At this holiday time of the year, communities of people often come together for visits and celebrations. We are happy to share the positive experiences from our Couple Contest winning couple, Elizabeth and Brian, about their last assignment exploring and creating couple communities in their life:
It appears that their vertical/family community, existing “up and down” through the generations, works well for them. They said that they “very much enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions as they are now (with their extended families) and plan to continue them.” In addition, they have several horizontal/created communities of people in their neighborhood that “even though we don't spend much time with them currently due to the new baby,... we appreciate that they are loyal, giving, supportive, funny, and fun to be around.” They go on to say that Elizabeth “has been a part of mommy groups she found on Facebook when she was pregnant with our first child. It has grown into something we do as a family with play-dates and birthday parties. We get the opportunity to chat with other parents and our kids get to socialize. Recently we started our oldest in gymnastics which turned out to be a good place to develop community with other parents in the class. We plan on becoming more active in our local Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. As the kids get older, we will branch out more into family and couples only communities.”
Now that Elizabeth and Brian have learned and are applying the Four C’s of Lifelong Love in their lives, they are able to use that as a foundation for a Fifth C, couple consciousness, the way of looking at your life, your partner and the world through the eyes of Couple. It is the shift from individualism to “couplism,” from “me-ness” to “we-ness.” It is a place to come from in everything you do. It starts with yourself and your own relationship, and it then moves to creating possibilities as Couple that can make a difference for others. For example, we have seen over the weeks that Elizabeth learned how to make requests of Brian to help her caring for their baby with cystic fibrosis; Brian began to be more a member of a team with her as they cooperated in taking care of the children; and, finally, they are looking at reaching out to their community and becoming a part of their local Cystic Fibrosis Association.
Like Elizabeth and Brian, once we have developed our own committed couple, we have the opportunity to be the source of inspiration and support for each other and for other couples in our community. Couple consciousness begins to extend outward naturally into our surrounding communities. You then become a model for those around you, providing an example of what is possible for other couples as well as reinforcing the strength of your own relationship. Unfortunately, these kinds of models are all too rare. So don’t keep your success a secret! Like Elizabeth and Brian, you can participate in your children’s activities at school, in your church or neighborhood. One couple we worked with who was searching to develop connections with other couples, put up a sign in their neighborhood recreational center about a July 4th pot-luck picnic and got several responses from other couples right away.
In addition to being the source of support outwardly, you can also support each other inwardly. We have seen already how Elizabeth and Brian have learned to cooperate and acknowledge each other in dealing with what is important to each of them. Rather than feeling burdened or constrained by each other, as many people are afraid will happen in a relationship, they found that they could enhance what they both wanted to accomplish without giving up who they are as an individual. In fact, we have found that individual identity is actually strengthened when Couple is present. We have seen many examples of spouses helping their artist partners frame paintings for their art exhibits and then enjoying the fruits of their labor together; another couple joined Weight Watchers together and got weighed in only as a couple in order to support the wife who most needed to lose weight and had not been able to do so. She lost the weight she needed to, and he got to enjoy her new shapeliness while losing a few pounds himself!
The power of practicing couple consciousness and being a model for those around you cannot be overestimated. Sharing your possibilities and visions with others in your family and community makes maintaining lifelong love more probable for your own couple and others. By participating in their local Cystic Fibrosis Association, for example, Elizabeth and Brian, improve the quality of life for all families, including their own. Like a garden, relationships need fertilizing and nutrients to promote growth. Without continuous attention and concrete actions, a garden like a relationship will not thrive. It is important to look at what actions we need to take as a couple to reinforce our own relationship and to expand the possibilities of lifelong love in the world. Doing the following exercise, the last one in Lifelong Love, (pp. 250-51)along with Elizabeth and Brian, will help you to do that:
Exercise: Fertilizing Your Couple Garden
-- Imagine what the world would look like if all couples operated from the principles of the Four C’s. What actions would be necessary on your part in your community to make that happen?
--Look for examples in your couple of “couple consciousness” operating both inward and outward.
--Come up with one action you could take to express couple consciousness for your partner, and perform that action. Notice how you feel doing that and your partner’s reaction;
--Come up with an action together that would be an expression of couple consciousness outwardly in your family or community.
SHARE: Spend some time talking together about how these actions impacted you, your partner, your family and your community.
We hope you will take couple consciousness with you through the holidays and into the New Year. Notice what a difference it makes for your own couple and for those around you.
Use this exercise to create an empowering vision for your couple for the New Year! Happy Holidays!