“I broke this down into stages that are very reliable if you really want to be intimate, and they're unavoidable. Stage one is fire, and that's that longing and lust. You really feel like your whole metabolism and chemistry have changed, you got a pep in your step, you wake up alive, you can't wait to talk, and all that stuff.
Then the next stage is earth, because you're going to do anything and everything to improve your self image, to be attractive to this person. This is the part I wish I had on an every-other-month basis, where you're eating better, you're exercising, you dress up and have the best underwear ever. That stage is so fun because it's all about basically becoming the god or goddess you wish you always were.
“This is the part I wish I had on an every-other-month basis, where you're eating better, you're exercising, you dress up and have the best underwear ever.”
Stage three is what we call water, when you start really being vulnerable and feeling the love connection and merging with each other. And probably, that involves sex. It's just this very deep, intimate gesture of communion.
Then after a time—and this happens, no matter who you are—doubts and insecurities creep in. That's air, because you come out of all this luscious bonding and chemistry into, ‘Wait a second, who are we? Do I really know you? Do you really know me? What if you don't like me as much as I like you?’ All the stuff comes in. We all do it, and it's really a test at this point. How much of these insecurities can you share and feel reassured instead of judged? Because everybody's got insecurities, but will they voice them?
Then once you kind of solve for the insecurities, or you can admit you have them and you both have ways to reassure, but not be codependent, but just go, ‘I've got you, we're together, we've made these agreements,’ then you're inevitably going to get to a place where you have conflicts out of the merged bliss. Inevitably, because we're human, we're going to come into different needs, wants and desires. Conflict is literally like a spark that if you lean into it and get curious, it's very passionate and not a problem, but you can't push the conflict down and try to be the same, because it will put the fuse out, the fire will go out. ‘We've been through a lot, we really care about each other. What does it mean for us to be committed? What are our values? How are we going to ground this into reality? What are our goals for this couple, not just for each other?’ And you really get into the Earth.
Then stage six: return to earth. Getting real and doing the work. This is when you have to say, ‘We've been through a lot, we really care about each other. What does it mean for us to be committed? What are our values? How are we going to ground this into reality? What are our goals for this couple, not just for each other?’ And you really get into the Earth.
“What does it mean for us to be committed? What are our values? How are we going to ground this into reality?”
If you make it through that, the next air chapter is explicitly planning a future together, whether it be, ‘I want to have children with you,’ or ‘I don't want to have children with you’ or ‘I want to throuple.’ That's when you make the plan for the future. You get in your mindset with each other and you make a plan, and it becomes this guidepost for really being in relationship.
And then you return to water, which is inevitably, you're going to hurt each other. You're going to disappoint each other. You're going to have a lot of big things happen—parental deaths, just all kinds of things happen, because we're human. And if you really are intentional and go through that with awareness and with kindness, there's going to be forgiving, there's going to be mercy, there's going to be compassion. Then you really, truly—and this is where I feel like I am at this point with my partner—you really are in love with this person, because you've been through everything. I'm sure we'll go through more, but we've been through so much together, and I look across the room and go, ‘You're my person, not because you meet my every need, but because you love me. I love you, I trust you. We have it together.’ It's quite an extraordinary journey.”
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Want more? This is an excerpt from a longer convo with Jennifer Freed, PhD — listen or watch here!