, we prefer to have the partner there. That’s part of why we’re in the relationship. But according to Maslow, who wrote quite a bit about this, so as as far as partners, he says, they can be extremely close together, and yet go apart when necessary without collapsing. And that’s really an important point, right? It’s not that you necessarily want to be apart from one another, that you know that you’ll be okay, you know, that you won’t collapse. So these partners don’t cling to each other. And even in intense love partners are able to remain themselves and remain ultimately masters of themselves as well. So living by their own values, even though enjoying each other intensely. And so, a bit of healthy separation is good for every relationship. Whereas what we see an anxious attachment is a desperate need to merge completely. A fear around separation, a cleanness around separation, or with avoidant attachment, there is often a desperate need to maintain complete individuality.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:43
So there’s too much separation. And you know, connection represents a threat. And so there’s a lot of avoidance of that connection of the interdependence. And so you know, when we think about anxious attach attachment or avoidant attachment, both of these tendencies are not conducive to whole love, as whole love requires an openness to love. Right, so no cleaning, but also no pushing away. There’s a witness scene and admiring, that helps the other person grow. So we don’t have jealousy or competition in the relationship. And, you know, when we think about this whole love, there is nothing incompatible between that and keeping your own sense of self. So of course, if you want to learn more about attachment styles, I just mentioned anxious attachment and avoidant attachment.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:37
Join me in upcoming weeks, as I’m going to be doing a great book review about attachment and then talking more about attachment styles. This is such a helpful way of thinking about relationships. And it makes a lot of intuitive sense to most of us. So for today, though, we’re going to finish up with a discussion of whole love and true intimacy. So we think about what does this mean, as you move into more of a hole love or kind of an enlightened love, right, there’s awe and wonder for your partner. And so in this way, the normal choice between either security or exploration in a relationship is resolved. So it helps to keep your partner and your relationship fresh. So maintaining a sense of our sense of respect a sense of the other, for your partner can really keep your relationship fresh. So if either partner is not growing, it’s easy to lose off for them. That can be a real gut check. So if you’re not growing, that is a risk to your relationship. And that actually happens all the time.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:53
So it’s something to really be cautious about. And according to Esther Perel, who is an amazing Marriage and Family Therapist, sex therapist, very popular, great, amazing books on this on these topics. She says the challenge for modern couples lies in reconciling the need for what’s safe and predictable, with the wish to pursue what’s exciting, mysterious and awe inspiring. And so really, again, like the way we resolve that is, keep growing and stay in awe of your partner don’t assume you know them. Don’t assume you know everything there is to know about them that will really kill a relationship quickly. And so in these couples both love satisfaction and sex satisfaction, improve with the length of the relationship, so the longer they’re in the relationship, the more love they have for one another and the more satisfaction they have with their sex life or intimacy. So some some things to keep in mind with this is never stopped dating your partner. Don’t assume you know everything about your partner. You don’t I promise you you do not. Don’t take Then for granted, that happens a lot. Don’t see them as an object you possess or control that that can really destroy your relationship. And then engage in self expanding activities together.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:13
So grow together, this can be so helpful for a relationship. So we think about novel arousing exciting experiences provides new information for the couple. So we engage the imagination of the partners and exploration. So whether it’s a hobby, whether it’s in the world of intimacy, but engaging in self expanding activities together, that are growth oriented, so whether it’s a big goal that you’re tackling together a new hobby, maybe you’re climbing a mountain together, these activities keep the relationship fresh, and growing. And so today, we talked about whole love and true intimacy. And we talked about what that entails and how that tends to grow over time, when we have a solid foundation, of, of interdependence in the couple and some healthy separation, which can be really, really important.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:15
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/250-wholelove. Once again, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/250-wholelove. Of course, please feel free to join me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I always have more content related to the podcast there every day and I’d love to connect with you there. And if you’re so inclined, please consider giving us a five star review on Apple or Spotify that helps people to find the podcasts a little more easily. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai