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May 06 2014

Can A Relationship Be Sacred To One But Not To The Other?

Published by at 9:06 am under Knowing Relationships BLOG

cat and horse


Let’s look more closely at this and we’ll start with the least sacred way of thinking I can imagine: cold, impersonal, chemical interactions inside the brain. Ah, psychology has a way of getting to the heart of things, don’t you think? The presence of loved and loving partner, may I say, “the sacred presence,” triggers a specific brain chemical called oxytocin.


Now it would be a great mistake, if not a modern one, to reduce all this to oxytocin and say, “Well Really, it’s just a change in brain chemistry.”  I cringe. That would be like saying that the chemical level is the only level that really matters. But still, in the presence of the Sacred, we do have a change in brain chemistry and this change makes a change in the way we experience life. Oxytocin makes us get personal and gushy. Oxytocin is the cuddle neurochemical. It appears in the brains of babies and mothers during nursing. It’s in lovers in their sweet afterglow. It appears in the brain when two become as one. It appears when we become part of something bigger than just ourselves.


Other mammals have it too and when it’s there, it’s the mark of a deep friendship or more. Writing in The Atlantic, Paul Zak told the story of a dog who played with a goat and became friends. But the story has a strange ending. After the playtime the oxytocin levels in the dog were elevated 48%, almost half again, and that meant that for the dog, the goat had become a great friend. But for the goat, the oxytocin levels were more than doubled, 210%. That’s what happens when you fall in love. The goat had fallen in love with the dog but the dog, yeah, really liked the goat but, no, wouldn’t say it was “love.” (


So maybe the difference between a just-good-friends relationship and a sacred love really is a matter of degree. And maybe that’s why a lot of folks say that the trouble with “friends with benefits” relationships is that often one of the partners falls in love. Or maybe it’s a mistake to focus too much on the word “just” in the phrase “just good friends.”


I wish I could remember where I heard the line in the movie.  A passionate woman says to a hesitant man, “The fact that I love you is none of your damn business.” But it’s so. I give love at my pleasure and it is a gift. It is not a trade or a manipulation. I’m grateful I have it to give. There’s plenty more where it came from.  I’d like being in a relationship where it’s reciprocated. I don’t withhold it when it’s not. I do have limits on where I spend my time and efforts.  Those things, unlike love, are not unlimited.



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