Why 80% of relationships do not last

Howes“Man’s search for meaning” by Victor Frankl. In World War II Victor Frankl is in the concentration camp he tries to have a little notebook in which he writes his scientific research. The book is the proof of his existence. At one point he loses the book. He releases all traces that he has ever been may forever be gone. He does develop the notion of Logotherapy. Logotherapy is the idea you cannot change your circumstances, but you can change your response to the circumstances. You still have until the last moment fundamental freedom. Which is the freedom to the meaning that you give to what is happening to you. And in that sense, no he cannot change his conditions in the concentration camp (WW2) , but he is able to maintain a sense of sovereignty, over the human degradation that is happening to him. On a minute by minute basis.

I think it is both and. If you say to the people who are struggling at the borders of Mexico “you have chosen your prison”. It is indecent. People are not always choosing their suffering. But sometimes within that they can still sing a song to their child. Hold their loved one’s. Write a letter to someone that they are longing for. Staying alive for the ones that are waiting for them. That is where you care coming out of the prison. Out of the suffering. With a sense of freedom.

One has to be really careful sometimes “we choose our pains” or “We choose to stay in pain”. It deserves some discernment.

Suffering and pain are not a choice all the time?

No. Suffering and pain are part of life.

There are three things which religion has dealt with. Forever. What is not explainable? Why do we suffer? Why is their evil? These three things from an anthropological point of view really entered. Because of secularisation. Other people have entered. To take that space. People explain to you what is un understandable. People are trying to help you with your suffering. Experts. Gurus. Teachers. Speakers. Are all trying to help you with “why do bad things happen to good people?”

What is the answer to that?

There is not answer to that otherwise we would not have had religion from the beginning of time. This are not things which are answered. These are questions. Existential conundrums that we learn to live with. Nobody has every had an answer. There are so many religions not a single one has been able to answer. They (religion) give you a way to live with it. They never tell you you will not suffer. They tell you what you can do with your suffering.

Have faith. Go pray. Go do rosary. Go do good things. Help other people. Change your story. There is lots of ways today how we deal with suffering.

No one has ever said “you are not going to suffer”. There is always going to be suffering as part of life. You are going to deal with loss. You are going to deal with thwarted hopes. You are going to deal with disappointments. With heart break. With death. No body is going to tell you that there will never be loss. Loss is probably one of the most important sources of suffering.

Do you feel life with your experience and wisdom, suffering gets easier for you over time? Since you know it is going to happen. You know you are going to lose a friend, a pet, a sibling, a loved one. Do you have tools for yourself to suffer less? Less of time amounts.

I think you do not suffer less. You suffer differently. The most important thing is if you are not alone. Probably the most important thing in all our experiences. Certainly in the experiences of pain or loss or suffering or heart arche is not to be alone. Some body else tells you “I too have gone through this”. That is why we read books from other people who have also lost and found their way back. Saw the light again and created new hope. Reconnected with someone and found love again. Have another child. Start another business. What ever it is.

You go through it. There is that thing called “going through it”. You can come out of it on the other side. There is hope. You are not alone. There is a day when it won’t hurt and arche as much. There is a day when you wake up and you won’t be thinking. Obsessing about it.

When was the last time you suffered the deepest?

It has been a while. I have been in a blessed time. I have not had loss since my parents died. I have had periods of high anxiety. Things that have been going on. Around illness and things like that. I have not had a major crisis in a while. Except for dealing with the proximity of illness in my life. People who are really close to me. In that sense I have been really blessed.

When you don’t live it you know it exists. But you forget. It is like you have had a wound in your leg. You know where the thing was. It no longer hursts and you are looking with your finger. Was it exactly here ? This is an amazing way that when we are not in pain . We have the sense of what pain can be. We cannot feel the pain that is not. Unless you are reminded of something. You can instantly experience the moment of acute pain. If the story is not there you can say “I remember”, but you don’t feel it in the moment. I think that that form of resistance of immunity is an amazing resilient quality that we have. That we can separate ourselves from that. But, I can get hit at any minute.

We live in such uncertain times. Any body who thinks they are immune from it are grandiose.

Where should we begin? It is transformation. But relationships are some of the hardest things for people to figure out. Women are trying to find the right partner. To find great relationship partners. But, when you are in relationships people are always struggling in relationships. Whether it would be intimate or work relationships. Why are relationships so hard for so many people? When it is the thing we need the most. To feel alive. To feel happy. To feel connected.

This is the million dollar question. I have been a therapist for 35 years. I have worked with people in romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships, co founder, colleagues, co workers. Love and work. The two pillars of our life as Freud said.

Why is the simple feeling of loving or caring not enough? Because, the entire human drama is really complex. The same way as nature is complex so as human nature complex. I have spent my entire career studying what is changing in human relationships. Are they more complicated today? Are they more painful today? Have our expectations changed? That I have answers to.

Relationships are more complicated than 50 years ago.

Why is that?

For a long time we live, and in many parts of the world, we live in traditional societies, where relationships are clearly codified. There are clear rules. There are roles. There are obligations. There is a tight structure from which you cannot get out. It clearly tells you who you are where you belong and where you are rooted. What is expected of you. You do not have too much questions about whose career matters more and who is going to wake up to feed the baby. And, who has a right to demand for sex. Every husband knows exactly what they can ask from their wife. The wife knows exactly what she should not tell her husband. The children know there place. All of this was super regulated. You know on Sunday you go to visit your family. That you have to call your grandma. You go to church. To any other religious institutions where you go. You pray. You be with the community etc. No one needed to explain to you why it is important. You just went because I said so. Because that is what we do. That is what we don’t do because what will the neighbours say? There is a community that looks over you all the time. The streets are narrow and everybody knows what is going on in the neighbours house.

Right now. Your best friends could be breaking and you did not even see it coming. No one knows what is going on in the neighbour’s house. That is why “where should we begin” became so powerful. It gave you a sense of what actually goes on in people’s lives. So that you are not alone wondering “am I the only one going through all of this?”

This tight structure of a society has moved into what we call “network societies”. Network societies is not tight knots. It is loose ends. It is loose threads. With commitment that can be revoked at any moment.

That is why your women are writing to you. “I thought we had something?” And…the next day he disappears. I thought we had developed a sense of trust. Where is the care? Where is the loyalty? All these things are not just fixed and set. They all have to be negotiated. Everything that is a rule is now a “negotiation”. A conversation. Who is going to go to work? Are we going to move you to the west coast or are you going to move with me to the east coast? Are we going to have children? Are we ready to have children? How many children? Do we even want children? On and on and on. Am I happy at work? Owe I could do better. Should I stay? A few more months? Is this what I really want to do? Is this who I really am?

Is this my passion? This identity quest the whole time. Is this who I want to be? All of these questions are rather knew questions.

In some parts of the world today you know who you are. You’re the son of somebody. It starts with that and you will probably do what your father has done if you are a man and if you are a woman not a lot outside of the house. All of these things are very normative or normal. Now it is different. We don’t have any of that at this moment.

I call it the “identity economy”. We spend our time trying to figure out “who am I”? We have an enormous industry of “Self-help”. With this belief that we are self-made. We can have selfis. We do self care. It is this – self, self, self. This is such the centre of everything and yet so fragile. The self has never been more fragile.

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06 April 2021

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Esther Perel & Lewis Howes

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