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Dec 04 2014

You. Me. We. Wow!

Published by at 8:30 am under Knowing Relationships BLOG



A Relationship Has a Mind of It’s Own.

You’ve probably intuited this, sensed it vaguely. When you reach a certain level of maturity  you can really see this. But it takes effort.

When my collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein, and I interviewed really successful couples, this is what we saw: they not only had a significant amount of self-respect (The “Me” mind) and they not only had a genuine and intelligent appreciation for their partner (The “You” mind), they also had a reasonably solid sense of how the two of them fit together into a “We.” And more than that, the loved the “We.” Sometimes they thought the “We” was so cool they were blown away in awe.(Wow!)  You. Me. We. Wow.  That’s how great relationships seem to work.

So let’s look at the We.

(This is a little abstract, but it’s a start.)

A relationship is a shared mental process. In fact, at times couples aren’t sure who thought what, i.e., “Was that my idea or yours?”

  • A relationship has a presence, a personality and an emotional impact. If one partner has an intense emotion – anger, lust, sadness, pick one – the other person feels it. An emotion is alike a rope both people are holding; it can and will make demands on both partners. It shapes how partners see each other.  It is a lens through which partners understand each other. When there’s lust, they see each other as attractive, when there is anger, they see each other as dangerous, and so on.
  • A relationship has a mind and a heart of its own but it doesn’t have a body. Instead of flesh and blood, a relationship is formed by the constant flow of the ten thousand messages, and reactions to those messages, that flow constantly between the two minds of the two partners. In a relationship “nothing” never happens, even the “nothing” is a weird message: “What going on with you, you seem absent.”
  • In other words, a relationship is a spiritual entity.  Like an Angel?  Maybe Except its presence can be seen with scientific instruments. Brain imaging can observe how the neural activity in one partner is mirrored by similar neural activity in the same brain areas in the other partner, a visible marker of empathetic resonance. If it’s an angel, it is one that you can see on a computer monitor.
  • Despite the hard science evidence, a relationship doesn’t live in the concrete world. A relationship lives in the world of stories. Stories register in our brains and make us think and feel in various ways.  We humans are, maybe more than anything else, creatures who tell stories. We live stories and will even die for stories. The deeper, more intimate the relationship, further it sends its roots into both partners’ stories – into the heart of their lives.
  • Seeing a relationship as a semi-independent entity is a different way of looking at relationships. There is a “Me” and a “You” and there is also a “We.”  Sometimes, using this perspective, appreciating how things look to the “We,” the “You” and the “Me” can see opportunities and challenges we couldn’t see otherwise.


The ability to see the relationship as its own reality usually doesn’t develop in people until midlife. this increase in the scope of consciousness creates an inner crisis – people see themselves and their partners, and their partnerships – past, present, and future – in a new light, sometimes harsh, sometimes sympathetic, usually a bit of both. Crisis or simple developmental process, once you’ve seen the “We” you will never again approach relationships quite the same way.


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